Orange Juice Pushes Boundaries Of Functional Ingredients

Today’s O.J. is pushing the boundaries of functional ingredients while widening its appeal.

By Lee Stiffler-Meyer

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According to the USDA, Americans yearly consume two and a half times more orange juice than apple juice – its nearest competitor. OJ always has been appreciated for its naturally occurring vitamin C. But it wasn’t until 15 years ago we had the option to consume orange juice that did more than allegedly fight colds. In response to low intake of calcium, processors began fortifying orange juice with calcium to improve bone health. Then to enhance immunity, came the addition of zinc and vitamin E. Today, plant sterols, glucosamine and selenium are just a few of OJ’s popular new ingredients.

Following the trend to help consumers lower their cholesterol, Coca-Cola’s Houston-based Minute Maid (www.minutemaid.com), was the first to add plant sterols to its Heart Wise product. Minneapolis-based Cargill (www.cargill.com), manufactures the CoroWise brand plant sterols found in Minute Maid juice. “Consumer acceptance of functional beverages is high,” says Pam Stauffer, global marketing programs and communications manager for Cargill.

Cargill uses a propriety processing technology to enable CoroWise plant sterols to be incorporated into beverages. “Plant sterols are not water-loving ingredients and traditionally have been incorporated into fat-based applications such as margarines and spreads,” Stauffer explains.

Pepsico’s Chicago-based Tropicana (www.tropicana.com) also is taking the heart-health approach, but with a different twist by adding omega-3s. In clinical studies, omega-3s have been shown to decrease triglycerides and the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque. “Tropicana had been pursuing the idea of adding omega-3s to Tropicana Healthy Heart for more than two years, but the trick was finding a way to add an excellent source of omega-3s without compromising the taste consumers expect from Tropicana,” explains Mark Andon, Ph.d, director of nutrition for the company.

Your Momma’s Orange Juice
Even without nutraceutical bells and whistles, OJ is a No. 1 consumer healthy-beverage option. For some processors, this means taking a minimalist approach. The cooperative of citrus growers who own and produce Florida’s Natural Premium Brand market their product based on a claim that, unlike most major national brands, it isn’t from imported oranges or concentrate. Referring to recent ingredient scandals, Walt Lincer, vice president of sales and marketing for Florida’s Natural, puts it succinctly:
“Now more than ever, Americans want to know what they are feeding their families and where their food comes from.”

Ocean Nutrition Canada Ltd. (www.ocean-nutrition.com), Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, supplies its Meg-3 fish oil for Tropicana. “We developed microencapsulation processes to enable the delivery of omega-3 oils into foods without impacting taste and shelf-life,” says Robert Orr, Ocean Nutrition president and chief executive officer. “Microencapsulation allows you to put (the ingredient) into a highly acidic product like orange juice.”

Juice Joint

Currently, the only major orange juice line claiming potential to protect healthy joints from the stress of daily activity is Minute Maid Active, enhanced with another Cargill product, Regenasure Glucosamine. “Glucosamine (in formulation) is compatible with acidic environments,” says Brent Rogers, technical services manager of Cargill’s Corn Milling division. 

“In fact, stability of Regenasure is best particularly at a pH level under five. Glucosamine can be added with other dry ingredients. It’s readily water-soluble and perfectly suited to remain stable through heat process steps, yet achieve excellent shelf stability.”

In the antioxidant corner is Tropicana’s Pure Premium Antioxidant Advantage, with added vitamins C, and E plus 20 percent of the daily recommendation for selenium. It also contains three times the antioxidant content of Tropicana’s regular orange juice. Other natural antioxidant sources being promoted in orange juice blends include such superfruits as pomegranate and berries.

Adding calcium to OJ may be old news but formulating with vitamin D (needed to help absorb calcium) to boost bone health is relatively new.  “There are no formulation problems with adding vitamin D and no flavor difference,” says Kevin Gaffney, senior research and development manager at Florida’s Natural, (www.floridasnatural.com), Lake Wales, Fla.

Despite earlier skepticism vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, would not formulate well in highly acidic orange juice, research shows it maintains its bioavailability in orange juice.
The trend to add unique ingredients to orange juice continues to grow strong despite its place in an overcrowded functional beverage category. Meanwhile its popularity and reputation remain seemingly unmatched. 

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