Cheers! Beverages for Health

Ingredient suppliers are using technological advances to help beverage makers transform mass market beverages into healthful juice drinks and condition-specific formulations with double and even triple-digit growth.

By Kantha Shelke, Ph.D.

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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.

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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.

Energy Plus

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.
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."

Nanotechnology helped Nashville, Tenn.-based Eastman disperse vitamin E in aqueous media to enhance water-solubility and make it more bioavailable. The shelf-stable Vitamin E-TPGS (δ-Tocopheryl glycol succinate) may now be easily incorporated at several steps in beverage manufacturing. The health benefits of the taste-neutral nutrient even at 10 times the adult recommended daily allowance for vitamin E can be delivered to consumers without change in taste or appearance of clear, fortified waters and other functional beverages. Vitamin E-TPGS is self-affirmed as GRAS, compatible with an array of beverage ingredients and nutrient additives such as vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, fibers and proteins, and robustly shelf-stable as such and in beverages.

Nanoencapsulation also allows Watson Inc. (www.watson-inc.com), West Haven, Conn., to offers its Clear-E water-dispersible vitamin E, percectly suited to beverage applications. The certified-kosher product does not foam, cloud or ring in concentrations up to 35 percent of daily values. Even at the full 100 percent of daily values, there is only the slightest clouding still fine for more opaque drinks.

The New Fruit Juices

That consumer intentions and declarations don't necessarily parallel their purchasing behavior is a major issue for developers and marketers of healthful beverages. The successful ones build in convenience and adaptability into their healthful beverages so consumers are not sacrificing time or changing their routines drastically to accommodate healthy choices. Formulators find fruit products from Pom Wonderful (www.pomwonderful.com), Los Angeles, and Sambazon Açai (www.sambazon.com), San Clemente, Calif., are easier to add to beverages because consumers know about their antioxidant power and accept their taste profile.

Another fruit-based beverage becoming popular for its antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory properties is CherryPharm, an all-natural, not-from-concentrate cherry juice from CherryPharm Inc. (www.cherrypharm.com), Geneva, N.Y. CherryPharm is promoted as a natural recovery juice, and calling cherries natural pain relievers, anti-inflammatories and sleep regulators.

Antioxidants, especially from superfruits such as açai, and goji, are outpacing protein and minerals as hot nutraceuticals for beverages.
Antioxidants, especially from superfruits such as açai, and goji, are outpacing protein and minerals as hot nutraceuticals for beverages.

Last winter, One Natural Experience World Enterprises Inc. (www.onenaturalexperience.com), Los Angeles, launched O.N.E Amazon Açaí. The noncarbonated açaí beverage is promoted as containing more antioxidants than pomegranates or blueberries, including anthocyanins. It is "rich in omega-3, -6 and -9 oils as well as amino acids, vitamins B and E and ellagic acid." The drink also contains acerola , which has more vitamin C than an orange. According to the company, the product is the only açaí beverage produced from the fresh berries instead of concentrate.

On the carbonated beverage front, naturally fruit-flavored soda manufacturers are lacing their products with other natural nutraceuticals such as green tea extracts or extracts of fruit fractions known more for nutraceutical effect than flavor. Grape skins (quercetin) is an example that is seeing wider use.

Ardea Beverage Co. (www.nutrisoda.com), Minneapolis, markets airforce Nutrisoda, a carbonated line in seven natural fruit flavors targeting different aspects of health through different combinations of amino acids, vitamins, antioxidants. With names such as Immune, Calm, Focus, Radiant, Flex, Energize and Slender, the company uses trendy flavor combinations such as tangerine lime, watermelon blueberry and mandarin mint.

The Healthy Beverage Co. (www.), Bucks County, Pa., makes its Steaz Sodas line with a combination of fruit juices, fruit extracts and green tea. The company recently expanded its line into the energy category with its Steaz Energy, laced with yerba maté supplied by the Sebastopol, Calif.-based Guayaki Co. (www.guayaki.com) and açai from Sambazon. As with all the company's offerings, Steaz Energy uses only fair-trade, organic and sustainability based ingredients.

Ergogenic and Thermogenic

The diet drink category has evolved recently with products combining energy claims with low to no calories for weight loss. Ergogenic (energy-boosting) ingredients such as taurine, caffeine, gluconolactone, EGCG, yerba mate, and guarana target consumers desiring to improve energy expenditure. "That ergogenics can effectively prevent weight gain is probably why as many as 500 new energy drinks bubbled up in 2006," says Jim Tonkin, Tonkin Consulting (www.tonkin.com.au), Scottsdale, Arizona.

Atlanta-based Coca Cola (www.cocacola.com) , in partnership with Nestlé (www.nestle.com), Vevey, Switzerland, launched Enviga with EGCG and caffeine. The combination, according to research, can boost metabolism and increase energy use. Coke press material portrays Enviga carefully -- as part of a balanced lifestyle -- and claims consuming EGCG and caffeine at the level contained in three cans of Enviga can lead healthy subjects to experience an average increase in calorie burning by 60 to 100 calories. The studies were performed at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

Celsius, from Elite FX (www.elitefxbev.com), Delray Beach, Fla., uses a proprietary blend it claims can raise metabolism by 12 percent over a three hour period to burn up to 77 calories, depending on the individual's metabolism. The more mainstream Snapple Beverage Corp. (www.snapple.com), Rye Brook, N.Y., introduced its Snapple Green Teas with EGCG with labels claiming metabolic enhancement.

Beverage makers such as Fuze Beverages (www.fuzebev.com), Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and Pepsi USA (www.pepsico.com) are using Super CitriMax and ChromeMate as thermogenic ingredients in Fuze Slenderize and SoBe Lean, respectively. InterHealth Nutraceuticals (www.interhealthusa.com), Benicia, Calif., produces Super Citrimax and Chromemate as ingredients geared toward metabolism management. Super Citrimax, an alphahydroxy acid extracted from fruit rinds, purportedly interrupts carbohydrate metabolism while ChromMate, a chromium salt of niacin, is believed to help modulate insulin.

Gut and Mind

Japanese ingredient supplier Matsutani (www.matsutani.com), in partnership with Archer Daniels Midland (www.admworld.com), Decatur, Ill., helped Purchase, N.Y., based PepsiCo's Tropicana fortify orange juice with 3 g of fiber per 8-oz serving - restoring the fiber level to that in the whole fruit. Tropicana's Pure Premium Essentials contains FiberSol-2, a corn-derived soluble fiber supplied by ADM.

Ardea Beverage Co.'s Nutrisoda also released Renew, the first soda with soluble fiber   a full gram of it in an 8-oz. can. As with Nutrisoda's other beverages, Renew is enhanced with amino acids, vitamins and minerals and is "especially designed for health and well-being. Renew's formulation supports active intestinal health and may help boost the body's immune system."

According to Ram Chaudhuri, Ph.D., of Fortitech Inc. (www.fortitech.com), Schenectady, N.Y., "Beverage marketers are realizing fiber is an inexpensive way to differentiate and enhance the consumer appeal of their beverage."

Chanda Rowan, of Mintel International Group (www.mintel.com), N.Y., says the mental health market -- already established in the rest of the world -- is emerging as a new health platform for beverages. "Contrary to popular belief, baby boomers wanting to ward off Alzheimer's are not driving this trend," says Rowan. "Rather, stressed-out executives aged 30, moms with young children and peri-menopausal women are seeking ways to enhance their memory and stay alert."

Amino acids, especially taurine, are for this reason becoming hot additives to the beverage category. Once restricted to "sports beverages," drink makers Glacéau, FRS and Nutrisoda have taken full advantage of taurine as well as other amino acids in their formulations.

Japanese consumers have long valued ingredients that enhance mental clarity. GURU Energy Corp. (www.guruenergy.com), N.Y., recently launched GURU Energy Drink, an energy supplement designed to "invigorate mental alertness." The active components of the lightly carbonated drink includes all-natural extracts of guarana, panax ginseng, ginkgo biloba and Echinacea formulated to deliver each at their most effective levels. GURU used a rigorous scientific approach to optimize synergy of these proven elements from standardized botanicals to guarantee consistent potency in every batch.

Beverages have become a preferred delivery system for a number of nutraceuticals targeting a variety of health and wellness conditions. As beverage processors compete in a crowded market, the idea of merely quenching thirst is becoming a thing of the past for liquid refreshment. Look to multifunctional imbibements being the rule rather than the exception in the very near future.

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