Putting the Energy in Energy Drinks

By David Feder, RD, Technical Editor

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With some experts questioning the effects of caffeine, especially on teens, consumers are looking for different energy sources, notes Kathy Lund, vice president at Bioenergy Life Science Inc. (www.bioenergy.com), Ham Lake, Minn. “Ribose offers a sustaining form of energy, providing a safer and more effective alternative,” she says.

“Bioenergy’s D-Ribose is becoming more prevalent in sports and energy drinks. This naturally occurring monosaccharide boosts adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthesis (and) replenishes and sustains energy levels without causing a sugar or caffeine crash.”

Sweeteners also are a point of focus for beverage formulators. CurrantC beverages are sweetened with organic agave, a sweetener fast becoming the natural choice for caloric beverages.
Stevia, just approved by FDA in its pure rebaudioside form, is rapidly making inroads due to its natural origin: it’s an extract of the stevia plant.

Soft-drink makers also are focusing on emerging changes in consumer attention to sweeteners. An example comes from Seattle-based Dry Soda Co. (www.drysoda.com). “Dry Soda is much less sweet than a typical soda, with just 14-19g sugar per 12-oz. bottle,” says Sharelle Klaus, Dry Soda Founder and CEO. The company currently is adding a 45 calorie flavor as well to meet growing demand for naturally less-sweet soft drinks.

“We expect this trend to continue as consumer demand for these products grows,” says Klaus. “The use of aspartame, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners will be replaced with cane sugar and natural sweeteners. Additionally, many consumers appreciate [the] less-sweet attribute. They want natural sugar, [but] they want less of it per serving. And it’s not only the reduced number of calories associated, but because they prefer [a] less intense, more complimentary taste.”

Xango’s Poynter raises the importance of reliance on natural sweetness. “People want to know that their beverage is natural and contains little or no artificial flavors or sugars.”

Sugar isn’t the only ingredient formulators are removing to enhance the health profile of their beverages. “In nutritionally fortified products, the ability to complex calcium, magnesium, iron and other cations and to stabilize them in a formulation is key to delivering an acceptable product,” according to Nadeen Myers, food phosphate specialist for ICL Performance Products LP (www.icl-perfproductslp.com), St. Louis.

“In carbonated beverages, chelation of troublesome metal ions helps establish stable carbonation,” she continues. “Sequestration of calcium and magnesium present in water, sweeteners and other ingredients helps to maintain beverage clarity and uniformity, especially in teas, fortified water and flavored drinks. Polyphosphates are valuable to beverage formulators in helping to extend shelf life. Cold-filled beverages with low levels of fruit juice can potentially reduce the potassium sorbate and/or sodium benzoate levels by up to 50 percent (from 1000 ppm to 500 pm) with the addition of 0.1 percent to 0.5 percent (1000 ppm to 5000 ppm) polyphosphates. This change in formulation results in reduced ingredient costs and improved flavor profile.”

Energy needs are being addressed on another front: the energy of production and shipping. With green labeling translating to green savings, companies are starting to seek ingredients – not just packaging -- that are environmentally friendly and did not travel around the globe creating greenhouse gases.

“In the beverage industry, our customers are coming to us and asking for solutions in how to replace expensive and difficult-to-source ingredients from their formulas,” says Dinah Diaz, market development manager for National Starch Food Innovation (www.nationalstarch.com), Bridgewater, N.J. In 2008, the company introduced Q-Naturale, an emulsifier to replace gum arabic in beverages.

“Gum arabic is derived from the acacia tree found in sub-Sahara regions of Africa, such as Sudan, Nigeria and Chad,” says Diaz. “Geological issues, such as climate changes coupled with political instability of this region have affected availability and pricing.” Q-Naturale is a natural, organic ingredient that is sustainable, supply-stable and can be used at lower levels than gum arabic.
“Q-Naturale typical usage to formulate a beverage emulsion is at 3 percent versus 18 percent for gum arabic,” Diaz explains. “Imagine: For every six truckloads of gum arabic you only need one of Q-Naturale.”

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