Customized Solutions
The options for functional beverages get more sophisticated and continue to grow
The generic term “nutraceutical” leads the list of functional claims for beverages introduced this year, according to Datamonitor’s Productscan Online. But today’s products are anything but generic, and beverage-makers have a number of ingredients from which to create everything from mass market juice drinks to condition-specific formulations.
Product claims such as high calcium, protein and vitamins are down this year compared to last, according to Productscan, while antioxidants and minerals are outpacing 2005. Green tea is the headlining ingredient in antioxidant beverages by far, in various forms such as “green tea,” “green tea catechins,” “green tea extract,” “instant green tea” and “green tea leaf extract.”
Fortification trends
Product claim YTD 2006* YTD 2005
High antioxidants 104 74
High calcium 49 58
High iron 6 5
High minerals 72 64
High omega-6 3 0
High omega-3 7 8
High polyphenols 6 5
High protein 27 33
High vitamins 175 178
Nutraceutical 291 258
*Number of beverage SKUs introduced in the United States
Vitamin C is another leading antioxidant source this year, and free-radical-fighting acai, acerola, bilberry, black currant, black tea, blueberries, noni, pomegranate, vitamin E and white tea also have made a showing in new product introductions.
Overall, the functional food and beverage market is worth more than $20 billion in the United States and $55 billion worldwide, reports Mark Fanion, spokesman for Fortitech Inc., Schenectady, N.Y., a producer of nutrient premixes. He says that the increased awareness of the impact between nutritional content and overall health has fueled double-digit growth in that market.
“Today’s consumers are concerned with overall health and wellness,” he says. “As a result, there is significant impact on food and beverage purchases. Many studies have shown that consumers are as concerned with good health as they are about maintaining a high quality of life.”
Demand for organic and natural ingredients is growing, Fanion says. And it should come as no surprise that energy-boosting ingredients also are on the rise. Today’s most sought-after beverage ingredients include taurine, caffeine, antioxidants and lycopene, as well as soy, DHA/EPA, mixed tocopherols, phytonutrients and sterols, he says.
“The trend is reflective of consumers’ desire to maintain and improve energy, reinvigorate and replenish body fluids, manage weight gain and enhance the nutritional value of popular beverages,” he says.
Dan Murray, vice president of sales for food and beverages at InterHealth Nutraceuticals, Benicia, Calif., says the popularity of energy drinks has expanded the mass market possibilities for many ingredients once reserved for nutritional products only. InterHealth produces a number of nutraceutical ingredients, including Super CitriMax, ChromeMate and OptiBerry.
“The energy market has opened the door to what can transfer from nutraceutical to mainstream beverages,” he says. “There are many applications for other nutraceuticals that have, so far, been taken in capsules and tablets.”
Consumers often prefer to ingest functional ingredients through beverages rather than supplements because of their ease of consumption and their portability, he says. “We’re all going to consume something and if we have the option of consuming something that has a health attribute, that’s a bonus,” he says.
Some of the challenges in developing fortified products are that the ingredients can be difficult to incorporate into a beverage, and can cause undesirable flavors, sedimentation or unintended ingredient interaction.
“Certain nutrients are not very soluble, so one has to select the correct form to avoid sedimentation,” Fanion says. “Certain nutrients may give a bitter aftertaste and some are not very stable. Others may be light and/or heat sensitive.” Fortitech offers custom premixes of vitamins, minerals, herbs and many other nutrients that can be used to design products for specific health conditions and avoid formulation problems.
Belief vs. behavior
Another hurdle in developing and marketing functional beverages is that consumers’ intentions don’t necessarily match up with their actions. According to Datamonitor’s How to Exploit New Wellness Trends in Drinks report, 45 percent of consumers say they “find it difficult to maintain a lifestyle focused on health and wellness in the long term.”
The development of healthful, yet convenient products is essential to capturing these consumers who would like to make healthy choices but cannot sacrifice the time to do it.
More difficult to overcome is that a number of consumers indicate that they are skeptical of health claims on products. Nearly 45 percent of consumers in the United States doubt the trustworthiness of health claims by food and beverage-makers, Datamonitor reports.
The good news for beverage formulators is that U.S. consumers are more confident than their counterparts in the rest of the world, including the United Kingdom, where nearly 65 percent of consumers say they are distrustful of product claims.
Datamonitor suggests beverage companies can overcome consumers’ doubts by forgoing scientific claims that consumers cannot easily understand. Promoting products that are more “natural” also can go a long way toward easing concerns, as is indicated by the recent growth in the natural and organic segment.
Areas of growth for fortified or wellness beverages, according to the report, include diet and weight management drinks; cosmeceutical products; products perceived as “fresh”; and products customized toward specific demographic targets.
Also poised for growth, according to Fortitech’s Fanion, are fortified beverages containing fiber, protein, soy isoflavones, co-enzyme Q10, plant extracts and probiotics.
“In order to be successful in the marketplace, one has to think in terms of health innovation, flavor innovation, ingredient innovation and specific age groups,” Fanion says. “These are the factors that will shape the future of the beverage industry.”
Up and coming categories
The category of diet drinks has expanded in recent years to include products that not only contain fewer calories, but those that actually help consumers lose or manage their weight. InterHealth Nutraceuticals produces Super CitriMax and ChromeMate, both of which are designed to help consumers manage their metabolism.
“We’ve gone the gamut in weight management and weight loss from low-carb to portion-control products,” Murray says. “We’re getting now into metabolic ways you can adjust appetite. That’s very exciting because it takes away the restrictions of diet and it takes away the hunger pangs.”
The company’s Super CitriMax is hydroxycitric acid that is extracted from fruit rinds and is used to create a feeling of satiety. Murray says it also interrupts carbohydrate metabolism and the conversion of carbohydrates to fat. ChromeMate is niacin-bound chromium that aids in insulin modulation. Both ingredients can be found in Fuze Beverage’s Slenderize product as well as SoBe Lean, and Super CitriMax is the featured ingredient in Jana Skinny Water.
Elite FX, Boynton Beach, Fla., last year introduced Celsius, a beverage that uses a “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 to create a metabolism boost.
The antioxidant power of fruit has made sales superstars out of products such as Pom Wonderful and Sambazon Acai. Another berry becoming popular for its antioxidant content is goji, a Himalayan fruit containing high levels of vitamin C, beta carotene, iron and amino acids.
Recently, CherryPharm Inc., Geneva, N.Y., rolled out CherryPharm, an all-natural, not-from-concentrate cherry juice, promoting the product as a natural recovery juice, and calling cherries natural pain relievers, anti-inflammatories and sleep regulators.  
The role of fiber in a healthy diet is taking on more importance, and National Starch Food Innovation, Bridgewater, N.J., has added Nutriose, a dextrin-based fiber that can be incorporated into beverages.
“Just about every one of us understands how difficult it can be to consume the recommended amount of fiber day after day and still maintain a diet considered appealing and enjoyable,” says Deborah Dihel, business development manager, soluble fiber, at National Starch.
Nutriose can provide up to 5 grams of soluble fiber per serving in a beverage, and can be used in products such as juice, flavored waters and dairy-based drinks without affecting clarity, taste or mouthfeel. In fact, the company has found it often can improve the mouthfeel of a product.
“The concept of fiber fortification is still relatively new in the beverage industry, providing innovative companies with the option to consider fiber as a differentiator,” Dihel says. “Marketers of beverages are coming to realize that fiber added to beverages will one day be the most consumer-appealing way to deliver all the benefits fiber has to offer.”  
From the inside out
Another potential area for new products is beauty-enhancing beverages such as Borba Skin Balancing Waters and Aqua-less Crystalline Powder Packets. The products, from Borba LLC, Woodland Hills, Calif., contain vitamins and ingredients such as a gelatin complex designed to enhance the skin’s appearance.
In a unique retail positioning, Borba made its debut in Sephora and Nordstrom stores, targeting the cosmetic section over the beverage aisle. It has since moved into upscale grocery accounts in East Coast, Midwest and West Coast markets.
Datamonitor reports the market for oral beauty supplements in the United States has increased from $299 million in 2000 to $742 million in 2005, and is expected to grow to $1.2 billion by 2010 as consumers look to nutrition to help them look better. It cites 69 percent of respondents in an Olay Vitamins survey who indicated that they believe vitamins and supplements help maintain healthy-looking skin, as well as the growing number and greater disposable income of aging females as indicators of this product opportunity.
But just as they are skeptical about overall nutritional product claims, Datamonitor says consumers have trust issues with functional beauty claims. It suggests promoting such products as part of everyday skin nutrition and focusing on “healthy” categories. “Consumers may not believe food and drinks are good for them if they contain many processed ‘bad’ ingredients, so focus on categories considered generally healthy,” the company says in its Seeking Beauty through Nutrition report. “Studies have found that fatty and processed foods are associated with poor skin health, unlike wholesome foods and fruit and vegetables.”
Just for me
InterHealth’s Murray believes future fortification opportunities exist in products that can be customized to consumers’ specific needs. “Some of the more exciting things are things like Jamba Juice, where people are going in and adding functional ingredients, right on the spot,” he says. “Somebody can customize what would normally be an existing product to their preference.”
In packaged beverages, this could include the recent popularity of single-serve packets of powdered drinks. “You can carry it in your car, your purse or pocket, and it gives you the option to add functionality,” he says. 
Murray is not alone in believing customization is a key for future fortified drinks. In a recent ACNielsen report titled The Future of Health and Wellness, the company teamed up with the Hartman Group, Belleview, Wash., to determine consumer purchasing drivers, including customized food and beverage solutions. Laurie Demeritt, president of the Hartman Group commented, “The power of customization is that each customer feels that they have special requirements. Consumers are looking for manufacturers who recognize ... that they are ‘special’ and have diverse needs.”