Balance is the Key Ingredient to Mid-Calorie Beverages

Vince Cavallini
Vince Cavallini
Beverage Applications Manager

High calories and full-on sweetness? Or zero calories and a seemingly-watery taste? For some people, it's all about meeting in the middle, but does half the calories have to mean half the taste?

Making mid-calorie beverages taste as good as their full-calorie counterparts is all about balance. If you change any component of what we call the "taste triangle"— sweetness, flavor and mouthfeel, you have to adjust the others as well. If you don't, that's when you get a beverage that is lacking in taste or texture.

Demand for reduced-calorie products is growing. Annual sales of products for weight management in the United States and Europe exceed $116.5 billion. Answering the demand by cutting sugar and calories in a drink is appealing—but only if its taste can rival full-sugar versions. Taste remains consumers' No. 1 desired trait, even in reduced-calorie products.

In addition to replacing a nutritive sweetener such as high-fructose corn syrup or sugar with a zero-calorie, natural sweetener such as Truvia® stevia leaf extract, you must re-balance the taste triangle by adding texturizers, flavor enhancers, flavor maskers, or a combination of all three. You can usually reduce calories in beverages by 30% to 60% and still achieve a flavorful, full-bodied taste experience.

Exactly how you do this depends on the application—because each type of beverage poses its own unique challenges. For example, reformulating a juice drink is not the same as remastering a soft drink or tea. There are even differences between juices made with different types of fruit.

Cargill's multi-sensory product development process uses a science called “tribology.” which is the science and technology of interacting surfaces in relative motion to one another, to mimic and assess what occurs in the mouth when drinking a beverage. This helps us predict precisely the adjustments needed to achieve full-calorie flavor and mouthfeel.

Based on the findings of our analysis, we may add one or several reduced-calorie solutions: our patented Trilisse™ texturizing blends to restore robust "tongue-heavy" mouthfeel, high-intensity natural sweeteners to enhance sweetness, and taste-enhancing or masking flavors to achieve a clean, refreshing flavor profile.

At Cargill, we have the technology and the expertise to cut calories without sacrificing taste. Using our unique approach helps beverage manufacturers speed up product development. Through the utilization of our unique prediction capabilities and understanding of the taste triangle, manufacturers can more quickly and cost effectively bring to market great-tasting mid-calorie beverages that consumers enjoy as a reward—not as a compromise.

Vince Cavallini, beverage applications manager, has been with Cargill for nine of his 12 years in the industry.