Building a Healthier Beverage

Pop the top and hoist a cold one to the new approaches in making drinkables that function as more than mere thirst-slakers

By David Feder, RD, Technical Editor

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Wild also promotes its line of Health Ingredient Technology & Solutions (HITS), which can be added to superfruits already known for their intrinsic health values. These systems can be combined with other nutraceutical ingredients in beverages for specific health objectives, such as bone and joint health, brain health, heart health, holistic sleep, immunity, inside beauty, marine nutraceuticals and weight loss.

Currant Co. (www.currantc.com), Staatsburg, N.Y., has a line of black currant-based beverages that could be the “next big thing” in this crowded niche, because the popularity of currant-based beverages in Europe has a long history. According to President Greg Quinn, a recent study by the Scottish Crop Research Institute found black currants to be the “No. 1 fruit for the complete range of nutraceuticals as compared to the 20 most popular fruits — including pomegranate.”

The company just launched five new nectar beverages under its CurrantC brand -- Strawberry/Kiwi, Clementine, Boysenberry, Passion Fruit and Blueberry -- to accompany its original Black Currant Nectar.

Technical challenges also exist when it comes to antioxidant beverages. “The two most challenging hurdles to overcome are developing a processing method that retains the maximum amount of antioxidants and other nutrients, and flavor, flavor, flavor,” says Quinn. Currant Co. met this challenge by using “cold-filled” bottling techniques plus changing packaging to BPA-free plastic bottles, allowing the beverages to retain the highest amount of nutrients while ensuring safety.

Building a healthier beverage isn’t just a matter of adding health ingredients to an existing formulation. “Many functional ingredients, such as protein and vitamin supplements, often have unpleasant tastes,” explains Connie Banning, solutions manager--beverage business unit for FONA International (www.fona.com), Geneva, Ill. “The flavors must be customized to neutralize off-notes and create a pleasing profile, especially when a serving size can be upwards of 16 oz.”

Mash Sato, head of R&D for Ito En North America Inc. (www.itoen.com), Sonoma, Calif., concurs. “Unlike creating dry tablet supplement products, creating healthy liquid beverages that have a water activity of more than 0.85 is quite challenging.” Ito En, which makes exotic tea-based beverages, created its Ito En Shots, 6.4-oz. short tea beverages with added catechins and polyphenols, powerful antioxidants natural to tea.

“In such beverage formulations, dietary nutrients tend to reform [separate] easily from the effects of storage conditions, such as heat. Based on the FDA legislation, dietary nutrients that do not have their RDI declared on the package must meet the same level at the end of its shelf life. This means that ensuring antioxidant levels is difficult. Fortunately,” Sato adds, “Ito has been able to develop the science to preserve these ingredients through proprietary brewing methods.”


Note to Marketing
“The list of functional ingredients to be used in healthy beverages grows bigger every day,” says Connie Banning at FONA International (www.fona.com). “The smartest ingredients to leverage are those that have immediate benefit, such as ingredients to help with intestinal health, or ingredients that have a perceived benefit, such as antioxidants.

“Beverage companies need to remember the basics to developing their marketing strategies in this opportunistic area,” she continues. She notes the “need to have a good understanding of what consumers are looking for — sustainable energy, bone health or lower blood pressure. Every age group, from baby boomers to Gen-Y, are looking for something different and the key is to know who you are marketing to and whether the health benefit is believable to them.”

A burgeoning challenge to developing beverages with superfruit antioxidants, however, is pointed out by Greg Quinn of The Currant Co. “Such claims have become so ubiquitous with the healthy beverage segment that it doesn’t quite have the impact that it did in the beginning. Antioxidants are still an important component of any healthy beverage profile but we see that, more and more, consumers are looking past just antioxidants to what other nutraceuticals, such as vitamins and minerals, the drink may contain.”

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