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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What is today's most important beverage ingredient? You might say it is the latest sweetener that can provide intensity without anxiety. Or we could salute the expanding palate of natural colors, or maybe those fruit and vegetable juices with their antioxidant powers.

There are good arguments to be made for any of these. So what about the beverage ingredient of tomorrow? Well, it might be yet another new sweetener, or it might be the cucumber. Just last month Sunny Delight Beverages Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, rolled out two new flavors of its Fruit2O flavored water, and one of those was Lemon Cucumber.

Whatever the beverage ingredients of future are, there is a pretty good chance they will be all-natural and good for you, says, Kelly Weikel, senior consumer research manager with market research firm Technomic Inc., Chicago.

"One of the main trends is that consumers are looking for natural ingredients when they look at beverages," she said. "They also realize that a lot of the calories that they are getting are not just from food, but also from beverages. So I think they are saying to themselves: ‘If I am going to be consuming this many calories through beverages, I expect them to contain something that is good for me.'"

Pepsi Kickstart
PepsiCo just launched Mountain Dew Kickstart in February, a combination of carbonated soft drink, juice and energy beverage. See Kickstart in our New Product Database. 

The folks at PepsiCo, Purchase, N.Y., see a bright future for a very familiar beverage component — caffeine. PepsiCo's Mountain Dew Kickstart is a new line extension that makes the carbonated soft drink into even more of an energy drink while offering a splash of real fruit juice – and positioning it for breakfast. While Kickstart uses commonplace ingredients, if the company is successful in creating a hybrid category — the morning carbonated soft drink — other innovative ingredients might find their way into a succession of Kickstart wanna-bes.

Whether it's a matter of discovering new ingredients or finessing applications of the tried-and-true, there should be plenty of innovation around the bend for beverage ingredients.

How sweet it is

In discussing what the future might hold for beverage ingredients, David Meggs, director of business development at Purac, Lincolnshire, Ill., also expects the "more natural" theme to continue, and he points to stevia as a key example.

"The application of stevia in beverages is becoming increasingly accepted," he notes. "This is stimulated by the improved quality of stevia extracts themselves, as well as the stevia masking offerings on the market."

Stevia has only been available as a sweetener in the U.S. since 2008. It is extracted from one of more than 200 species of the stevia plant. Stevia's taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, although some of its extracts tend toward a bitter (sometimes described as licorice-like) aftertaste at high concentrations, says Olsen says. So Golazo uses it in combination with organic cane sugar to achieve a mildly sweet flavor. The products contain about half the sugar of leading sports drinks (21g per 12-oz. serving).

And while it took years for the FDA to approve stevia for the U.S. market, the sweetener wasn't approved in Europe until late 2011 and in Canada in November 2012, notes Cecilia McCollum, executive vice president of Blue California. The company was an early supplier of stevia in the U.S., creating products under the name Good&Sweet. Extracts are available at purities up to 99 percent.

Cargill Inc., Wayzata, Minn., was one of the original FDA petitioners for stevia, and has achieved great success in creating a tabletop sweetener under the brand Truvia. Its website has lots of information to help formulators learn more about Truvia, stevia in general and other sweeteners.

Monk fruit is at the front of the pack of those "other sweeteners." It's been around for centuries under its Asian name luo han guo but made only a small dent in the North American market until Tate & Lyle Plc brought it to the fore in 2011 under the name Purefruit. Like stevia, it's natural, coming from a plant, is non-nutritive and is 200-300 times as sweet as sucrose. And as it did with its sucralose sweetener, Tate & Lyle is providing commercial quantities to food processors while turning over marketing of a tabletop version, called Nectresse, to McNeil Nutritionals (which markets sucralose as Splenda).

Perhaps hedging its stevia bet, Blue California introduced BlueSweet luo han guo extract. And U.S. Niutang Chemical Inc. plans to introduce two concentrations of monk fruit sweeteners, tentatively called Fruit20 and Fruit50, denoting the percentages of the mogroside.

Both stevia and monk fruit extract allow for partial or total replacement of sugar's calories with a natural, plant-based ingredient – a powerful one-two punch for consumers.

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