Beverage Trends Point To Natural Ingredients And Safe Sources Of Energy And Nutrition

Today's beverage trends point to natural ingredients and safe sources of energy and nutrition.

By David Phillips, Technical Editor

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Tea for more than two

Technomic's Weikel notes that green tea already is a popular flavor in foodservice channels. For both its nutraceutical benefits and its flavor, tea has done well at retail also.

It's been 15 years since Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff founded Honest Tea in Maryland. Their company changed the RTD tea category by using all-natural and organic ingredients and by offering premium products with more nuanced flavors. They also marketed many of their tea and fruit beverages as "just a tad sweet."

Honest Tea is now a successful wholly owned subsidiary of Coca-Cola Co., and its products are sold not only in natural foods outlets, but in pretty much every channel that the soft drink giant has penetrated.

Goldman has long argued that beverage makers haven't always given consumers what they want, and that sometimes what they want can be less sweet. Just last month the group went into broader distribution with Honest Fizz, a line of zero-calorie carbonated soft drinks sweetened with a combination of erythritol and stevia.

"Honest Fizz is fun, tasty and naturally sweetened, and it will help us connect with soda consumers seeking a naturally sweetened alternative, as well as with shoppers at natural and specialty stores looking for a zero-calorie soda option," Goldman says.

TruBruz is a new line of tea, coffee and cocoa flavors from Flavor Producers that contribute authentic brewed flavor profiles, says Janet Guzman, vice president of sales and marketing at the Valencia, Calif., company. The line includes several varieties of green, black and white teas available in liquid, water-soluble essence, extract and flavor forms. They can be delivered in natural, non-GMO or certified organic forms.

Flavor Peelz is another interesting addition to Flavor Producers' portfolio. Peelz is a patented, dry flavoring system that uses dehydrated orange peels to encapsulate (actually, simply to absorb) liquid flavors and then release them during the brewing, baking or cooking process.

Tea flavor is one thing, but its nutraceutical benefits are substantial others. Blue California also manufactures several forms of green tea extract under the name L-TeaActive. The emphasis is on the tea components epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and L-theanine, the latter of which provides both focus and relaxation, the company claims. Scientific studies suggest EGCG can be used in dietary supplements for weight management and cardiovascular health.

Tasteful energy drinks

Recent lawsuits and congressional inquiries notwithstanding, America and much of the world still has great interest in energy-promoting libations. While the first generation of products was knocked back as a shot – the less you tasted the ingredients the better – new focus is on making these energy drinks taste better.

Richard Tait is a long-time soccer enthusiast with a background in product development with Seattle coffee giant Starbucks. His skills and passion came together a few years ago when he launched his own beverage brand, Golazo.

"We knew our customers wanted a really good-tasting product that was all-natural, GMO-free and had a lot less sugar and sweetness," says Todd Olsen, lead product developer. "If you were to taste most of the energy drinks on the market, most of them are very heavy and sweet, and we saw that that was not what our customers wanted."

So taste became a prime consideration in developing this line of natural sports beverages geared to soccer players and enthusiasts. The company offers a hydration/energy sports drink for adults and a hydration refreshment sports drink for adults and kids. The products are sold in Whole Foods Markets, Safeway and Kroger-owned stores and other outlets from Seattle to San Francisco.

Golazo's flavors are keyed to Latin fruit flavors including Jamaica and Mango-Limón. Mango Limón is also the flavor base for the single sugar-free offering in the line.

Recently Hain Celestial, Boulder, Colo., added Enerji Green Tea Shots to its Celestial Seasonings Natural Shots product line, which was first introduced in 2011. The company is hopeful that the well-established natural halo of Celestial Seasonings brand, with its 40-year-old line of teas, will provide a strong point of differentiation in a category dominated by one big brand.

Flavor was an important consideration for Mountain Dew Kickstart, as well. Familiar Orange Citrus and Fruit Punch are the initial flavors. The drink boasts 5 percent "real fruit juice," 80-calories per 16 oz. can and "just the right amount of caffeine".

True colors

As Purac's Meggs points out, natural colors now outsell artificial colors in the U.S. Ingredient companies began expending their fruit and vegetable based natural color offerings a decade ago as more and more food companies sought natural alternatives.

Emina Goodman, technical support manager for the beverage and dairy group at Sensient Colors LLC, St. Louis, says many beverage customers come to Sensient looking for better stability in natural colors.

"Some companies require preservative-free natural colors to achieve a clean label," Goodman says. "However, eliminating preservatives from natural color systems significantly reduces shelf life." Sensient offers an aseptic packaging system that provides a solution through preservative-free natural colors that have a shelf life comparable to preserved colors.

"In addition to natural colors, we offer additional benefits, including kosher, allergen-free, and GMO-free options that satisfy today's beverage consumer," Goodman adds.

The company also offers an Advanced Emulsion Technology (AET) which allows for multiple oil and water based natural colors to co-exist in a single color system. This improves color consistency and achieving new natural color shades that were previously unattainable, Goodman says.

D.D. Williamson, Louisville, Ky., is a supplier of colors to the beverage industry. Last month the company released results of a study it conducted on the relationship between color and flavor perception in carbonated soft drinks. A dozen teenagers were given drinks with the same flavor but remarkably different colors. Only a small percentage determined that the beverages were the same flavor. Not surprisingly, color matters when it comes to beverages.

Making beverages more healthful has gotten easier too. Many suppliers offer functional ingredients of all kinds for beverages, including vitamins, minerals, proteins and energy ingredients.

Purac specializes in minerals, including calcium and acidulants that can help formulators adjust pH properly. This in turn makes it easier to use natural colors and high intensity sweeteners.

"We see a strongly increasing demand for Purac Fit Plus, driven by the growing use of stevia and natural colors," Meggs says. "Replacing some of the citric acid with Fit Plus can increase the stability of natural colors and balance out the lingering sweetness of stevia."

This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Food Processing Magazine.

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