As trends change, beverage-makers are forced to adapt in order to succeed. These changes aren’t always easy to make, since one alteration to a formulation can often be enough to disrupt its taste, mouthfeel, shelf life and more. Nevertheless, beverage-makers must find a way to meet consumer demand. Enter hydrocolloids.
Most recently, demand for plant-based, clean-label, reduced-sugar and functional beverages has been high, according to experts. As eCommerce continues to grow, demand for beverages with a longer shelf life is increasing as well, notes Kyle Bailey, manager of sales technical service for the Americas at Atlanta-based CP Kelco. Hydrocolloids help address all of these needs.
As a result, demand for pectin soared throughout 2020, says Iliana Nava, senior technical service specialist of hydrocolloids at Minneapolis-based Cargill. To meet this rising demand, Cargill is adding a new state-of-the-art pectin processing facility in Brazil later this year. The new facility significantly will increase the company’s pectin supply and spread production across two continents, she says. The company currently operates three pectin production facilities in Europe.
Similarly, demand for nutritional beverages led Westchester, Ill.-based Ingredion Inc. to launch TICALOID Acacia MAX, a high-performance, naturally derived emulsifier that enables stable emulsions at high oil loads without the use of a weighting agent.
“Formulators continue to develop products that pack in nutritional benefits, and the beverage sector is no exception,” says Corie Beyers, strategic marketing manager of food systems at Westchester, Ill.-based Ingredion Inc. “Many times, these nutritional powerhouse ingredients come in the form of oil. To create beverages that tout the benefits, yet remain stable and appealing, a high-powered emulsifier is required. This has opened the opportunity to reinvent what the emulsifier portfolio looks like.
“Last year, Ingredion Food Systems launched a high-powered, naturally derived emulsifier that enables high oil loads without textural deficiencies ― like thickening the product beyond consumer acceptance or creating emulsions that hinder production efficiencies,” she continues. “In addition, due to the incredible stability this emulsifier provides, beverages do not need to use weighting agents, which in turn not only cleans up the label for manufacturers, but also has upstream cost savings, impacting procurement, manufacturing and R&D.”
Label friendly goals
As hydrocolloid suppliers expand their facilities and portfolios to meet demand, industry trends continue to challenge formulators.
In particular, demand for “clean labels” has been one of the biggest influences on the hydrocolloids market in recent years, Cargill’s Nava says. Because pectin is sourced from fruit peels, it is viewed positively on product labels, she notes.
“Pectin is considered the most label-friendly of the hydrocolloids and fills critical functional roles, protecting proteins in acidified yogurt drinks and providing body and mouthfeel in reduced-sugar beverages,” Nava explains. “In low-pH, high-protein beverages, pectin prevents the proteins from sticking together, forming large clumps and creating a gritty, unappealing texture.”
CP Kelco also offers hydrocolloid options to address this significant demand. Bailey says the company “relies on natural, renewable raw materials modified as little as possible to power its ingredient functionality with grades to support organic, non-GMO, vegan and clean-label goals.”
As consumers seek products with familiar — and minimal — ingredients on the label, beverage-makers are being tasked to do more with less, Bailey explains. As a result, hydrocolloids are becoming more multi-functional.
“Through research and collaboration with beverage product developers, we advance in our technology,” Bailey explains. “Our newest grade of KELCOGEL gellan gum is a dual-function solution providing both suspension and mouthfeel without adding viscosity. It can represent cost savings for formulators and a way to shorten the ingredient list.”
Additionally, CP Kelco’s GENU pectin offers protein protection and stabilization, he adds.
However, there is no universally accepted definition of clean label, Ingredion’s Beyers points out. Therefore, formulators must be agile and flexible to respond to a changing market with changing needs, she says.
“When a developer is looking to clean up their label, it is often contingent on GMO status, organic status, retailer approval and other variables,” she explains. “Because many of our products come from agricultural sources, they often align with consumer-friendly label claims, such as the Non-GMO Project Verified seal. We currently offer a large portfolio of hydrocolloids that carry the Non-GMO Project Verified seal, including acacia, guar, pectin, xanthan and more. We are committed to producing ingredients that allow manufacturers to communicate clearly and honestly with their customers.”
The clean-label trend shows no sign of abating, Cargill’s Nava says.
“Given that, I expect we’ll continue seeing growth in ingredients such as pectin, gellan gum and locust bean gum,” she says. “These ingredients deliver the mouthfeel, suspension and protein protection today’s beverage formulations require and still meet consumers’ label expectations.”
A focus on health and wellness
In keeping with consumer demand for clean labels, health-and-wellness beverages continue to be a leading trend as well, notes Janae Kuc, senior marketing manager for the beverage category at Ingredion. Driven by this trend, she notes that consumers are shifting away from high-sugar, high-calorie beverages.
Yet, removing sugar from a beverage is no simple feat.
“Sugar reduction is one of the overarching trends driving beverage formulation,” Cargill’s Nava explains. “However, sugar contributes more than sweet flavor. It contributes to a beverage’s mouthfeel and helps with particle suspension, too. When formulators cut the sugar, they often turn to hydrocolloids to fill these critical functional roles.”
In reduced-sugar dairy and fruit juice beverages, hydrocolloids are even more vital because they can prevent a watery layer from forming at the top, she notes.
Beyond reduced-sugar beverages, consumers also are seeking higher protein and functional benefits, CP Kelco’s Bailey adds. That can include energy-, mood- or immunity-boosting drinks as well as probiotics, vitamins and minerals, he notes.
“The health halo also extends to dairy alternatives, which are viewed as healthier and more sustainable,” Bailey adds. “Hydrocolloids can help with the suspension and stability of plant-based protein and immune-boosting ingredients.”
Affirming the popularity of nutritionally enhanced beverages, Ingredion’s Beyers adds that many functional ingredients can often create additional difficulties for beverage formulators, including astringency, texture, separation and flavor issues.
“Hydrocolloids are utilized in product formulations to combat the negative effects nutritional ingredients have on texture and stability,” she explains. “Multifunctional in nature, each type of hydrocolloid has a unique purpose to reduce the perception of particulates, decrease astringency and prevent sedimentation.”
With the variety of beverage categories and ingredients in the marketplace, it’s no surprise that there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach to hydrocolloids. So how do beverage developers know which hydrocolloids they should select?
Choosing the right hydrocolloid
For a ready-to-drink (RTD) beverage, Ingredion’s Kuc recommends beverage developers first ask themselves what their target texture and viscosity is; what the projected shelf life is; whether the product contains components susceptible to age gelation; and if there are any fats that need to be emulsified.
“Once these questions are answered, hydrocolloid selection can begin,” Kuc says. “Many times, it is optimal to pair hydrocolloids together to create the desired texture and functionality. Pairing gellan gum for stability and suspension with acacia for texture and mouthfeel is a good example of synergistic hydrocolloids that enhance functionality and mouthfeel for an RTD product.”
Beyers adds that it’s also important to determine label claims, such as organic, vegan and non-GMO, before starting a project.
“The focus at that point would be on more specifics about the project, such as shear stress, heat processing, pH and salt concentration,” she says. “Some hydrocolloids like xanthan gum, for example, are stable across a wide pH range while the functionality of others, such as guar gum, will degrade over time in acidic environments. When developers are able to understand how each component interacts and impacts the product as a whole, ingredient selection becomes much more effective and efficient.”
In addition to its new emulsifier, Ingredion also offers Simplistica ingredient systems, which provide formulators with tools to solve complex formulation challenges, Beyers notes.
“Simplistica systems deliver optimized solutions by combining ingredients such as hydrocolloids, starches, plant proteins, sweeteners and more, depending on the need of the application,” she explains. “Having access to an ingredient system makes it easier for formulators to meet optimal ingredient functionality without the worry and constraints of troubleshooting.”
By choosing the right hydrocolloids, beverage-makers can ensure they’re able to keep up with the latest trends.
“Given their versatility and functionality, hydrocolloids will continue to play a pivotal role in future beverage formulation, enabling everything from immunity-booster beverages to the next generation of dairy-alternative drinks,” Cargill’s Nava says.