Stand out in energy drink crowd

by Jeff Gelski
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Energy drinks are expected to grow at an annual rate of 12% through 2011, according to market research publisher Packaged Facts. Beverage formulators seeking to make their new energy drinks stand out may want to consider innovative sweeteners.

That strategy already has been pursued in Germany. Hassia launched an energy drink called Rossbacher Drive in that country in 2007. The year before, Toggo Turbo, a new energy drink for children, entered the German market. Both drinks feature Palatinose, an isomaltulose sugar ingested slowly to provide a longer-lasting source of energy, according to Beneo-Palatinit. Palatinose is about half as sweet as sucrose.

"We certainly expect to see North American market launches for energy and sports drinks containing Palatinose during 2008," said Tonja Lipp, technical sales manager for Palatinit of America, Morris Plains, N.J. "Beverages containing Palatinose can be differentiated from other beverages by their ability to provide healthy and natural energy over a longer period.

"In addition, beverages containing Palatinose maintain a balanced blood sugar level, thus avoiding peaks and crashes during the day."

Cargill, Minneapolis, offers Zerose erythritol for use as a sweetener in sports drinks and Xtend sweeteners for use in sports and energy drinks, said Pam Stauffer, global marketing programs and communications manager for Cargill Health & Nutrition. Zerose is a zero-calorie bulk sweetener that also is available in organic form. The Xtend sweeteners, isomaltulose and sucromalt, have a lower glycemic response than sugar, she said.

"Sweeteners are becoming a key ingredient that beverage manufacturers can leverage to deliver distinguishing characteristics and positionings," Ms. Stauffer said.

Ms. Lipp said consumers may start to differentiate between "good" sugars and "bad" sugars like they do with "good" fats and "bad" fats. She said Palatinose may reduce or replace the amount of sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or fructose in a product.

HFCS has its supporters, however.

"There is no reason to think high-fructose corn syrup is worse than regular sugar or any other sweetener as a contributor to obesity," said Adam Waehner, director of technical services for Cargill Corn Milling.

He said sugar and HFCS have the same caloric density of about 4 calories per gram and that the human body cannot discern a difference between HFCS, table sugar and honey because they are all nearly compositionally equivalent.

Sam Scott, president and chief executive officer of Corn Products International, said switching to sugar from HFCS in beverages will do nothing but raise costs.

"It does not give a better product," he said when Corn Products, Westchester, Ill., reported third-quarter earnings last year. "Fructose, in general, is a cleaner product across the board."

Corn Products subsidiary looks to expand in Asia

WESTCHESTER, ILL. — Growth opportunities may exist in Asia for Corn Products Specialty Ingredients, a relatively new subsidiary for Corn Products International, Inc. Corn Products International acquired the food business of SPI Polyols, Inc. in 2007 and renamed it Corn Products Specialty Ingredients.

Sam Scott, president and chief executive officer of Corn Products International, spoke about the future of the subsidiary when the company gave third-quarter results last year.

"I think I mentioned in one of the calls that I had been to India," he said. "We’re looking at opportunities there. Indonesia is a big marketplace. Vietnam exists and is very close to Thailand. So we have some synergies in that."

Corn Products Specialty Ingredients provides a range of polyols for the food, confectionery, nutritional and pharmaceutical industries.

Natural sweeteners feature fruit from China, Africa

One natural high-intensity sweetener (H.I.S.), Sweet Fiber, has entered the market as an ingredient for processed foods and beverages and as a product sold at retail. Another natural H.I.S., Cweet, could be a year or two away from market launch.

Sweet Fiber, a zero-calorie sweetener with prebiotic fiber, gains its sweetness from white luo han guo, a fruit extract from the melon family.

Sweet Fiber’s prebiotic fiber comes from inulin extracted from chicory root. The inulin and the white luo han guo blend readily since they both are dry powders of about the same particle size, said Scott Taylor, founder of Purpose Foods. Since luo han guo is heat stable, Sweet Fiber may work in almost all foods and beverages, he said.

The fruit is cultivated in the Guangxi Province of southern China. Purpose Foods, Monrovia, Calif., offers Sweet Fiber. Mr. Taylor testified to the safety of the fruit extract sourced from China.

"We inspect the luo han guo production facilities in China on a regular basis," he said. "We conduct testing on the raw materials in the U.S. through ChromaDex, a leading developer of standards.

"We work with the kosher certifying agency to ensure that kosher standards are met. Through all of these measures we believe that luo han guo is a safe food."

Food and beverage manufacturers worldwide already are testing Cweet, even though it has yet to gain generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status, said Loren Miles, president and chief executive officer of Natur Research Ingredients, Inc., a company based in Los Angeles that intends to market Cweet. Natur Research Ingredients could achieve self-affirmed GRAS status for Cweet in the next 12 to 16 months, he said. After the self-affirmation, Natur Research intends to seek GRAS approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Cweet is about 1,000 times sweeter than sucrose, Mr. Miles said. It is a zero-calorie sweetener that is heat stable. Cweet is derived from brazzein, a West African fruit. Dr. Fariba M. Assadi-Porter, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, discovered how to commercialize the sweetener sourced from brazzein. Natur Research Ingredients obtained an exclusive worldwide license from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation to manufacture and distribute Cweet.

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