What Can Your Beverage Do for You?

By Elizabeth Fuhrman

New fortification formulations add function
The alignment of consumer wellness concerns, progression of beverage ingredient technology and research linking diet to disease prevention have formed the perfect market for functional products. Consumer interest in ingredients that might improve their health in some way has spurred an increase in new functional beverage products and the growth of new functional ingredients and technologies for these products.
Fortified/functional beverages, excluding dairy, reached more than $19 billion in 2006, with fortified/functional milk and flavored milk drinks adding another approximately $728 million to the category, according to Euromonitor International, Chicago. By 2011, Euromonitor projects that fortified/functional beverages will reach more than $29 billion in the United States, with fortified/functional milk and flavored milk drinks growing slower, to $815 million domestically.
Top functional and fortification claims for new beverages
Number of new products
Product claims YTD 7/31/07 YTD 7/31/06
Vitamin/mineral fortified 190 148
Functional - other 31 28
Added calcium 24 23
Functional - cardiovascular 10 7
Weight control 8 9
Functional - immune system 7 1
Functional - digestive 7 4
Functional - beauty benefits 5 1
Whole grain 5 0
Added fiber 5 4
Functional - brain and nervous system 4 5
Functional - bone health 2 0
Antioxidant 1 1
Source: Mintel Global New Product Database, U.S. launches
Functional ingredients provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition in beverages, and these drinks often are bestowed labeling that includes the words “fortified,” “enhanced” and “dietary supplement.” Too much of a good ingredient doesn’t seem to worry some beverage manufacturers either. Some fortified beverages launch with more than 200 percent the daily value of certain vitamins. “These substances provide essential nutrients, often beyond quantities necessary for normal maintenance, growth and development and/or other biologically active components that impart health benefits of desirable physiological effects,” states the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Expert Report on Functional Foods: Opportunities and Challenges.
Developing functional products
Numerous challenges arise when meeting consumers’ needs for healthy ingredients and manufacturers’ needs for delivery systems free from formulation problems. To take on these concerns, the IFT Expert Panel developed a seven-step process outlining the design, development and marketing of functional foods and beverages. After identifying a potential new functional ingredient (Step 1), the ingredient’s efficacy and safety must be established (Step 2 and 3).
When selecting an appropriate product for the bioactive ingredient (Step 4), one must consider characteristics of the beverage, the ingredient and the intended consumer. An independent peer review and regulatory oversight (Step 5) double checks the accuracy of the health claims, which must be properly communicated to consumers (Step 6). Finally, in-market surveillance confirms the findings of the pre-market assessments (Step 7).
Formulation issues can include appearance, taste, texture, stability and flavor, says Mark Fanion, corporate communications manager of Fortitech Inc., Schenectady, N.Y.
“Certain nutrients are not very soluble so product manufacturers and formulators have to select the correct market form of the ingredient to avoid the sedimentation,” Fanion explains. “Certain nutrients may also give a bitter aftertaste and some are not very stable; others may be light and/or heat sensitive.”
Fortitech has designed more than 20,000 custom premixes to address these issues. “Our custom premixes are fully customized to address the developer’s intended marketing and consumer needs,” Fanion says.
New benefits
While formulators are handling the logistics of incorporating new functional ingredients, consumers’ desires are changing and rapidly requiring new functional beverages and fortification to meet their needs. As of July 31, 2007, vitamin and mineral fortification topped the claims manufacturers made about their new product introductions, according to Mintel’s Global New Products database. So far this year, more than 15 percent of the products introduced included a vitamin and mineral fortification. Added calcium, cardiovascular, weight control, immune system, digestive, beauty benefits, brain and nervous system and bone health also made the list.  
Fortified beverages can be tailored to meet the special dietary needs of a specific age group, gender, athlete or ailment. Tackling wellness concerns, Eagan, Minn.-based Biothera’s Wellmune WGP aims to enhance key immune responses. One of the 2007 IFT Food Expo Innovation Award winners, Wellmune WGP improves the body’s immune defense against foreign invaders by enhancing the ability of white blood cells to fight bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. The ingredient is available as a soluble and insoluble powder for a wide range of beverages, including clear liquids.
“Wellmune WGP meets the growing demand from food manufacturers and consumers for natural ingredients with real immune health benefits that are backed by credible science and safe for daily consumption,” said Richard Mueller, Biothera president and chief executive officer, in a statement.
Ingredient usage in U.S. beverages
Chicago-based Euromonitor International Inc.’s new information system “Passport: Ingredients” measures the use of ingredients in consumer products. For functional ingredients, “Passport: Ingredients” tracked the fortifications below for use in U.S. beverages:
Volume(in tons)
Ingredients 2001 2006
Total minerals 8,292.0 8,427.1
Calcium 7,808.0 7,998.2
Magnesium 162.2 135.8
Other minerals 321.8 293.0
Total proteins 1,465.8 1,413.7
Whey 614.7 498.0
Total vitamins and derivatives 855.4 1,107.8
Vitamin B group 60.1 159.4
Vitamin C 782.9 936.5
Vitamin E 12.4 11.9
Source: Euromonitor International, Passport: Ingredients
The Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Mich., also won a 2007 IFT Food Expo Innovation Award for its Fortefiber Soluble Dietary Fiber. Derived from cellulose, the dietary fiber product is odorless and tasteless, and offers a combination of functional and health benefits. Clinical studies on the product have demonstrated significant lowering of blood glucose, insulin and cholesterol levels, the company says.
Taking into consideration consumers’ taste preferences and digestion functions, Fortefiber does not affect the taste or texture of the finished product. Additionally, the product won't cause gas or bloating when used at typical product formulation levels because it is non-fermentable.
Ingredients are coming into the market not only for health and digestion but for brain function too, and entering in new beverage categories. Jones Soda Co. signed an agreement with Pharma Foods International Co. Ltd., Kyoto, Japan; Mitsubishi Corp., Tokyo; and Mitsubishi International Food Ingredients Inc., Dublin, Ohio, that gives Jones the exclusive rights to an anti-stress ingredient in beverage applications.
The ingredient, Pharma Gaba is a naturally produced form of the amino acid gamma-aminobutric acid (Gaba), a neurotransmitter in the human brain that has been shown to exert a number of anti-stress effects, along with other benefits. Used as an ingredient in Japan, Pharma Gaba received GRAS status in the United States.
“Securing the rights to Pharma Gaba is the key step in our development of an entirely new type of Jones energy beverage,” said Peter van Stolk, president and chief executive officer of Jones Soda.
Rather than produce a stimulant effect like caffeine-containing energy beverages, Jones Soda plans to use the ingredient to promote mental focus. The company plans to work with Michael Murray, chairman of Dr. Murray Natural Living Inc. and a leader on natural food products research, in the development of the new energy beverage. The line is expected to be available at select retail locations by this winter.
Small, but powerful
In the realm of functional, sometimes the formulation of a wellness beverage begins on a small scale with new scientific technologies. Nanotechnology takes the small stuff seriously.
Nanotechnology focuses on the characterization, fabrication and manipulation of biological and nonbiological structures smaller than 100 nanometer (nm). To put into scale, 1 nm is a billionth of a meter, and can be used as encapsulation and delivery systems to carry, protect and deliver functional ingredients to their specific site of action.
This year, Phlo Corp., Jacksonville, Fla., began shipping sports drinks that feature the company’s Instant Nano Hydration (through nano-encapsulation technology) and Cell Armor technologies. In this case, the nano-encapsulation technology prevents the destruction of nutrients in the stomach, the company says.
P.L. Thomas & Co., Morristown, N.J., and Mishor Adumin, Israel, also won a 2007 Institute of Food Technologies Food Expo Innovation Award for its NutraLease nano-encapsulation technology. The patented ingredient and nutraceutical delivery system for beverage and food applications can improve the bioavailability of some healthy compounds.
Incorporation of bioactives is definitely one of the key areas of emerging use, says Jochen Weiss, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts and one of the authors of IFT’s November/December 2006 Scientific Status Summary Functional Materials in Food Nanotechnology.
“Bioavailability of components can be greatly increased by nano-encapsulation and activity/stability may be maintained in various environments,” Weiss says. “For minerals (e.g. iron), problems with stomach ulcer upon fortification remain, and nano-encapsulation may prevent interaction and damaging of the stomach value.”
In addition, nano-structured systems allow encapsulation of lipid materials while maintaining transparency, and creaming and destabilization is not an issue due to the small size. Research also shows some benefits may exist in terms of stability and light adsorption when encapsulating pigments. Currently, Weiss is working with companies to develop more efficient, long-term active preservation systems using nano-encapsulation.
With food safety at the top of consumer awareness, nanotechnology can be used as a tool to increase security of manufacturing, processing and shipping of food products through sensors for pathogen and contaminant detection.