If turmeric was a stock, Wall Street would be issuing a "buy" recommendation to investors. These are exciting days for a 'super root' that has been associated with Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, yet is emerging today as a hot new functional drink ingredient.

Related to ginger, turmeric is a bright orange-coloured rhizome (root) that shares some flavour characteristics with its cousin. Turmeric has a gingery, earthy, peppery taste with a warming finish that helps telegraph its health properties. Widely promoted as a "natural" anti-inflammatory, turmeric is rich in active compounds like curcumin that are claimed to have digestive health and immune system benefits. Traditional Chinese and Indian medicines have long used turmeric to address a wide array of health conditions, from alleviating joint pain and healing wounds to enhancing mental acuity. Recent medical research is focusing on turmeric's possible anti-cancer and anti-dementia benefits.

As has been the case with other plant-based "superfoods", consumers are not waiting for science to validate the purported benefits of turmeric before doing their own research. Google Food Trends tallied a 56% increase in searches on turmeric from November 2015 to January this year, making it one of the top trending functional foods. The top five YouTube videos on turmeric consumption have generated around 4m views, collectively offering information on a broad array of potential health benefits associated with turmeric ranging from acne relief to weight loss. 

Packaged beverage makers are warming to the prospects of turmeric. Temple Turmeric is one of the segment's standard-bearers, a company staking nearly its entire raison d'etre on turmeric. Founded as "Tumeric: Elixir of Life" in 2009 – an intentional misspelling of "turmeric" as a way to brand the ingredient and invoke the concept of drinkable turmeric – the company changed its name to Temple Turmeric last year. The move enabled it to broaden its healthy drinks focus toward "healthy inflammation response" (one of the primary health benefits of turmeric) while providing relief to computer spell checkers everywhere. Most recently, Temple Turmeric added two "next-level" high pressure processing (HPP) turmeric drinks to its line-up.

Temple Turmeric's white turmeric cherry elixir is made with volcanic white turmeric, a "fragrant varietal" of turmeric said to be rare in the West. White turmeric reportedly has a crisp fragrance and taste reminiscent of green mango, potentially broadening the sensory appeal of turmeric, which is as widely known for its characteristic yellow-orange colour as its health benefits. The variant combines 5,500mg of organic, whole root white turmeric with ginger, apple cider vinegar, dark cherry, lime, and cardamom. Temple Turmeric's pure mega elixir is a "radiant blend" with 13,000mg of the company's proprietary Hawaiian Oana turmeric and white turmeric together with pineapple, mango, citrus, black pepper, ginger, and coconut milk – the last three ingredients to help the body absorb the turmeric.

The company's eclectic ingredient list is a reminder that simply adding turmeric to a drink is not enough to maximise the root's potential health properties. Turmeric must be "unlocked" using heat or so-called "synergistic adaptogens" to increase the bioavailability of the curcumin found in turmeric. Black pepper, cayenne pepper, ginger, and plant-based fats like coconut and hemp are said to work with turmeric to release all of its potential health properties. This list of "helper" ingredients is likely to influence future NPD in turmeric drinks.

Innovation in turmeric drinks will heat up in 2017 with Evolution Fresh's four new HPP, organic "superfood" juices due to hit US grocery shelves in March, three of which will feature turmeric as an ingredient: greens, turmeric & cocoa; cocoa, turmeric & ginger, and turmeric golden milk. The latter blends turmeric with coconut milk, orange, mango and pineapple juice, and is finished with vanilla, ginger and cinnamon – providing 50% of the daily value of vitamin A per bottle. The cocoa, turmeric & ginger variant blends cocoa with ginger, turmeric, vanilla, cinnamon and a touch of cayenne for a warm finish, while the greens, turmeric & cocoa variant brings turmeric into the green juice sector. This variant marries dark leafy greens, algae and cucumbers with coconut milk sweetened with apples and mangos and finished with a dash of cinnamon, black pepper, and salt for what is described as a "complex sophisticated taste".

The requirement of ingredients like black pepper or ginger to "activate" turmeric may encourage beverage innovators to follow the innovation path soon to be blazed by Evolution Fresh, which will promote its range as snacks as well as juices. Spicy ingredients may limit turmeric's ability to take the refreshment route, although the ingredient (in extract form, at least) has found its way into the water category. California's Tu Me Beverage Co offers what it claims is the world's only turmeric-infused water with Tu Me Sport, a drink cross-promoted as a sports drink. The inherent spiciness of turmeric, however, could be an asset for drinks targeting certain parts of the day, like breakfast.

The zing of turmeric is a new way to help wake up in the morning thanks to Uncle Matt's Organic and its new orange turmeric and probiotics juice. With 500mg of turmeric per serving, this recent US launch is fortified with probiotics that are claimed to support a healthy digestive and immune system – health benefits that mirror those often promised by turmeric itself. Uncle Matt's Organic claims that turmeric's flavour is a "natural complement" to orange juice.

Turmeric also has the potential to make waves in the hot beverage market, as innovators begin to pitch the turmeric latte as a healthful change of pace from the ubiquitous pumpkin spice lattes that flood the market each fall. The UK's Crussh "fit food" restaurant recently added two turmeric drinks to its menu, including a turmeric latte made from raw pressed turmeric with almond milk, agave, and cinnamon. Meanwhile, Los Angeles-based G&B Coffee sells a turmeric, ginger, almond, and macadamia hot drink made with raw turmeric, raw ginger, honey, and black pepper. 

Turmeric's firmest footing right now seems to be in hot tea, where herbal teas pairing the root with its natural partner in crime - ginger - are proliferating. In the US, Trader Joe's recently added a ginger turmeric organic herbal tea, while Celestial Seasonings launched a ginger and turmeric organic herbal tea. California-based Numi is ahead of the pack, though, launching an organic turmeric tea line under its Numi brand back in 2014 in flavours including Amber Sun (with rooibos, cinnamon, and vanilla).

While certainly curious about turmeric, consumers in the West are far less up to speed on its health benefits than consumers in Asia are. According to a 2015 Canadean global survey, 86% of consumers in India and 85% of consumers in Indonesia think that turmeric has a "positive impact" on health – the top two countries globally. In contrast, just 51% of UK consumers and 43% of US consumers feel the same way. Narrowing this gap may be difficult as consumers in the UK and US lack the cultural touchpoints to turmeric that are common in Asia. Approved health claims for turmeric do not seem likely to materialise anytime soon, further complicating the job.

Despite these issues, turmeric's star seems destined to rise on the back of new product launches.