Health-conscious trends elevate citrus’ status in beverages
Citrus flavors proliferate in waters, teas and spirits
As consumers have more access to information, they are using that knowledge to take a more proactive approach to their health and wellness. As consumers take greater ownership of their health, they are seeking out functional foods and beverages to support this lifestyle.
As part of a comprehensive study based on proprietary consumer research, Beloit, Wis.-based Kerry highlights this trend in its report titled “Proactive Health: Consumer Demand for Functional Benefits.”
“Consumers have become dramatically more proactive with their health in the past decade,” the white paper states. “Self-management of personal health is not limited to periodic medical checkups, prescription medication or dietary supplements alone. Reliance on diet and exercise has now become second nature to health-conscious Americans.”
This self-management has resulted in consumers taking a deeper look at the food and beverages that they purchase, the report adds.
“Food is deeply rooted in our culture, and consumers are starting to look back into those roots to help them improve their health,” the white paper states. “Over the years, consumers have grown to embrace the link between consumption and health, and have begun to desire more out of food and beverages beyond variety, price and taste. While taste continues to be at the heart of all food and beverage decisions, it has also become the first line of defense to most health-conscious consumers.
“Added functionality in everyday food and beverages are perceived as the gateway to a better health future,” the report continues. “Americans are adopting proactive methods to keep health concerns at bay in the future.”
Although much attention is directed toward emerging ingredients, suppliers note that health-and-wellness goals also have benefited staples like citrus.
“I would say as a category, citrus fruits are one of the healthiest recognized products on the market today, and consumers realize the health benefits that citrus fruits and ingredients provide,” says Dr. John Cavallo, senior vice president of technology and commercial development for Carlstadt, N.J.-based Citromax. “If you look for examples, you can see from the vitamins provided by citrus juice to the polymethoxylated flavones that have been extensively used, which provide a high degree of biological activity, these are just two well recognized benefits provided. There’s been a lot of press about specific citrus ingredients recently and these materials have well-known health benefits.
“If you look historically, the use of these materials have been commonly used in herbal medicines for the treatment and control of several diseases for thousands of years,” he continues. “I would say therefore, I think citrus has an increasing role in consumer health and as consumers demand more healthy products, citrus will be at the forefront of what they desire.”
Nina Riggins, marketing manager for Taste at Kerry, also highlights the boon citrus can garner from health and wellness.
“Consumers are seeking out better-for-you options, and as a result are increasingly leaning toward health halo flavors and ingredients that have perceived health benefits,” she says. “In our recent ‘Proactive Health’ research, grapefruit appeared as one of the Top 20 ingredients perceived to deliver functional benefits, overall, and in the Top 5 consumer-perceived ingredients for weight management.”
A sub-segment of the macro health-and-wellness movement has been the proliferation of organic and clean-label attributes. Citromax’s Cavallo notes that this also has impacted the citrus market.
“Interest, increasing demand and consumption of organic products has been on the rise,” he says. “I anticipate the organic food and beverage market will continue to expand, and I’m happy to say that because we’re the world’s largest organic lemon producer with organic fresh fruit, oil, juice peel and pulp available complementing our extensive portfolio of organic flavorings, as the desire for organic products increase in the marketplace, we will see a clear benefit as well. I think organic will continue to be a very important category and we are well-positioned to supply and service the organic segment. We made the right investments in the past and they will benefit us as this segment continues to develop.”
Although organic and health-and-wellness trends have cast a brighter spotlight on citrus, the ingredient segment has long been a staple within the beverage market.
As part of Kerry’s “2019 Taste Charts – US,” the ingredient firm identifies orange, lemon and lime as mainstream flavors for waters and cold beverages.
“We also see up-and-coming citrus flavors like blood orange and Meyer lemon and emerging flavors such as calamansi, yuzu, kumquat and bergamot in beverage applications,” says Ton Mesters, vice president of business development for beverage at Kerry.
Mesters notes that citrus flavors are seeing growth in alcohol and non-alcohol beverage products.
“Citrus flavored still and sparkling waters have seen some significant growth over the past 12-18 months,” Mesters says. “In addition, sports beverages (isotonics), a variety of teas, low-proof alcoholic beverages (including ‘mocktails’) and spirits all utilize citrus ingredients alone and in combination with other flavors to deliver differentiated taste experiences.”
Citromax’s Cavallo also highlights the long-standing presence that citrus flavors have within the beverage market.
“Citrus ingredients and flavorings in the beverage segment play a very big role and we’ve noticed an increase in demand related to citrus flavorings and ingredient use,” he says. “If you look at the main citrus flavors — orange, lemon and lime — these flavor profiles have been used for many years, are extremely well accepted across many food and beverage categories and are in many ways considered primary to the categories in which they are used. Orange is by far and away the most popular citrus flavor profile and its uses and appeal is recognized on a worldwide basis, from its consumption as a fresh fruit to its use as a flavoring in beverages, confections and other food products. Looking at the use of citrus products, I think it’s fair to say, when one thinks of citrus fruits, they think of something that is healthy and tastes good. For example, in reference to lemon, it’s healthy, it’s good for you, [and] it makes foods taste better. The vitamin C in the juice is an added health benefit, and people recognize this.”
Although citrus flavors are veterans in the beverage space, consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers are finding ways to elevate its profile.
“I think most recently, CPG companies are interested in citrus varietals, citrus fruits and ingredients that allow for a claim where the products were grown, which lends itself to a very positive labeling claim,” Cavallo says. “We see this as a very specific and growing trend in today’s marketplace. I think it’s a new, exciting and interesting way for companies to differentiate consumer products and their brands. I also think that in many global markets, developers are expanding their use of other ingredients derived from citrus, for example, juice is becoming more and more interesting as an added ingredient, as well as the addition of pulp to products for flavor enhancement. For example, in a beverage formulation, adding juice and/or pulp will help with enhancing the mouthfeel, the optical appearance of the product and will benefit flavor and taste delivery.”
Kerry’s Mesters also notes that the health-delivery attributes of citrus ingredients is what keeps the ingredient segment so popular.
“In addition to delivering on great taste, citrus juices may be utilized to deliver ‘servings of juice’ and ‘servings of fruit’ in application and also as a delivery vehicle for materials such as vitamin C, minerals, nutrients, fiber, etc.,” Mesters says. “In some cases, citrus juices may help to provide texture as well as assist in delivering a natural cloud.
“Citrus juices have been one of the most used ingredients in the beverage industry,” he continues. “Citrus beverages can range from 100 percent juice based, to containing no juice at all. In addition, natural citrus flavors or extracts will round out the overall taste experience.”
Mesters further elaborates how beverage-makers are incorporating citrus profiles into products using a variety of delivery systems.
“Juice containing citrus beverages contain a certain percent of fruit juice including orange, lemon, lime, tangerine or grapefruit,” he says. “They mostly contain added natural citrus flavors to provide the desired taste profile. Citrus beverages without any juice content rely solely on natural citrus flavors or citrus extract. They may also contain a citrus emulsions, which provides flavor, color and cloud.”
Citromax’s Cavallo notes that citrus’ incorporation across a broad scope of beverage categories showcases the attributes that it can deliver.
“Citrus ingredients and flavorings are used in a wide variety of food and beverage products, for example, RTD teas, functional waters, in alcoholic beverage applications — both high proof and low proof, energy drinks, — [and] carbonated soft drinks,” he says. “All these products make use of citrus flavors and ingredients in one way or another, whether they be citrus oils delivered in emulsion form or used in a flavor, citrus juice as an added ingredient, or citrus flavorings. In many ways you may consider citrus flavorings to be 'primary flavorings' to beverages and many other food products. Consumers recognize citrus profiles and desire the taste they deliver in a wide variety of products. I think that the functionality citrus provides to the consumer is a clean, crisp taste with a refreshing aftertaste. It’s simply a desired and refreshing flavor taste profile when consumed.”
In addition to the type of beverage in which citrus ingredients are being incorporated, the region in which it’s being developed for also can impact the delivery system.
“New and exciting delivery systems open up opportunities for product developers that were once very difficult to achieve,” Cavallo says. “Conventional delivery systems for citrus oils and insoluble ingredients have relied on for the most part on emulsion systems. These conventional emulsions when added to a beverage produces a cloudy finished product that may, or may not be, the desired outcome for the finished product. Recently, new delivery systems are gaining more interest, i.e., nanoemulsions, which are being used to deliver the same oils and/or insoluble ingredients in a clear and transparent way with the added benefit of enhanced bioavailability of functionally healthy bioactive ingredients present. Using such a new technology may allow developers to develop healthier products and also address the desire for clean labeling. Let’s consider vitamin fortified water, wouldn’t it be a benefit to deliver flavorings, citrus oils or functional additives in a clear and transparent format and have the finished product have the optical appearance of pure water? I think so, and keeping in mind the enhanced delivery of the active ingredients added.
“Think about how this new technology and unique delivery system can benefit the health and wellness segment,” he continues. “Sure, there remains a place for conventional emulsions, but this new technology can open the door to new product formats not achievable in the past.”
Although citrus usage looks to be in high-demand for beverage formulations, experts note that suppliers have looming factors that they must address.
“Citrus greening disease, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB), is having a significant impact on citrus crop size and quality in Florida,” Kerry’s Mesters says. “In the short to medium term, this will likely lead to higher usage of citrus materials from other parts of the world not as severely affected by greening such as Brazil, Mexico, and potentially California. The citrus industry in Florida is looking for long-term solutions to battle the effects of greening and it is likely that in the long term, the industry will make a comeback. That being said, citrus flavors are in high demand and will be an important component in beverage formulations for years to come.”
Citromax’s Cavallo notes that future high demand for citrus will be impacted by some prodigious trends.
“I think the current megatrends in the marketplace today will open up new growth areas for citrus products,” he says. “For one, would be the growing world population — a mega trend that will increase the demand for products. Urbanization is a mega trend that’s a shift to intercity from rural living and more disposable income, increasing purchasing power and the desire for higher quality products. Last is the desire for 'naturals and clean label,' which citrus fits into nicely. I think these trends will open up new areas for the food and beverage industry and successful products in these areas will help companies increase their value proposition and will benefit the industry overall as they develop new products to fit into those trends.” BI