December 09, 2019 at 07:30PM by CWC
The idea of knocking back a wellness shot in the name of health is nothing new. Concentrated vials of wheatgrass or ginger have been DIY-ed in many a home kitchen and ordered in juice bars for decades. They’re as time-tested as smoothies and juices themselves.
While the act itself hasn’t changed, what’s in the shot glass has. Instead of concentrated singular ingredients, brands such as Suja Juice, Vive Organic, and Legacy Juice are crafting multi-ingredient wellness shots to serve various functions such as focus, energy, and sleep—without requiring a full-on “cleanse.” Here, insiders share how wellness shots have evolved, and where their place is in your healthy routine now.
Lianna Sugarman has long been passionate about using beverages for better health and well-being. She launched her juice and shot company LuliTonix in 2012, which soon became a cult favorite among in-the-know wellness insiders. But Sugarman, who paused the LuliTonix business to refocus and rebrand, says she’s noticed a major shift in the making and marketing of wellness shots.
When she launched her business, cleanses were all the rage, and many juice companies like Sugarman’s offered drinks and shots billed for cleansing and detoxification. But as our attitudes around cleanses have shifted, so too have the products, she says. “In the last few years, we’ve moved away from the idea of a cleanse and using shots in that way,” Sugarman says, as cleanses and detoxes can often be unsafe and potentially promote disordered eating patterns. (FWIW, your body is pretty good at detoxing by itself, thanks to your liver!) “Now, people are incorporating wellness shots into their lives as part of a way to stay balanced, not flush out their bodies.”
While wellness shots in years past were more singular ingredient focused (ginger, apple cider vinegar, and wheatgrass being some of the all-stars), now, Sugarman says they’re more prescriptive to address specific lifestyle complaints that have nothing to do with detoxing. Case in point: Suja Juice’s functional shots line that includes shots for focus, energy, immunity, and digestion. “Consumers are demanding more from their beverages and are looking for multi-functional offerings,” says Bryan Riblett, Suja’s chief innovation officer. “With education of the benefits of superfoods and adaptogens [herbs that can help the body fight off stress], consumers have come to expect more than single-ingredient solutions from juice shots.”
Suja’s digestion shot, for example, has apple cider vinegar, camu camu, ginseng, and live probiotics—all ingredients that have been associated with better digestive health. Their immunity shot includes live probiotics too, as well as elderberry and guava leaf. (They also offer another immunity shot made with probiotics, ginger, turmeric, and echinacea.)
What does a registered dietitian think about taking a shot of ACV every day? Watch the video below to find out:
This speaks to the larger collective interest in “super” ingredients across the food, beauty, and health categories, says Sugarman. “As people have become more knowledgable about wellness, learning about things like adaptogens, probiotics, collagen, and nootropics, for example, they start to look for them in their products,” Sugarman says—including, yes, their wellness shots. Other brands competing in this space include Vital Proteins, whose new line of collagen shots aims to promote specific functions including recovery, beauty, and sleep; and Beekeeper’s Naturals’ nootropic shot, formulated to help clear brain fog using ingredients such as bacopa monnieri, ginkgo biloba leaf, and royal jelly.
Vive Organics’ shots also have a prescriptive feel, with options for immunity, recovery (called “wellness rescue”), and antioxidants. “The goal with our shots is for the ingredients to be formulated to synergistically work together to address different needs,” says Marisa Hirtzel, Vive Organics’ brand director. She says that a team of functional doctors helped inform the formulas.
It’s important to keep in mind that while these products provide lots of ingredients that are individually healthy and can potentially promote certain outcomes, it’s unclear whether taking a small, concentrated “shot” of said ingredients will have meaningful benefits. Plus, most health experts will say that taking a shot or enjoying a juice won’t magically fix a poor diet or larger health issues.
What’s next for wellness shots
While Riblett, Hirtzel, and Sugarman all say they don’t expect the demand for prescriptive shots to slow down any time soon, they say there are some ingredients that have long found success in the shot glass and will continue to withstand the test of time. (Some biggies they named: lemon and ginger.) Legacy Juice Works co-founder Colin MacLean and production manager Sarah Thomas both say their turmeric shot is their best-selling, saying it’s been their strongest since it first came out in 2016—another ingredient they believe has staying power.
As for what’s next, Sugarman says she expects wellness lovers to geek out on the ingredients in their shots, using them to zero in even more on their health needs. “Right now, sleep shots are gaining in popularity, but I wonder if in the future people will turn to shots for REM sleep in particular, since that’s something more people are already starting to track using their wearables,” she says. Hirtzel believes sustainability will start to play a bigger role, with consumers seeking out companies that are certified organic and using ingredients that have a low impact on the environment.
Though what’s in your vial may change, it’s clear that wellness shots aren’t going anywhere. They may be used in different ways and the ingredients may change, but the idea of knocking one back in the name of health has long been cemented.