Beverage R&D: Top ingredient trends
May 15, 2009
From the ever-increasing array of antioxidant-rich “superfruits” to stevia and â€” gasp! â€” the return of sugar, the following ingredients are topping beverage formulation trends and consumer headlines. Some have been gaining strength and are now reaching critical mass, while others reflect the unique atmosphere of 2009.
Whether it’s a response to the over-stimulating effects of a tumultuous economy or an antidote to a decade of energy-driven beverages, relaxation formulations are a stand-out trend. L-theanine, chamomile, valerian root, rose hips and melatonin are a few of the ingredients intended to calm. Among the anti-energy offerings: Purple Stuff Pro-Relaxation & Calming Elixer from Funktional Beverages, Vib (for Vacation in a Bottle) from Vib Holdings, Drank from Innovative Beverage Group Holdings Inc., and Glaceau Vitaminwater B-Relaxed.
Wild Flavors announced a line of ingredients dedicated to relaxation last fall with its Holistic Sleep concept. The line includes GABA, L-theanine, 5-Hydroxytryptophan, melatonin, lemongrass, valerian root, passion flower, lemon balm, chamomile, lavender and elderflower. In addition, spa-inspired herbal flavors such as GBS Flavor Creators’ Calming Chamomile Lemon, Lingering Lavender Berry and Cucumber Mint set the mood for relaxation, with or without the functional additions.
Natural products have been on a growth curve for years, but until December, something essential was missing â€” a no-calorie sweetener option that would allow beverage formulators to create diet drinks with a natural label. Late in 2008, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a no objection letter for rebaudioside A, a sweetener derived from the stevia plant. In doing so, the FDA indicated that Reb A at a minimum specification of 95 percent is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for use in beverages, foods and tabletop sweeteners.
Following the announcement, PepsiCo added new flavors of SoBe Lifewater as well as Trop 50, a 50-calorie version of Tropicana Orange Juice, sweetened with Pure Circle’s PureVia. The Coca-Cola Co. announced the release of Sprite Green and Odwalla juice drinks with Truvia, the Reb A sweetener from Cargill. And Monarch used the new sweetener in All Sport Naturally Zero sports drink.
Reb A is colorless, as well as heat-, light- and pH-stable, and it can be labeled as stevia extract or rebiana. As indicated with Trop 50 and Odwalla, the sweetener can be blended for lower-calorie beverages in cases where a strict zero-calorie label is not required.
Once vilified, sugar actually is a selling point this year. PepsiCo North America introduced three soft drinks earlier this year using sugar. Pepsi Natural builds on last year’s Pepsi Raw in the United Kingdom. The product targets the natural foods crowd, with sugar, caramel and kola nut extract.
Pepsi also released limited-time offerings with Pepsi and Mountain Dew Throwback. Rather than a natural profile, the Throwback products are formulated to taste like soft drinks of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and are packaged in retro-looking cans.
Snapple, too, switched over to a sugar-based formulation this year, reducing calories and adding an “all-natural” tag to its labels.
The scientific consensus seems to be that there is little nutritional difference between sugar and high fructose corn syrup â€” in fact, the Corn Refiners Association began a series of print and television advertisements last year to press that point. But sugar’s flavor and natural appeal has it back on the upswing in ‘09.
Beverage companies continue to develop new tea varieties and use it in new ways. Numi Organic debuted Puerh, a large-leaf tea that has been fermented to produce an “earthy and slightly sweet flavor,” the company says. Numi rolled out its first line of ready-to-drink teas based on Puerh this spring. Rooibos, or red tea, and yerba mate are technically not teas, but that doesn’t seem to bother their growing fan bases. Rooibos is caffeine free and said to be high in antioxidants. Yerba mate, on the other hand, is said to be highly caffeinated and contains naturally occurring vitamins, making it well suited to energy drink applications.
But the most popular tea formulations continue to use green tea. New rollouts include the Republic of Tea’s Double Green Matcha Tea, which combines green tea leaves with matcha-style powdered green tea. Ineeka’s new Green Tea Beer was a Best in Show winner at the Natural Products Expo West show this spring, and Pernod Ricard’s new Beefeater 24, combines botanicals with Japanese sencha tea, Chinese green tea and grapefruit flavors. Building on green tea’s reputation as a calorie-burner, Celsius added to its line of diet drinks with Celsius Green Tea Peach Mango and Celsius Green Tea Raspberry.
Flower petals join tea leaves as an emerging beverage trend. Floral flavors rarely are used all on their own, but they add subtle nuances to fruit flavors, and increase the aroma characteristics of a product, according to Virginia Dare, which developed a new line of floral flavors for flavored water concepts earlier this year.
In finished products, Herbal Water Inc. incorporated flavors from the flower garden in its newest flavor of Ayala’s Herbal Water, Lemon Verbena Geranium. SkylarHaley’s Essen Energy was inspired by florals with its Pomegranate Limeflower flavor, and Hint Water features Honeydew-Hibiscus and Hibiscus-Vanilla flavors.
Hibiscus has long been used in herbal tea formulations to provide flavor and a deep red color, but Hibix Corp. has put the flower in a starring role in its line of Ooba ready-to-drink beverages. The product is available in Ooba with an Attitude (a plain hibiscus flavor), Ooba Lime, Ooba Orange, Ooba Blackberry, Ooba Pineapple and Ooba Vanilla.
Just like sugar, fat is making a comeback, this time in the form of heart- and brain-healthy omega-3s. Found in oily fish, flaxseed and some nuts, omega-3s are thought to protect the heart, aid brain function, reduce inflammation, and even improve mood.
Beverage-applicable sources of omega-3s can come from fish oil such as the one used in new Juicy Juice Brain Development juice from Nestle. The drink offers DHA from fish oil, and is blended with water to reduce the sugar and calories of full-strength juice. Beverage products also can make use of finely milled flaxseed such as the one used in Odwalla’s Berries GoMega juice.
From the familiar grape to exotic fruits like acerola, goji berry, mangosteen and acai, “superfruits” add a range of new flavors to beverage formulations, as well as a healthy image.
The benefits of red wine have made it the top pick in U.S. wine sales, and Embodi, a product said to contain the extracts of red wine grape skins, stems and seeds, has attempted to extend that popularity in non-alcohol form. The product is available in three varieties and labeled as “made from red wine grapes.” Ingredient companies such as Danisco and France’s Ferco also are making the most of wine’s reputation. The companies partnered earlier this year to market Grap’Active grape-based extracts.
While the grape is familiar to all, the superfuit phenomenon really heats up when it comes to exotic fruits. Pomegranate, goji berry and acai are on their way to becoming household names, and companies like Zola are expanding our palates with cupauçu, graviola, caja and acerola. The four fruits, among others, are included in the company’s new line of Zola Superfruit Smoothies. Borojo Beverages hopes to introduce consumers to the borojo fruit with Borojo Organic Energy Drink.
Even the old becomes new when it attains superfruit status, including blueberries and black currants. The New York-based Currant Co. added a full lineup of flavors this year to its Currant C line. And Leading Brands built on blueberry’s popularity with PureBlue, said to contain wild blueberries, varietal grapes and black currants.
Cosmeceuticals, or drinks designed to enhance beauty from the inside-out, are quickly making their way to beverage shelves, building on ingredients such as antioxidants, luetin, collagen, aloe, biotin, EGCG and omega-3 fatty acids, among a host of others.
Nestle’s new Glowelle Beauty Drink contains vitamins A, C and E, green tea extract, selenium, quercitin and pomegranate extract, as well as a “proprietary beauty blend” that includes extracts of cocoa, apple, grape seed, maritime pine bark, goji berry and white tea. Anheuser-Busch’s 9th Street Beverage division offers Borba Skin Balance Water with antioxidants and botanicals for skin-care benefits such as clear complexion, smoother skin and hydration for dry skin. Global Beverage Innovations developed Anti-Ageing Water, a cosmeceutical water that contains VitRx dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE), calcium and magnesium. And SPI West Port Inc. offers Alo, a beverage infused with aloe vera pulp.
Ingredient company DSM built an ingredient platform specifically for the cosmeceutical market called Beauty from Within, as did Wild Flavors with its Inside Beauty lineup.
It used to be relegated to milk, but vitamin D is becoming the new “it” vitamin of the health community. Vitamin D has long been known to prevent rickets among children, but adults are now encouraged to combine vitamin D with calcium to prevent osteoporosis and other conditions.
While relatively short periods in the sun are all most of us need to make vitamin D, the increased use of sunscreen, longer work days, and weather restrictions prevent many people from getting enough. The American Academy of Pediatrics doubled its vitamin D recommendations for children and teens in October from the previous standard of 200 IUs per day to 400.
“We are doubling the recommended amount of vitamin D children need each day because evidence has shown this could have life-long health benefits,” said Frank Green, chair of the AAP Committee on Nutrition, in a statement about the new guidelines.
Sunny Delight Beverages Co. took the cue and launched Sunny D Smoothies, a new line of smoothies with as much calcium and vitamin D as milk.
The popularity of probiotics has consumers getting more comfortable with previously unmentionable bodily functions, as well as the broader range of possible benefits that come with better digestion. Dannon introduced the probiotic concept to most American consumers with Danactive and Activia products, and Japan’s Yakult and Lifeway Foods have probiotic drinks in the dairy case. NextFoods rolled out GoodBelly, a dairy-free probiotic drink with a light texture. And Nestle HealthCare Nutrition developed Boost Kid Essentials Nutritionally Complete Drink with probiotics delivered through a straw rather than through the beverage itself.
Probiotic bacteria are thought to help the body maintain its balance of bacteria. Formulation research currently is centered on ensuring the bacteria stay stable on the shelf, as well as the best strains and delivery methods to ensure the bacteria survive their journey to the intestines.
Probiotics’ best friends, prebiotic fibers, also are holding their own in finished products. Crystal Light’s LivActive drink mixes, for example, are formulated with prebiotics rather than probiotics. Inulin, fructooligasaccharides, polydextrose, arabinogalactan, lactulose and lactitol are examples of prebiotic fibers that are thought to stimulate the growth of and work in symbiotic relationship with probiotic bacteria. BI