New Options For Diet Drinks
For companies looking to develop new diet products, the timing couldn’t be better… or more challenging. On one hand, obesity and the need for diet products has never been more prominent; but at the same time, consumers report they are less likely to actually follow a diet or give up the products they love.
According to London-based Datamonitor, the market for diet foods and beverages is expected to reach $112.4 billion by 2009. In its recently released study “Overweight Consumers and the Future of Food and Drinks,” the company reports that the United States has the highest proportion of overweight and obese consumers, at more than 65 percent, but Germany and the United Kingdom follow, with more than 54 percent and 61 percent, respectively. It also indicates that consumers will increasingly choose “lesser evil” products rather than dedicated diet products, leaving the door open to a number of diet beverage offerings from strictly diet to lower-calorie indulgent fare.  
Ingredient company Tate & Lyle recently conducted a consumer survey about attitudes toward diet products that found 47 percent of consumers believe they should reduce the amount of sugar in their diets, yet only 24 percent actually incorporate that into their own practices. Thirty-nine percent think a reduction in calories is important to healthy eating, while only 20 percent report doing so in their own lives. Consumers also reported they want to find additional health benefits in their products such as omega 3, vitamins, minerals and calcium.
“Consumers want great-tasting products with reduced levels of sugar or calories,” says Harvey Chimoff, director of marketing, Americas, at Tate & Lyle. “Those companies that can combine taste and functionality (no calorie or lower-calorie products that taste great) will have an advantage.
“Based on our research, consumers are looking for added-value functionality in beverages to provide extra nutritional benefits,” he says. “This, in part, reflects how beverages are slowly moving, or can move, to provide some of the benefits consumers traditionally perceive from food such as meal replacements or a snack to bridge meal occasions (i.e. between-meal satiety).”
Paul Kim, principal scientist, beverage applications, at Minneapolis-based Cargill adds: “Historically, consumers selecting diet or lower-calorie beverages have asked, ‘Does it taste good, [is it] free of the so-called diet taste?’ The sugar taste was the Holy Grail everyone was looking for. Today, with more people consuming diet beverages regularly, some diet drinkers feel that the regular beverages are too sweet and heavy. So the objective becomes truly understanding your consumers’ preferences and asking, ‘What tastes the best?’”
Growing number of options
When it comes to low-calorie sweeteners for beverages, a number of choices exist, from those offering zero calories to full-calorie sweeteners that are released more slowly into the bloodstream for a lower glycemic response.
Aspartame, produced by companies such as The NutraSweet Co. and Ajinomoto, still is the most-used alternative sweetener, and can be found in more than 6,000 products worldwide, according to the American Beverage Association. Despite the market dominance of aspartame, many beverage companies are finding it useful to use sweetener blends to customize the sweetness profile and extend the shelf life of beverages. PepsiCo’s Diet Mountain Dew, for example, was recently reformulated with a blend of aspartame, sucralose and acesulfame potassium.
Nutrinova has long made blendability the hallmark of its Sunett acesulfame potassium. The company reported increased use of the high-intensity sweetener in new products launched in the United States in 2005.
“This shows a continued commitment in the sector toward the use of Sunett and in combination with other sweeteners,” says Graham Hall, president and chief operating officer of Nutrinova Inc. “The data confirms our belief that successful combinations are hard to beat.”
Also in the blending vein, Tate & Lyle developed what it calls Rebalance to optimize sweeteners using its Splenda brand sucralose. “[Rebalance 601] is an optimized blend of sweeteners designed to offer a natural sweetness profile while reducing sugars up to 85 percent in fruit-flavored beverages,” says Tate & Lyle Manager of New Technology Development Lori Napier. “Independent sensory evaluation confirms that flavored waters made with Rebalance 601 scored well or better than commercially available waters for key attributes such as flavor delivery and sweetness profile. Additionally, beverage Rebalance 601 maintains its sweetness profile during processing and storage and is available as an easy-to-use liquid.”
The company says the Rebalance system also can be used to develop full-calorie mouthfeel at no-calorie or mid-calorie levels using other ingredients such as maltodextrin, starches and gums, and can be used in carbonated beverages, juice drinks, fitness and sports drinks, energy drinks, and soy and dairy drinks.
Cargill also expanded its sweetener portfolio last year with several new options. “Cargill’s goal is to be a one-stop ‘sweetness solutions provider’ for whatever needs our customers have,” Cargill’s Kim says. “We intend to offer the full range of sweetener options, from full-calorie to low- and no-calorie. We are keenly aware that consumer needs have become more diverse and no one ‘silver bullet’ will satisfy all.”
To that end, the company introduced the Xtend line of all-natural, slowly digestible sweeteners. Xtend Sucromalt is a slow-release carbohydrate that is digested more slowly than sugar for a muted blood sugar response. Its syrup format and solubility makes it applicable for systems that use bulk sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, and it can be used in conjunction with high-intensity sweeteners.
Its Xtend Isomaltulose is made from sucrose but has 40 to 50 percent the sweetness of sugar. It is particularly useful in sports beverages because it provides sustained energy with moderate sweetness. The company also offers Ascend trehalose, a sugar made from starch that also is a contender for sports drinks with its mildly sweet flavor.
Cargill’s Special FX is a full-calorie sweetener with a higher level of fructose, resulting in a higher level of sweetness so less is needed to produce the desired sweetness level. And the company also offers erythritol, an all-natural no-calorie bulk sweetener. The ingredient is 60 to 70 percent as sweet as sugar, and can be used in combination with high-intensity sweeteners to round out the sweetness profile.
Erythritol has the added benefit of being considered a natural sweetener, which is becoming an important consideration given the growth of natural and organic products. “Many people prefer ingredients they consider to be ‘natural,’” Kim says. “Therefore, it’s not surprising that food formulators are looking for natural ingredients that provide sweetness but fewer calories than traditional nutritive sweeteners do.”
Cargill recently worked with Honest Tea to develop an erythritol sweetener for its new zero-calorie green tea, making it the first organic zero-calorie sweetened beverage on the market.
Ventana Health Inc., San Clemente, Calif., used erythritol in its new Zsweet all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener, which the company says measures and tastes like sugar. Zsweet is made with a blend of erythritol and food extracts commonly found in fruits and vegetables. Zsweet can be used in hot or cold beverages and blended drinks.
Also playing up the natural side, Germany’s Palatinit rolled out Palatinose Isomaltulose sweetener, which it calls the ’’wellness sweetener’’ for its sugar-like taste and low glycemic response. The ingredient is a natural constituent of honey and sugar cane, and has a mild sweet taste. It has the same caloric value as sucrose, but is digested more slowly, helping to avoid peaks and lows in blood sugar and blood insulin. According to the company, it can be used in both instant and ready-to-drink beverages, and is especially useful in sports drinks.
“We feel that Palatinose, a naturally derived product, fulfills today’s expectations toward sports beverages in terms of balancing good taste and healthy energy,” says Stephan Hausmanns, business development manager at Palatinit.
It’s all about perception
In addition to sweeteners, a new array of sweetener enhancers are becoming available to help product formulators make the most of the sweeteners they use, and in some cases, even trick the senses into perceiving more flavor.
Treatt USA expanded its line of from-the-named-food (FTNF) Treattarome ingredients with Sugar Treattarome 9807, which is distilled from cane sugar for an authentic, sweet flavor with no added calories. The ingredient is water soluble, making it particularly suitable for clear beverages, sodas and alcohol drinks. The company says Sugar Treattarome works synergistically with non-nutritive sweeteners, and says the creation of flavor systems designed to work with specific sweeteners is receiving a lot of attention these days.
“Systems based on sucralose are rapidly taking hold in the diet sector,” says Giles Bovill, global group marketing manager at Treatt plc. “Flavors and other ingredients have to be adjusted to work with this new reality. The sweetening effect of sucralose is very different to that of aspartame and acesulfame K in beverages. There is a lot of interest in finding new and exotic flavor ingredients that work with sucralose to enhance the impression of a more ‘sugar-like’ sweetening effect.”
Treatt also developed Honey Treattarome 9801, which is created from a blend of honeys such as orange blossom and clover for a sweet honey flavor without the calories. Applications include beverage and dairy products.  
La Jolla, Calif.-based Senomyx is taking taste perception a step farther by creating systems that enhance or modifiy the perception of flavors through taste receptor-based technology. According to the company, its work has focused on the development of savory, sweet and salt flavor enhancement and bitterness reduction that will allow food and beverage manufactures to reduce the amount of MSG, sugar and salt in their products. While not currently used in any of their products, Senomyx reportedly has collaborated with companies such as Campbell Soup Co., The Coca-Cola Co., Kraft Foods Global and Nestlé to research the technology.
Easing hunger
In addition to products offering fewer calories, there is great interest in products that help boost the metabolism or make consumers feel satisfied while eating or drinking less.
Orafti, Malvern, Pa., promotes its Beneo inulin ingredient for its soluble fiber content and for the added sweetness it can provide in a product. It recently developed diet water formulations containing inulin, calcium lactate, sodium citrate, citric acid, natural flavor, caffeine, sucralose and acesulfame potassium to showcase the ingredient’s potential.
The company says Beneo promotes good digestive health and is a prebiotic. In addition, it offers zero net carbohydrates since it is a fiber. Orafti says its recent research has shown inulin can help limit hunger and energy intake because the ingredient ferments in the colon and modulates the release of hormones into the blood that signal the brain, thus influencing appetite and ultimately food intake.
Interhealth USA, Benicia, Calif., offers CitriMax and SuperCitriMax, weight-loss ingredients extracted from the Garcinia Cambogia fruit. The ingredients are GRAS-affirmed and have been shown to suppress the appetite and fat production by inhibiting the enzymes that convert carbohydrates into fat. The ingredient is odorless, colorless and 100 percent soluble, making it applicable to beverages. Fuze Beverage LLC added CitriMax, as well as l-carnitine to its Healthy Infuzions Slenderize Drink, and last year’s Fuze Slender Energy Drinks to help boost the metabolism.
Elite FX Inc., Boynton Beach, Fla., also developed a metabolism-boosting product last year with its Celsius brand, designed to accelerate the metabolism through its “thermogenic blend of nutrients, caffeine and botanicals,’” which consist of taurine, guarana, green tea extract with 10 percent EGCG, caffeine, glucuronolactone and ginger root extract. Green tea’s EGCG, or Epigallocatechin Gallate, is a polyphenol compound believed to stimulate thermogenesis and increase the number of calories burned by the body.
Elite FX says drinking 12-ounces of Celcius has been shown to increase the metabolism by more than 12 percent over a three-hour period. Some subjects in the company’s double-blind study burned an additional 75 calories during the measured period without any extra exercise.
Phytobase Nutritionals Inc., Orem, Utah, recently introduced Bon-Java LeanCaffe with 950 mg. of African Hoodia Gordonii in each cup to act as an appetite suppressant, as well as Rhodia rosea, an herb thought to boost energy, enhance mood and increase fat-burning mechanisms in the body.
“Coffee is one of the most consumable and loved beverages in the world, and thanks to the addition of Hoodia Gordonii, people will now have the ability to control their appetites and therefore eat less without changing any of their habits,” says Phytobase Nutritionals President Sam Gur. “[The] major emerging shift within the diet and weight management trend toward ‘satiety’ makes LeanCaffe a very unique and useful tool for millions of people.”
Hoodia Gordonii is a cactus-like plant that Gur says signals the brain that the body is in a state of satiety. “Simply put, the brain is tricked into thinking there is enough energy (blood sugar) and doesn’t need to eat, so it shuts down the hunger mechanism,” he says.
Gur says the company has plans for additional weight control products in the future. “There is a next generation of products in the pipeline,” he says. “From our perspective, we see exciting opportunities within the beverage category, and we are in development of various concepts that will be first-in-category when launched.” BI