Technology Helps Nudge Functional Beverages into the Mainstream

From lacto-fermentation to high pressure processing, preservation techniques old and new are paving the way for juices that cater to healthy eating and clean labels.

By Kevin T. Higgins, Managing Editor

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The explosion in juicing stations encouraged the distribution company to add Beetology to its portfolio. “Those cold-pressed juices are quite expensive, and a lot of the juices aren’t what you expect, or they have a taste that isn’t consistent, and you don’t know who is behind them,” he adds. “This is as fresh and crisp as anything you could make at home.”

Post-extraction, the juice is flash pasteurized and hot-filled in glass bottles sculpted to evoke slices of beets. Kayco commissioned the molds used to make the bottles. The product has a 12-month refrigerated shelf life and a suggested retail price of $3.99 per 8.5 oz. bottle.

Beetology JuicesBeetology features organic ingredients, as does Biotta AG (www.biottajuices.com), a Swiss manufacturer that doesn’t shy away from health claims. The firm, which began producing organic juices in 1957, began shipping in April a non-GMO Apple Beet Ginger juice, its first beverage that blends fruit, vegetables and herbs.

The functional beverages are shelf-stable and can be consumed up to two years after manufacture, according to Matt Herzog, president of CAJ Food Products Inc., an Indianapolis processor that serves as Biotta’s U.S. distributor. “Glass is the gold standard for packaging, particularly if the juice is kept in a cool, dark place.”

All juices are produced at Biotta’s facility in Tagerwilen, Switzerland, with the exception of 32-oz. bottles. Label claims are limited to “100% juice” and “no sugar added,” with references to studies supporting health benefits such as reduced inflammation, gout prevention and the like.

Instead of pressing, Biotta uses centrifugation to separate the juice from the mash. The closed processing system is oxygen free to minimize the likelihood of microbial contamination. With low-acid vegetables like carrots, lacto-fermentation is used to lower the pH prior to pasteurization at approximately 200° F before bottling.

“We work with family farmers who, in some cases, are 5 kilometers from our factory in the Lake Constance region, which happens to be the best area for growing beets,” Herzog claims. “The taste of vegetable juices isn’t for everyone because you’re moving away from the sweet pallet. But vegetable juices are growing. We had record growth last year.”

A 16.9-oz. (500ml) bottle retails in the range of $4.99-$6.99.

Whether it is produced with a press or a separator or is shelf-stable or refrigerated, functional juices are enjoying growing demand. Some of the leading brands essentially are purees, while others rely on processes that separate the juice from the mash. Regardless of the process used, the resulting cocktails of vegetables and juice are formulated with increasingly complex blends that cater to multiple taste preferences and desired health outcomes.

It’s a big departure from the mass produced and relatively simple formulations that have dominated the juice category for decades. Multiple price points and target audiences ensure that product innovation will continue at a rapid pace.

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