Beverage innovation options

by David Phillips
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Adding vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to beverages is nothing new, but when today’s consumers read the label on a beverage, what they find or don’t find may determine whether the product reaches the shopping basket or is placed back on the shelf.

“Regardless of the beverage category, you are seeing efforts to reposition beverages as healthier, either by taking something out, or by adding something like minerals and vitamins,” said Gary Hemphill, director at Beverage Marketing Corp., New York.

Among the ingredients being removed are certified colors, being replaced in part by carotenoids and other natural colors. Among the ingredients going in are omega-3 fatty acids, choline and a variety of vitamins. And when it comes to the most traditional fortifications, like vitamin D for milk, and vitamin C in orange juice, consumer interest remains, but those consumers have come to expect even more — like calcium in fruit juices.

“The fortification of beverages is a big trend in the market, one that I would consider a mainstream of the beverage industry,” said Amr Shaheed, technical service-beverages at Innophos Holdings Inc., Cranbury, N.J. “It is seen most heavily in orange juice, where all the major players have at least one s.k.u. (stock-keeping unit) with calcium.”

Finally, the fortification ingredients now available to beverage makers not only offer nutritional benefits, but they offer benefits that are condition specific.

New uses, improved performance

No one is surprised anymore to find calcium in a carton of orange juice. And seeing things like fiber and conjugate linoleic acid (C.L.A.) in a dairy-based beverage also has become more common.

There have been challenges the industry has had to overcome in its quest to add a broader variety of nutrients to familiar beverages, and chief among them has been the effects of the additives on the organoleptic qualities of the beverage — things like flavor and clarity.

“The importance here is not to change a traditional product,” Mr. Shaheed said.

“If you are looking at formulating a flavored water, for instance, I don’t think anybody would want to drink a flavored water that is murky.”

With that in mind, companies like Innophos have been developing ingredients that are more water soluble, more easily disbursed, and less likely to impact flavor.

With beverage formulators more likely to seek non-certified natural colors, some ingredient suppliers have identified ways to combine color attributes and fortification ingredients in a combined pre-mix, which are often customized, but sometimes offered as a branded product.

A good example may be found in the products of LycoRed, a division of Israeli agro-chemical company Makhteshim Agan Group. Formed in 1995, the company has U.S. offices in California and in Orange, N.J. It offers an array of vitamin and mineral ingredients, but specializes in those related to lycopene, the tomato derivative thought to provide numerous health benefits. Lycopene also may provide a light-stable red color for beverages, said Doug Lynch, vice-president of new business development and product marketing.

An added advantage of using lycopene as a color is it is stable in the presence of vitamin C, Mr. Lynch said. Combining the advantage with microencapsulation means product developers may work with lower overages on fortifications.

“We offer five different micro-encapsulation technologies,” Mr. Lynch said. “One or two of them will work better than others depending on the type of beverages, and the type of nutrient fortification. It’s now possible to go with 20% overage rather than dumping in three times what you need.”

The development of beverages and other foods to be more condition specific represents an emerging area for fortification, said Patrick Morris, communications manager at Fortitech Inc., Schenectady, N.Y.
“Anything that can help address blood sugar levels, for instance, is going to be in demand,” Mr. Morris said.

A good example comes from DSM Nutritional Products, Parsippany, N.J. The company recently introduced a product that tackles a very specific aspect of cardio-vascular health.

“One of our latest introductions is Fruitflow, a natural (tomato-derived) ingredient that has been clinically proven to help support healthy blood flow,” said Caroline Brons, senior marketing manager with DSM. “We see that amongst heart healthy ingredients, the majority of nutrients address health concerns such as lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure. But healthy circulation is an unmet need. This ingredient offers beverage makers the opportunity to differentiate themselves in the heart health area, with an ingredient that is natural.”

Meanwhile, protein-based beverages have entered the mainstream.

“C.L.A. is getting a lot more attention,” said Mr. Morris of Fortitech. “C.L.A. is good for weight management, and consumers are more aware of that now, so we are seeing more requests for it. Protein used to be the golden child for body building, but now it appeals to a broader consumer base.”

DSM recently acquired Ocean Nutrition Canada, a company that offers omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish.

“Ocean Nutrition Canada’s Powder-loc microencapsulation technology is a new addition to the DSM suite of technologies. Powder-loc uses a double shell protection system to keep the Omega-3 EPA and DHA locked into the microcap while keeping the smell and taste of the fish locked out of the food or beverage,” said Jeff Stevens, director of marketing for the Ocean Nutrition unit of DSM. “MEG-3 powder can be added seamlessly to a variety of beverages, delivering the health benefits of Omega-3 EPA/DHA without impacting taste or smell.”

Additional health and energy

And what does the future hold for fortified beverages?

“There is certainly a lot more consumer awareness about the role nutrition can play in overall health and wellness, and beverages are certainly an outstanding delivery vehicle for those nutrients,” Mr. Morris said. “Any time we talk about nutrition we advise that fortified food products should not be seen as a way to replace a balanced diet, but they are a great way to fill in those nutrient gaps.”

Along with condition-specific products designed to reduce cholesterol or balance blood sugar levels, beverages of the future may expand on some of the newest, successful segments like energy drinks and fortified teas.

Cognition ingredients like omega-3 fatty acids are becoming more important as the population ages.
“It might be due in part to a correlation to the baby boomer generation, but we are seeing an increase in cognitive function ingredient requests,” Mr. Morris said. “These would include things like choline, ginkgo biloba, omega-3s and B vitamins.”

Some of the same ingredients are shown to have multiple health benefits. Another area of emerging benefits related to skin health, beauty and UV protection. Recent scientific studies have provided evidence that ingredients including vitamin E and lutein may minimize UV damage and the affects aging has on skin.

“We are seeing more use of omega-3 DHA and EPA for multiple health benefit functions, including heart health, brain health and eye health,” said Steve Mazzaro, technical marketing manager for DSM.
One beverage segment that lends itself well to fortification, and is ripe for continued growth, is ready-to-drink tea.

“The growth has been solid the last several years, and our expectation is that we are likely to see continued strong growth in R.-T.-D. tea,” Mr. Hemphill of the Beverage Marketing Corp. said.
DSM’s Mr. Mazzaro expects continued growth in energy drinks, with ingredients like caffeine and guarna extract.

“Consumers want to get more done in the same amount of time,” he said.

As dairy- and whey-based protein beverages evolve, they will be more likely to include fiber as well, Mr. Hemphill added.

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