Functional ingredients and innovative technologies are transforming today's beverages into sophisticated nutraceutical value-added delivery systems with promises ranging from burning calories to boosting performance and even looking better.
The future of the beverage industry seems bright with emerging categories of antioxidant, ergogenic, satiating, anti-inflammatory, fiber-rich, mental-enhancing, and beauty-enhancing ingredients. Scientific evidence and crafty formulations help consumers readily accept new ingredients as well as the more popular ones which owe their success to appropriate delivery and clear communication of health benefits. Naturally, beverage processors are seeking low cost as well as good-tasting ways to deliver health benefits efficaciously.
Antioxidants are outpacing protein and minerals as top-selling nutraceuticals for beverages. Consumers have absorbed the message that antioxidants are essential for health. This, plus an "anti-aging" impetus expanding as fast as the population of baby boomers getting their AARP cards is propelling the use of such antioxidant tea derivatives as green tea and its extracts, especially catechin polyphenols like epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).
Marketed as a "health drink," FRS caffeinated, non-carbonated drinks are sweetened with organic cane or fruit juices.
Barry Cooper, the founder of Cooper Tea Co. (www.coopertea.com) Boulder, Colo., created Bazza High-Energy Tea, an all-natural, brewed iced tea for 7-Eleven Inc.'s fountain service. Made from all-natural ingredients -- guarana, kola nut, yerba mate and taurine -- Bazza straddles the line between energy drinks and teas. "Bazza came ahead in the energy section even while it taps both trends," Cooper said.
The product's success in an essentially saturated market is, according to Cooper, "because it's a healthy and natural alternative to energy drinks and teas."
Another Boulder, Colo.,-based beverage producer, Pixie Maté (www.pixiemate.com), is taking advantage of the stimulating properties of maté in its Maté Latte. Yerba maté -- a species of holly (Aquifoliaceae) native to subtropical South America -- is a rich source of xanthines, alkaloids in the same family as caffeine, theophylline and theobromine, well-known stimulants also found in coffee, tea and chocolate.
Researchers at Florida International University, Miami, found maté's caffeine content to vary between 0.3 percent and 1.7 percent of dry weight (versus 2.5-4.5 percent in tea, and 1.5 percent in coffee) and people seem to tolerate a maté drinks better than coffee or tea.
Maté, often marketed as a "caffeine-free" alternative to coffee and tea, is valued by its users for its promotion of wakefulness, focus and alertness similar to most stimulants, without the negative effects typically created by such compounds, including anxiety, gastrointestinal disturbances, jitteriness and heart palpitations. Preliminary scientific evidence helps support this: Xanthine, unlike caffeine, acts on muscle tissue, especially smooth muscle and myocardial (heart) tissues, instead of the central nervous system.
Santa Barbara, Calif.-based New Sun Nutrition (www.frsenergy.com) launched FRS Free Radical Scavenging antioxidant health beverage. Marketed as a "health drink," available in both "all natural" and "low calorie" (25 calories per 11-oz. can) versions, the caffeinated, non-carbonated drinks are sweetened with organic evaporated cane juices or fruit juices. They contain no added preservatives or coloring, but do contain such healthful antioxidants as quercetin, catechins, green tea extract, beta-carotene and tocopherol, as well as vitamins and other healthful compounds, such as inulin.
As Easy as E
Vitamin E (tocopherol) is a long-employed antioxidant for the food industry. But it was not readily usable in beverages until recently because of its extreme properties and hydrophobicity (repulsion by water). Emerging technologies to aid even dispersion of vitamin E in aqueous media have helped its proliferation in water-based beverages such as Vitaminwater from Glacéau (www.glaceau.com), Whitestone, N.Y.
Darius Bikoff, founder and CEO of Glacéau, says the company's "nutrient-enhanced water beverages are "designed to offer meaningful amounts of nutrients through a low-calorie format -- to be a refreshing way to consume as much as 20 percent of the recommended daily intake for daily vitamin E in each low-calorie serving."
Compounding with surfactants, the most common way to render vitamin E soluble in water, also produces foam, slowing the speed for filling beverages by as much as 30 percent. Darmstadt, Germany based AquaNova (www.aquanova.de) used polysorbates for solubilization to create its non-foaming SoluE ingredient.
"SoluE offers better cost-effectiveness ratio than most water-soluble vitamin Es simply by allowing processors to operate at maximum speed without slowing down for foam issues," says Wolfgang Haehnlein, director of marketing and sales. "SoluE is available in a liquid form and does not cause cloudiness in clear liquids. By creating a nanoemulsion fine spheres of vitamin E are encapsulated within a matrix, which allows even dispersion and maintenance of its optical clarity."