Delivering on a functional promise
October 15, 2010
Since last year, caffeine, taurine, guarana, ginseng and ginkgo biloba have been the top five energy and alertness ingredients included in new energy and sport drink launches in the United States, according to Innova Market Insights, Duiven, The Netherlands.
For the last half of 2009, 30.4 percent of new energy and sports drinks launches in the United States included caffeine and taurine. For the first half of 2010, 28.6 percent of energy and sports drink releases included caffeine, but taurine only appeared in 19.6 percent of new launches in the category, Innova says.
Through June of this year, guarana has appeared in 26.8 percent of energy and sports drinks launches, which is up from the 15.2 percent of new products in the category the ingredient was included in for the last half of 2009. Ginseng’s usage in new energy and sports drinks remains fairly consistent for the first half of this year compared to the last half of 2010, appearing in approximately 17.5 percent of new launches. Ginkgo biloba was included in 6.5 percent of new energy and sports drinks in the last half of last year, and is up slightly in its use this year at 7.1 percent.
B vitamins are another major ingredient category included in performance beverages. Like vitamin C, B vitamins have diverse usage across beverage categories, but unlike vitamin C, B vitamins’ primary use is for fortification to build better health credentials for the end-use product, reports Euromonitor International, Chicago.
B vitamins globally are expected to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.5 percent from 2009 to 2014 in the functional drink category, one of the leading categories that use the ingredients, the research group says. Within functional drinks, some B vitamins are used in sports drinks, but energy drinks represent 80 percent of all volume used globally. The energy drink category also is showing better growth internationally. Energy drinks are projected to grow 4 to 5 percent per year to 2014, compared with a 1 to 2 percent annual decline for sports drinks usage, Euromonitor says.
The growth of the new energy shot format around the world has opened up new potential for B vitamins, which are featured in most of the established shots, the research firm says. In addition, demand for more natural energy drinks will benefit B vitamins, it says.
Looking ahead, every small vitamin category offers positive growth prospects in performance beverages. Vitamin A is forecast to almost triple in size from 2009 to 2014, posting a CAGR of 23 percent from 5 tons to 14 tons globally, Euromonitor says. Growth will be strongest in ready-to-drink teas and drinking yogurts.
Globally, Vitamin D is a market of 7 tons a year and is most established in soy beverages and sour milk drinks where it primarily is used in conjunction with calcium to enhance bone health credentials, Euromonitor says.
Vitamin E volumes are more than 20 tons a year globally and are used mainly in concentrates, soy beverages and functional bottled waters, the research firm says. The last of these offers best growth prospects, with functional bottled waters forecasting a CAGR of 6 percent from 2009 to 2014 globally, Euromonitor says.
Beverages are an ideal avenue to deliver per-formance ingredients to consumers.
“Beverages tend to be an excellent medium to deliver performance ingredients since sweetening and flavor/color systems can often help to mask some of the organoleptic deficiencies inherent with the use of some functional ingredients,” says Sam Wright, president and chief executive officer of The Wright Group, Crowley, La. “It does not matter how healthy a product is. If the taste, odor or mouth feel is bad, no one will buy it.”
Different performance beverages meet the needs of different types of consumers. But the common thread is that they want to be able to feel some kind of effect or benefit from them, says Colleen Zammer, market development manager, health and nutrition, at Jungbunzlauer Inc., Newton Centre, Ma.
“Whether it is energy, calmness, endurance, they want to be able to feel and/or measure a difference when consuming the beverage,” she says. “Of course taste, convenience and safety are also very important, but are more threshold requirements for any beverages they consume.”
In addition, with an aging U.S. population, many consumers have trouble swallowing tablets and capsules and prefer to get their supplemental nutrition through foods and especially beverages, Wright says. This trend is expected to intensify over the next few decades, he says.
Beverages also are a good medium to deliver performance ingredients because of the many occasions throughout the day when people want to consume beverages.
“They serve the purpose of hydration and satisfaction, while also delivering ‘performance’ benefits and different benefits for different times of day,” Zammer says. “But, formulators must ensure that the ingredients and the medium are compatible in terms of solubility, flavor and stability. The same goes for shots, but shots are a good medium because they are portable and can be consumed quickly and easily on the go. They also limit the volume and calories that are a factor for large serving drinks.”
While ease of consumption and portability makes it easier for the consumer to drink a beverage for performance enhancing needs, all ingredients pose formulation challenges in beverages, says Ram Chaudhari, senior executive vice president and chief scientific officer at Fortitech Inc., Schenectady, N.Y.
“A number of formulation strategies exist that can be employed to counter these issues,” he says. “A few of these strategies can include encapsulation of specific ingredients, the manner and timing in which an ingredient is added, and adjusting processing conditions.” Shots are a format that has emerged in the performance category and appeal mainly to those consume
rs who are concerned about large amounts of sugar and acids that accompany large volume energy drinks, or who simply do not care for the taste and want to minimize their exposure, Zammer says.
Some suppliers are seeing the shot format slowing down though.
“We are selling very little into the shot marketplace,” says Scott Erickson, marketing director, Cargill Corn Milling, Minneapolis. “A year ago we were getting more inquires around shots than we are today. Inquiries for shots have slowed down as concern around structure function claims continues to grow.”
Cargill Corn Milling’s sales for liquid and dry powdered beverage products have increased in 2010 over 2009 though.
“We see consumers continuing to look for cost savings by mixing their own in using the dry powdered beverage sticks and sachets,” Erickson says.
Another change that has occurred, perhaps over more than just the past year, is a trend toward more “natural” ingredients, Zammer says. For example, B vitamins and minerals have risen in popularity as a source of energy and calming or relaxation.
“This is more of a holistic approach rather than spikes and crashes from caffeine and sugar,” she explains.
The Wright Group does not see major changes in consumer expectations as compared to last year in regard to performance beverages. A tendency toward lower calorie products, including shots, did develop, but this seems to be leveling off a bit, Wright says. The company also thinks consumers are looking for more natural ingredients in their products as opposed to the typical “chemical sounding” array of components, he says.
Private label beverage-maker Imbibe, Wilmette, Ill., also agrees with the current desire in the marketplace to get benefits from natural sources. This is a trend the company expects to continue for awhile.
“One of the things we’re focused on is to take some of the functional beverages that have been out there and show people we can make natural and organic versions that don’t require a great sacrifice in taste,” says Andrew Rashkow, Imbibe’s president and chief executive officer.
While the functional needs consumers seek have not changed much from last year to this year, Imbibe is seeing more segmentation of the same needs.
“If you look at protein, you have a proliferation of products where you didn’t have them before,” says Andy Dratt, Imbibe’s executive vice president. “… The shots category has expanded in terms of the things it can deliver. A lot of it is that consumers don’t really know they need it until it’s available, so there is a lot more expansion of the offerings.”
In terms of the evolving needs of consumers, many products develop out of consumers’ growing knowledge of a particular ingredient that they now want to work into their diet.
“A lot of times with these developing needs, it’s how do you take something that’s proven to be the kind of benefit consumers want and now make it more palatable and taste delicious?” Dratt says.
While consumers want more formats and more natural ingredients for their specific needs in performance beverages, seeing results from the product are still important to them. Consumers are becoming more sophisticated about the scientific support behind the promised benefits and expect a performance beverage to deliver on its promise, whether it’s providing energy, stress relief, muscle building, supplemental nutrients or addressing a specific health concern.
“It is extremely important for a consumer to perceive positive results from consuming a performance beverage,” Wright says. “It does not matter what the science claims are if the product does not seem to work. These are expensive products relative to ordinary soft drinks. If it does not seem to work as advertised no matter what the sought benefits are, there will be no repeat purchase. These products go way beyond good taste or thirst quenching. Performance beverage producers must persuade enough consumers to make their brand a regular part of their lifestyle. If the product is not perceived as efficacious, this will not happen.”
Most consumers want to feel or see the benefits of a functional product. To address consumers’ joint health concerns, Cargill offers Regenasure Glucosamine. The ingredient can be used in almost every juice, water and sports-type beverage, Erickson says. The major product concern is around a lower pH that allows a more stable source of glucosamine, he says.
“For a joint health product, for instance, if they are not seeing the benefits from the beverage, then they are not likely to continue to spend the money for it on a long-term basis,” Cargill’s Erickson says. If a manufacturer does not specifically call out how long a consumer needs to wait to see results, along with how and when the beverage or shot should be consumed, for example with or without food and time prior to activity, that product may be set up for failure, Chaudhari adds.
As a custom ingredient premix manufacturer, Fortitech can source more than 1,400 ingredients. A few that it can incorporate into a performance product include coenzyme Q10, which plays a key role in energy and endurance. It is a fat-soluble vitamin-like compound and is best absorbed if it is incorporated into a beverage with some fat content, Chaudhari says.
Fortitech also offers L-carnitine, an amino acid that can be synthesized in the body. L-carnitine is usually not considered to be an essential nutrient and can be incorporated into a sports beverage to reduce muscle soreness, Chaudhari says.
Whey protein is a much sought after ingredient in the sports nutrition industry due to its ability to be digested rapidly, which contributes greatly to its ability to help build muscle, Chaudhari says.
Creatine plays a role in the production of energy and in the process of building muscle tissue, and can be produced in the body. However, because of the role it plays in creating energy and muscle, many athletes are using creatine as a performance-enhancing agent, Chaudhari says. Creatine can enhance the performance of high-intensity, short-duration exercise, but it is not useful in endurance sports such as a marathon, he says.
The Wright Group also offers an array of high-quality conventional, microencapsulated and time release ingredients for the performance beverage and shot market. “We can provide value-added ingredients and nutrient platforms for any beverage system, including clear beverages, thanks to our new micro-emulsion technology,” Wright says.
Jungbunzlauer offers organic mineral salts—calcium citrate, calcium lactate-gluconate, zinc citrate, magnesium citrate, potassium citrate and gluconate—for use in beverages. These minerals offer many different benefits, such as zinc provides immune support and energy; magnesium presents stress relief and calming as well as muscle recovery; potassium supplies relief from muscle cramps; and calcium gives energy and muscle strength, Zammer says. Any citrate-based mineral salt supports muscle health and recovery and bone health, she adds.
“Citrate and gluconate mineral salts can be formulated into just about any beverage type as they have moderate to high solubility and very clean, neutral taste,” Zammer explains.
Suppliers say performance beverages will continue to grow as consumers employ more active, healthy lifestyles.
“Performance products will continue to diversify as the consumer base widens and seeks a broader variety of benefits to fit their definition of ‘performance,’ which will also expand with age demographics,” Zammer says. “The benefits may expand beyond physical performance and encompass physiological performance, i.e., less of the immediate result and more long-term health, and mental, for example, focus, memory and clarity.” BI