Can Fortified Beverages Taste Great and be Good for You, Too?

The fortified beverage segment is among the fastest growing “wellness” category for two simple reasons: functional beverages are not only good for you, they’re convenient. And from supplying a simple energy boost to enhancing mental acuity, there are nearly as many fortified beverage varieties as there are needs to fulfill.
“With today’s on-the-go lifestyle, getting ideal levels of vitamins and minerals can be difficult, leading to a substantial gap between the recommended daily intake (RDI) and what people actually consume. Without sufficient levels of essential nutrients like calcium, magnesium and potassium, negative health consequences can arise,” says Barbara Heidolph, market development manager, food, Astaris LLC, St. Louis, Mo. “While ideally the consumer would get all necessary nutrients from food, the reality is that it is difficult to get a high enough dosage to prevent disease. Fortified beverages, often packaged in pop-top cans or single-serve bottles, enable the consumer to conveniently take in ideal levels of essential nutrients.”
Fortified beverages are also an easy and relatively inexpensive way for consumers to try nutrients that pique their curiosity. In 1999 and again in 2003, DSM Nutritional Products Inc., Parsippany, N.J., a supplier of Omega-3, conducted consumer market research in conjunction with HealthFocus International, St. Petersburg, Fla., and The Axiom Research Group Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn. The research confirmed that consumers have a penchant for trying beverages. “[The concepts of] ‘drink plenty of fluids’ and ‘we don’t have time to prepare or consume meals balanced in nutrients’ help drive the popularity of fortified beverages,” says DSM’s Diane Hnat, senior marketing manager of the food industry unit in North America. “From a manufacturer’s perspective, beverage production can be quite economical and profitable. And enterprising ingredient suppliers focus on developing first and foremost forms of their nutrients that perform well (in areas of) function stability (and) beverage matrices.”
But crafting a fortified beverage isn’t as easy as adding a dash of vitamin C or a jigger of gingko extract. Functional nutrients require special care and deliberation during the formulation process. There’s testing to ensure ingredient bioavailability, mouthfeel and palatability to address, because, let’s face it, many good-for-you ingredients like choline, iron and thiamine have less-than-ideal flavors.
Fortitech Inc., Schenectady, N.Y., has devised a novel way to help beverage formulators meet their label claims via customizable nutrient pre-mixes that take the guesswork out of beverage fortification. “The premixes not only assemble the right kind of nutrients to give you the overall marketing and nutrient profile on your label, they also offer bioavailability to guarantee the nutrient’s usefulness to the consumer,” comments Ram Chaudhari, senior executive vice president and chief scientific officer at Fortitech.
The premixes also virtually eliminate the hassles of ingredient interactions, processing conundrums and other criteria that make fortifying a beverage so difficult. “We have a ready-made 100 percent RDI standard premix, but we believe in customizing,” Chaudhari says. “We have 12,000 different products and no two products are alike. Every product has its own unique test appeal — one can’t forget the importance of the testing aspect. If it doesn’t test well, you decrease your chances of anyone buying the product a second time.”  
Botanical ingredients present their own formulation challenges, the two most common hurdles being color and taste. “Functional waters have become one of today’s hottest industry trends, and offer an excellent opportunity for incorporating botanical extracts for their well-recognized beneficial support. However, water beverages are traditionally clear. One drop of a botanical extract affects the overall color of the beverage,” says Tom Connelly, vice president of sales at Bio-Botanica, Hauppauge, N.Y. “This is where flavor houses come in. Beverage formulators rely on the expertise of flavor houses to mask an undesirable color or flavor associated with the use of a botanical extract in a functional beverage.”
Raising the bar for standard nutrients
With osteoporosis awareness and prevention at an all-time high, it’s no wonder calcium and magnesium have become two of the most sought after minerals for beverage fortification. Already a mainstay ingredient in milk and orange juice, calcium is heralded for its ability to strengthen bones and teeth.
Research presented at a recent National Osteoporosis Foundation International Symposium indicated that healthy bones and soft tissues need calcium in concert with phosphorus to grow and develop normally through a lifetime, and to maintain healthy structure. Astaris’ calcium fortification technology delivers calcium and phosphorus in a ratio identical to the composition of teeth and bones.
Magnesium, in addition to assisting with the absorption of calcium, also aids in reducing stress, maintaining cardiovascular health, and can help fight Type II diabetes. “Magnesium works with other formulation ingredients to balance essential minerals in infant formula, meal replacement beverages, energy drinks, and geriatric beverages,” adds Astaris’ Heidolph. “An essential mineral for physical health and well-being, magnesium supports the formation of bones and teeth by assisting with the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Magnesium is also important for good bone retention, making enrichment with this mineral especially effective when formulating products for women.”
The top concerns when fortifying with calcium and magnesium tend to be bioavailability, dispersion, taste, palatability and stability. “Many magnesium fortification systems have an unstable pH, resulting in color changes, flavor inconsistency and protein instability in juices, meal replacement beverages and other drinks,” Heidolph says. “Some magnesium fortification sources heat up upon hydration and have a drifting pH, which can result in color changes, flavor inconsistency, protein instability, and loss of heat-labile (temperature-sensitive) vitamins in juices, meal replacement beverages, and other fortified drinks.
“Fortification of soy beverages poses a particular problem in that magnesium can cause negative interactions with soy protein, producing off-odors and flavors,” she says. “Astaris’ Mag-nificent magnesium phosphate technology does not have a negative interaction with soy protein, nor does it heat upon hydration, which helps maintain a clean flavor profile and enrichment in soy beverages.”
Calcium fortification is also fraught with cost and formulation challenges, which have traditionally stymied processors’ attempts to develop clear calcium-fortified beverages, but Astaris is making strides in that realm.
“With many calcium fortifiers, a chalky or gritty mouthfeel results when beverages are enriched to 10 to 20 percent of the recommended daily allowance,” says Heidolph. “Keeping proteins soluble and protected is a challenge that beverage manufacturers must also overcome to achieve calcium-fortified beverages with ideal characteristics. Astaris’ polyphosphates enable dispersion of soy protein, keep fortified beverages in liquid form, and prevent syneresis (separation) of the beverage matrix.”
The Puracal XP product line from Purac America U.S.A., Lincolnshire, Ill., was specially developed to meet the current demands for calcium fortification in the beverage industry. The Puracal XP line is comprised of calcium lactate gluconate products, which are branded as Puracal XPro and Puracal XPerform. “Both of these calcium sources interact the least with other beverage ingredients, resulting in highly stable beverage,” explains Sharon Rokosh, senior market development specialist, Purac. “The XP line exhibits a short dissolution time, high bioavailability and neutral flavor — the latter being especially important for mild flavored beverages, such as enhanced waters and sports drinks.”
Purac’s latest development is Puracal XPure, a new grade of Puracal XP that’s been optimized for flavor and developed for use in water and other minimally flavored beverages.
In addition to calcium, the company also provides magnesium, zinc, potassium, iron, copper and manganese that are GMO-free, kosher-certified, allergen-free, easy to process, highly soluble and bioavailable. “Our minerals are allergen-free, which includes them being lactose-free,” says Ellis Hogetoorn, senior market development specialist. “A major driving factor for the fortification of beverages is that a lot of people are either lactose intolerant or simply don’t like milk. For this demographic, we have juices and other beverages that are fortified with a lactose-free mineral source.”
Proprietary ingredients go mainstream
Visitors to July’s IFT 2004 Annual Meeting & Food Expo witnessed the launch of a variety of exciting new fortified beverages. Among the most interesting were from Cargill, Minneapolis, Minn.
Cargill used two new beverages as vehicles for its proprietary ingredients. Heart Healthy Smoothie was a raspberry smoothie made with the company’s CoroWise plant sterols that meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s sterols heart health claim while being a good source of fiber and calcium.
Apple rose flavored JointWise was billed as “a classic North American sports beverage” that promotes joint health because each serving contains 200 mg. OptaFlex chondroitin per serving. GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) OptaFlex natural chondroitin, is manufactured using a unique, water-based process that enables great-tasting joint healthy products.
Both OptaFlex and CoroWise plant sterols are produced using proprietary processing technology. “OptaFlex natural chondroitin, which is produced using a water-based process, creates a product that allows many finished products to be created without the need of added flavor masking systems,” says Lee Knudson, product manager, Cargill. “To showcase our OptaFlex product’s ease of use, we chose the beverage segment because these are typically one of the most difficult formulation areas for innovative ingredients.”
Similarly, a process was developed to help incorporate CoroWise plant sterols into beverages. “Plant sterols are not water-loving ingredients and traditionally have been incorporated into fat-based applications such as margarines and spreads,” says Pam Stauffer, marketing manager at Cargill.
Current beverages on the market that contain CoroWise plant sterols include Minute Maid Premium Heart Wise and Rice Dream Heartwise rice milk.
During the past year, Kemin Foods, Des Moines, Iowa, heralded several new beverage announcements regarding its FloraGlo brand Lutein. According to the company’s Alex Fink, strategic marketing manager, FloraGlo Lutein can be found in such mainstream beverages as Sunsweet’s reformulated prune juice, which now includes 500 mcg. of FloraGLO per serving, Ensure and Glucerna meal replacement beverages, and Hain Celestial Group’s Pure Foods Mixed Veggie Juice and Carrot Juice, which each contain 1 mg. of purified lutein per 8-ounce serving.
The Hain juices are packed with vitamins and minerals and are free of genetically engineered ingredients. “We are impressed with the continued research supporting FloraGLO Lutein’s versatile role in good health. As a manufacturer of natural products, we were excited with the opportunity to partner with Kemin to make foods and beverages even better for consumers and to differentiate our products on the grocery shelf,” said Maureen Putman, general manager for the grocery business unit at The Hain Celestial Group, in a statement announcing the products.
Also new, but still in the prototypical stage is a grapeseed extract-fortified water from Polyphenolics, a division of Constellation Wines U.S., Canandaigua, N.Y. Ron Martin, vice president of sales, says the antioxidant beverage is a great starting point for a new beverage line because it’s packed with compelling features. “This particular formula, which is an alternatively sweetened, low-carb, low-calorie flavored water, will deliver the same antioxidant capacity as a serving of fruit when 10 ounces of the beverage is consumed,” he says.
Achieving the right flavor was a suprisingly uncomplicated proposition. “Using the level of 50 mg. of grape seed extract per 8 ounces of any fruit flavor will have an excellent taste,” Martin says. “If anything, it enhances the fruit flavor and cuts the sweetness level to make a gulpable low-carb beverage that is an alternative to water or juice. This is the level that we have self-affirmed as GRAS for beverages with notification to the FDA.”
Not just good for the skin
Everyone knows that aloe vera is great for the skin, but a growing number of consumers also know the benefits of its consumption. Aloe is regarded for its immune-enhancing properties and is said to stimulate the body’s own antioxidant production. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, according to Jeff Barrie, sales manager at Aloecorp, Broomfield, Colo. Aloe also has been linked to lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels. And it can play a key role in the health of a low-carb dieter.
“These days, there are few of us who don’t know someone following a ‘low-carb’ diet plan,” says Barrie. “A recent study at Yale University found that consuming foods high in animal protein, saturated fat, eggs and dairy could compromise the immune system. It is no myth that fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants, and are known to boost the immune system. This is a great reason to ingest aloe, especially if you are restricting your intake of fruits and vegetables as a result of following a low-carb diet plan,” he says.
“The recommended daily dose of an aloe drink is 1 to 2 ounces, one to two times daily, or 150 to 300 mg. one to two times daily. If you’re counting carbs, 3 ounces of aloe vera contain about three calories and only 0.5 percent carbohydrates by weight.”
The biggest complaint Barrie has heard concerns the taste of aloe, which is fairly bland with a slight hint of citrus. “While many of us easily acquire a taste for aloe, for those more finicky consumers, aloe can easily be masked with added flavors, or blended in with your favorite fruit or vegetable juice,” Barrie says.
The company did just that in Ageless Xtra, a nutrient-packed beverage manufactured for Oasis Wellness Network, Broomfield, Colo. The berry-flavored concentrate is labeled to be a full spectrum cell renewal formula that promotes energy; supports memory, mental clarity and focus; helps manage stress; and promotes joint comfort and flexibility. In addition to aloe vera, the beverage also contains green tea, vitamins B3 and B6, skullcap and ginkgo extracts, and cordyceps sinensis.
“A majority of consumers acknowledge that their diets could be healthier, and scientific research increasingly substantiates the relationship between health and diet,” surmises Purac’s Rokosh. “Boomers especially are very receptive to nutrient-dense beverages. Furthermore, interest in these beverages is quite high among younger consumers who are typically very willing to experiment with new products and like the convenience factor.
“The beverage industry is the fastest-growing and most versatile segment of the food industry, and this allows for a high level of formulation flexibility — resulting in an ideal base for good-tasting, fortified/enhanced products,” she continues. “Formulators are easily able to incorporate at least the minimum dietary requirements in order to make approved health claims, and advances in technology have made it possible to fortify beverages without sacrificing taste or stability.” BI