Building better beverages

by Donna Berry
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With most retail channels grow-ing their foods-for-immediate-consumption options, from salads to sandwiches to soups to sushi, beverage marketers are presented with an opportunity for more single-serve sales. With so much competition in the bottled water and carbonated soft drink sectors, beverage companies are adding value by fortifying beverages with better-for-you ingredients.

The World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations define fortification as “the practice of deliberately increasing the content of an essential micronutrient in a food irrespective of whether the nutrients were originally in the food before processing or not, so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and to provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health.”

This differs from enrichment, which refers to the addition of micronutrients to a food that had been lost during processing. Many use the terms incorrectly interchangeably.

Let’s use fat-free milk to exemplify correct use of the terms. Fat-free milk is enriched with vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin present in whole milk but removed with milk-fat to make the product fat free. Most milk is voluntarily fortified with vitamin D, a nutrient that is not inherent in milk, but has been added since the 1930s to prevent rickets, a debilitating bone disease.

Milk is one of the earliest examples of fortification. Some 80 years later, fortification has progressed beyond essential micronutrients to now include ingredients that make consumers feel, perform and sometimes even look better. With such promises, many consumers are willing to pay more for fortified beverages, providing they deliver in terms of taste.

“Consumers are looking for more from their beverages,” said Esther Renfrew, market intelligence director for Zenith International, Bath, United Kingdom. “They want to hydrate, but also want something additional in terms of functionality or something special in nutrition. This is seen as added value.

“Health and wellness are very much on top of consumers’ agenda. Products combining functional ingredients with a natural, healthy and preferably low-calorie offering look set to continue on their upward trajectory.”

The key conditions consumers want functional ingredients to address include: cardiovascular health, diabetes, digestive health, energy/performance, healthy aging, immunity, joint support and weight loss, said Jeff Hilton, a partner and co-founder of BrandHive, Salt Lake City.

Ingredients that address these conditions may be added as concentrated, purified compounds, such as fiber, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, plant extracts, probiotics, proteins and vitamins. They also may be added indirectly through the use of nutrient-rich whole foods, which is what you get with various grains, seeds and superfruits.

For example, chia and flax seeds are both sources of multiple nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fiber. The seeds themselves may be added to beverages, or the milled product, which is much like flour, may be used to build viscosity in some beverages. With all of these ingredients, there are often formulation challenges.

Addressing application issues

“Many highly purified or standardized botanicals can add bitterness to a beverage, and some minerals such as calcium can add chalkiness,” said Frank Del Corso, director of product development for Allen Flavors Inc., Edison, N.J. “This presents a challenge when a formulator tries to add these ingredients at a concentrated level to a beverage, a non-forgiving medium. Fortunately, experienced beverage scientists know how to modify taste and combat lingering aftertaste, bitterness or chalkiness from the addition of some of these nutrients.”

Many beverage formulators use a four-tiered approach to modify taste to create a consumer-appealing beverage, Mr. Del Corso said. The four-tiered strategy, which is known by the acronym SAMO, involves careful selection of the right combination of sweeteners, acids, modifiers of flavor and other ingredients to create a great-tasting, value-added beverage.

“A major factor in the ingredient selection involved in this strategy is the marketing and branding of a beverage,” Mr. Del Corso said. “Understanding the positioning of a beverage is the first step.”

Only when marketing and research and development agree on this can the formulator move forward with applying SAMO.

“Successful functional beverage brands make a consumer connection on two levels: emotional response and rational response,” Mr. Hilton said. “Brands must provide compelling logical and emotional reasons to purchase, as today’s consumers have increased sophistication, knowledge and access to information. Consumers want to know that the functional ingredients are proven by science and supported by data, and they want to feel good about the beverages they purchase.”

The fountain of youth

Many recent innovations in fortified beverages target adult consumers who are looking for additional benefits while keeping calories at bay. This is exemplified by new Vemma Renew, a ready-to-drink non-carbonated beverage launched at the beginning of 2014 by Tempe, Ariz.-based Vemma Nutrition Co.

The beverage’s formula focuses on slowing or minimizing the impact of the aging process. It is designed to appeal to the beauty-conscious consumer looking for a healthy approach to beauty from the inside out, according to the company. With 45 calories per 8-oz serving, Vemma Renew is fortified with 12 vitamins, a proprietary plant-sourced blend of more than 65, trace and ultra-trace minerals, a range of antioxidants and phytonutrients, including the superfruit mangosteen, aloe vera and green tea, plus 20 mg of plant-sourced silica. The latter is known to help maintain healthy skin, nails and hair. Boasting a light fruit flavor, the beverage is regulated as a dietary supplement.

Another superfruit-based age-defying beverage called Youthy Forever comes from Brands Within Reach, New York. The company fortifies a blend of pear, pineapple, passion fruit and prickly pear juices with grape seed extract and resveratrol.

There continues to be a lot of beverage innovation focused around superfruits.

“The superfruit boom in beverage formulation has not peaked,” Mr. Hilton said. “Expect to see functional beverages incorporating camu camu for immunity, cocona for heart health, sea buckthorn for beauty, tart cherries for arthritis and gout, and yacon for digestive health and blood sugar management.”

Superfruits are an important component of the organic-certified sparkling kombucha tea beverages from B&R Liquid Adventure L.L.C., Torrance, Calif. Marketed under the búcha live kombucha brand, the company’s newest flavor — búcha yuzu lemon — is based on the aromatic East Asian superfruit yuzu and organic lemon. Basically, it may be described as lemonade for adults.

“Lemonade is such a popular beverage, but this búcha blend just takes it over the top,” said Ron Lloyd, B&R’s chief executive officer.

Kombucha is one of the faster-growing categories of natural beverages, according to B&R Liquid Adventure. Although most kombucha loyalists are drawn to the ingredient for its reputed health benefits, B&R recognizes the importance of taste in order to engage a wider market of health-conscious consumers. Since launching búcha in 2009, the company has introduced new flavors cautiously.

“In a category in which efficacy typically comes first while great refreshing taste is an after-thought, we work hard to ensure our taste profile is bold, delicious and unique — so we don’t rush the process,” said Frank Commanday, brew master for the company. “Our goal is to find unique new flavor pairings that will be interesting to kombucha loyalists and to those new to the category seeking a drink that will dazzle, without the familiar harsh vinegar backlash.”

Probiotics a part of the trend

For an extra kick of probiotic activity, the búcha beverages are fortified with the probiotic Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086. The patented, spore-forming organism is making its way into a number of better-for-you products.

“The composition of Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086, allows food and beverage manufacturers the freedom to create innovative probiotic products that would otherwise be impossible,” said Michael Bush, senior vice-president of Ganeden Biotech, Cleveland. “This probiotic is highly stable and can remain viable through processing, shelf life and the low pH of stomach acid. Its efficacy is backed by 17 published studies and has an exceptional safety record with GRAS status from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”

This stability enabled Garden of Flavor, Cleveland, the ability to add probiotics to its line of cold-pressed organic juices that undergo high-pressure pasteurization (H.P.P.). The processing method eliminates some bacteria, yeast and molds without exposing the product to heat that may damage flavor, color and nutritional value. It may extend shelf life of juice up to 10 times and enables wider distribution in order to make the juices available wherever refrigerated juices are offered.

Garden of Flavor is the first company to include probiotics in H.P.P. juices, with three of its seven offerings fortified with one billion colony-forming units of Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086.

The power of protein

Another beverage ingredient growing in popularity is protein, specifically whey proteins.

“Consumers are looking for beverages with increased protein levels to help with muscle maintenance, satiety and weight management,” said Patrick Michael, business development manager-beverages, Glanbia Nutritionals, Fitchburg, Wis. “Beverages provide an easy way to consume high-quality protein. Ready-to-drink beverages can be consumed on-the-go, while ready-to-mix products can be consumed as and when required. Protein beverages can also be tailored to meet a variety of needs such as a post-workout drink, a meal replacement beverage or simply a wellness product.”

On the powdered mix side of the beverage business, Davisco Foods International, Le Sueur, Minn., recently introduced two whey protein isolate products: BiPro chocolate and BiPro french vanilla.

“We’ve been inundated with consumer requests for flavored BiPro in recent years,” said Polly Olson, vice-president of new business development, sales and marketing. “Our BiPro chocolate and BiPro french vanilla will maintain the same whey protein purity as our unflavored BiPro.”

Phanin Leksrisompong, director of business development for Davisco, added, “Unflavored BiPro is a unique, proprietary, ultra-pure whey protein isolate that delivers all of the essential amino acids needed by the human body, without added carbohydrates and fat. Made from pasteurized cheese whey by ion exchange technology, it has superior functionality, solubility and clean flavor.”

In addition to being available directly to consumers as a powdered mix, it is available as an industrial ingredient for application in foods and beverages. The ingredient provides high solubility, clarity in solution, clean taste and high nutritional quality with at least 95% protein on a dry-basis.

“Consumer awareness of the benefits of whey protein has increased and whey-fortified beverages have expanded beyond the shelves of specialist sports nutrition outlets,” Mr. Michael said. “The ability to increase clarity in high-protein beverages is a key innovation in recent beverage formulation. Using the wrong whey protein ingredients for your product can lead to insoluble and aggregated protein, which would result in turbidity or a white precipitate. We offer pre-acidified whey proteins that were designed for use in high-acid beverages, where manufacturers want to achieve a clear, thin beverage without cloudiness.”

Formulators and marketers must never forget taste is still always the No. 1 consideration, maybe not for the first purchase, but definitely for the repurchase.

“Consumers want everything,” Ms. Renfrew said. “They want convenience and they want indulgence, but they also want healthy. But most important is taste.”
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