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By Mark Anthony, Ph.D., and David Feder, R.D., Technical Editors | 10/04/2011
It's compelling to note that people who have invigorated their digestive systems with probiotic bacteria typically mention feeling more energetic as a side benefit. The friendly little critters already are seeing a big uptick in use (see It's Alive! Probiotics Are Growing for Food Processors).
Once available almost exclusively in yogurt, probiotic formulations as drinkable yogurts and cultured milk (kefir) saw a huge increase in popularity in the past decade. Then, along came probiotic products such as the nondairy GoodBelly (www.goodbelly.com) line of juice-based probiotic drinks. Today, cultured coconut milks joins the nondairy cultured drink line-up.
"So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverages are up 45 percent over last year," says Chris Turek, marketing services manager at Turtle Mountain LLC (www.turtlemountain.com), Eugene, Ore. "This fall we're launching So Delicious Coconut Milk Seasonal Beverage with mint chocolate and egg nog flavors. "The non-dairy beverage category is growing in both natural and mainstream channels, and we have benefited from this, especially as consumers pursue alternatives to soy milk," he says.
KeVita Inc. (www.kevita.com), Ventura, Calif., also makes a line of vegan, gluten- and soy-free probiotic beverages. Water or tea is combined with a proprietary blend of probiotics and organic cold-extracted botanical extracts to produce an unusually light and refreshing probiotic drink.
"When incorporating probiotic bacteria into food and beverage formulations, a number of challenges arise," notes Winston Boyd, vice president and chief chemist for Lawrence Foods Inc. (www.lawrencefoods.com), Elk Grove Village, Ill. "The bacteria must survive the processing, handling and storage conditions used in preparation and, in a finished product with long shelf life, the bacteria must not continue to grow and metabolize.
"The more familiar probiotic bacteria found in yogurt and kefir thrive in those products — the cells remain viable, due to availability of water and food, for the shelf life of the product, which is fairly short even under refrigeration," Boyd continues. When consumed, the yogurt or kefir deliver active probiotics to the digestive system, where they must survive low-pH conditions in the stomach before they can enter the lower GI tract. Once in the lower GI, they begin to deliver the promised benefits.
Since the shelf life of yogurt and kefir products are relatively short, and since they are stored under refrigeration which slows bacterial growth and metabolism, the products remain edible while containing live cultures. Should the temperature be too high or the shelf time be too long, continued bacterial growth and metabolism will change the characteristics of the product and lead to fermentation and premature spoilage."
Building on a natural framework
New techniques of dispersion allow manufacturers to extract natural ingredients and rearrange them into an endless variety of applications. "Particle size reduction allows for finer mesh sizes on powder ingredients," says Lisa Drawer, global marketing director for Prinova USA (www.prinovausa.com), Carol Stream, Ill.
"Micronized and instantized products, such as amino acids and vitamins, greatly enhance solubility and suspension, enabling better dispersion in liquids. It creates a more uniform mesh for smoother mixing and blending in the manufacturing process. Overall it helps improve bioavailability of the ingredients due to the fact that they are more easily dispersed and digested."
Gums also come in handy for delivering otherwise tricky energy ingredients. Gum Technology Corp. (www.gumtech.com), Tucson, Ariz., developed multiple lines of natural gums as texture stabilizers and suspension mediums for nutraceutical ingredients.
One such is a line of tara gum-based compounds. Tara is a galactomannan polysaccharide derived from the seeds of the Peruvian Caesalpinia spinosa shrub. In beverages, tara gum adds viscosity, suspension and mouthfeel. Typical usage levels are between 0.10-0.25 percent.
Blends of tara gum and certain other hydrocolloids are synergistic, according to Janelle Litel, marketing director for Gum Technology. For example, tara gum and carrageenan, such as Coyote Brand Stabilizer CT-0109, can help provide a silky mouthfeel — ideal for dairy based beverages. In an acidified beverage, a pectin and tara blend at 0.7 percent helps protect the protein from denaturing in the low pH solution. This blend, called Coyote Brand Stabilizer PT-1110, helps stabilize the proteins while providing a creamy mouthfeel and suspension.
Litel points to Gum Technology's Coyote Brand XC-0508 as a creamy fat mimic that adds viscosity, suspension and texture to beverages such as low-calorie smoothies. It's cold-soluble and protein reactive.
"When creating a vitamin- and antioxidant-rich nutritional drink, a blend of xanthan, gum arabic and carrageenan (Coyote Brand XAC-0810) emulsifies and suspends the ingredients while also adding a creamy mouthfeel," she adds. "And in instant protein drinks, a blend of xanthan and carrageenan (Coyote Brand XC-0409) provides texture and suspension that allows for fast hydration, while creating creaminess."
The eye has it
With a crowded market for energy beverages, eye-appeal is vital. Just think of the impact of an energy drink that was clear instead of, say, vivid red.
"The last 10 years have seen great advances in emulsion and microemulsion technology," says Campbell Barnum, vice president of branding & market development for D.D. Williamson (www.ddwilliamson.com), Louisville, Ky. "This allows for an expansion of the natural color spectrum and an increased potential for use of natural colors in a variety of applications. It's also reduced the cost. And if you're out to build healthier drinks with eye-catching appeal, it's important to make certain the coloring agent is consistent with the quality the natural ingredients convey."
Sometimes the colorant can actually boost the healthy profile of the product. "Many of our natural colorants are rich in healthful phytochemicals," says Glen Dreher, a D.D. Williamson application scientist. "For coloring purposes, however, the concentrations are generally too low to have a functional nutrition impact. The exception to the rule is beta-carotene, which can be in high enough concentrations to have a dual role, providing natural color and a vitamin A health claim in some applications."
The company's beta-carotene is truly natural as opposed to synthetic beta-carotene (although both products fall under the same CFR listing in the U.S.). The natural color pallette spans a complete range of hues from lycopene at the red end of the visible spectrum to anthocyanins at the blue-violet end. Anthocyanins are the dark blue pigments that give concord grapes and many berries their color and personality.
Working with natural colors can present a challenge because some may be affected by temperature, pH or even time. "Not all colors are the same," says Jason Armao, director of application and innovation for the company. "They have different properties in different applications, so it's important for the provider to work closely with customers to determine the appropriate balance for each situation. Blends may be used to achieve exactly the right the color. For example, beta carotene may be modified with annatto, paprika, or turmeric."
Whatever the color of your power beverage, it's clear the expanding varieties of energy ingredients are providing ample opportunity for processors to rev up sales as they rev up their customers.