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Ingredients for Energy and Immunity

Oct. 8, 2007
One of the hottest trends is designing and marketing foods and beverages promising quick fixes to our energy- and health-deprived society.

The market for energy and immunity ingredients is surging. Compounds such as B vitamins, taurine, creatine, peptides, minerals, botanicals (guarana, ginseng, ginkgo biloba etc.), nutritive sweeteners, d-ribose, and compounds in chocolate, coffee and tea (phenylethylamine, theophylline and theobromine) are being marketed for health benefits less disease and more prevention oriented.

Innovations continually emerge to mask undesirable colors, tastes or reactions, and to improve bioavailability, stability and solubility of these ingredients. Kraft Foods (www.kraft.com), Northfield, Ill., formulated its Fruit2O Energy beverages with energy-generating B vitamins and caffeine (as much as in a cup of coffee), with zero calories and 0g of carbohydrate per serving.

There are two types of energy boosters - the quick jolt, and those without sugar spikes.

Crisp fruit flavors help mask the taste of B vitamins in the beverage. "The Fruit20 product line function and flavor were designed for an audience that does not want additional calories in their beverages," says Vinay Sharma, senior brand manager. "We chose Splenda because sucralose does not affect blood glucose levels." Fruit2O is also geared for people with diabetes and managing sugar.

Del Monte Foods (www.drinkbloomenergy.com), San Francisco, formulated Bloom Energy for women. The lightly carbonated juice beverage is charged with white tea extract and guarana, and yields 74mg of caffeine per serving. White tea may help prevent cancer, decrease LDL cholesterol and protect skin from oxidative stress and immune-cell damage.

People with active lifestyles, on the other hand, seek to boost mental and physical performance, both in preparation for a workout and after energy expenditure. Netherlands-based DSM Food Specialties (www.peptopro.com) designed Peptopro, its casein hydrolysate amino acid compound, specifically as an energy-enhancer for the Dutch Olympics team. The mix of active peptides is believed to help stimulate the production of insulin, which in turn results in better use of glucose by the muscle cells.

Using dairy proteins, B vitamins and coenzyme Q-10, Bravo! Brands Inc. (www.bravobrands.com), North Palm Beach, Fla., launched two lines of calcium- and protein-fortified milk products, "Slammers" and "Pro Slammers." The company markets the Pro Slammer line as a "sport protein milk blast." The beverages have half the protein and half the fat of regular milk. The company's "Blenders" line of lactose-free milk beverages are laced with antioxidants.

Long associated with immune health, yogurt has been a natural and popular medium for immunity-orientated ingredients.

According to national accounts manager, Reto Rieder, "PeptoPro is a patented mixture of di- and tri-peptides that are absorbed and assimilated faster than proteins or amino acids and provides energy directly to the muscles, helping to reduce fatigue, promoting faster recovery, repairing damaged muscle tissue and combating muscle wastage."

Another ingredient believed to help increase cellular energy production is L-carnitine. Beverages such as Hydrive and Dardevil Energy Drink claim thermogenic properties to help with weight loss and endurance during exercise.

Energy Unmasked

L-carnitine, along with other amino acids, caffeine and B vitamins, helps Hydrive by Inov8 Beverage Co. (www.inov8bevco.com), Rye, N.Y., give a quick boost of energy without the sugar "spikes" or intense sweetness of some other energy drinks. Daredevil Energy Drink, Outlast Nutrition LLC (www.daredevilenergydrink.com), Tustin, Calif., lets 120mg caffeine per serving, L-carnitine taurine, caffeine, guarana and B vitamins provide its energy punch. Xyience Inc. (www.xyience.com), Las Vegas, formulated Xenergy with taurine, caffeine, ginseng, and L-carnitine to support energy and focus and used special fruit flavors to mask the undesirable notes of the active ingredients.

Spike LLC (www.spikeshooter.com), Colorado Springs, Colo., makes Spike Shooter, an energy beverage with substantially more neurostimulants than any other energy beverage. Each serving of the "Hard Core Energy Drink" has 300mg caffeine, L-tyrosine, B vitamins, anhydrous caffeine and the alkaloid yohimbine HCl (also known as "yohimbe"). Sucralose and natural and artificial flavors help mask the normally bitter tastes of the stimulants.

Leading Brands International, Vancouver, British Columbia, (www.stokedenergy.com) released its youth-targeted Stoked Wind Chill and Stoked After Burn. "Stoked is an energy drink stripped down to the basics, with no high-fructose corn syrup," says David Neely, director of R&D for the company.

Until recently, formulating with the amino acid taurine was challenging because of its markedly bitter or astringent taste profile. Now there is a wide array of masking fruit flavors - such as  such as Erlanger, Ky.-based Wild Flavors Inc.'s (www.www.wildflavors.com) "resolver technology" - used to block off-notes from taurine and ginseng. Hiball Inc. (www.hiballer.com), San Francisco, uses natural flavors to accentuate and mask the off-flavors of taurine, ginseng, guarana, B vitamins and caffeine in its Hi Ball All-Natural Energy drinks.

Pharma gamma aminobutyric acid (Pharma-GABA), which recently achieved GRAS status, is becoming popular in Japan as an ingredient to promote mental focus. Recently, it segued from supplement to beverage ingredient. "Rather than produce yet another caffeine-containing energy beverage, we secured the rights to Pharma-GABA as the key step in launching a new type of energy beverage," says Peter van Stolk, president and CEO of Jones Soda Co. (www.jonesoda.com), Seattle.

What's the Buzz?

Of course, consumers worry about the contents, consequences and "crash" from their pick-me-ups. Alex Hughes, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at UCLA Hospital and CEO, MD Drinks Inc. (www.functiondrinks.com), Santa Monica, Calif., created Function Alternative Energy - a time-released energy formula of rainforest-sourced ingredients catuaba, epimedium (icarriin), guarana, muira puma and yerba maté - "as a true performance enhancer without limiting health ramifications."

Read More on Pharmacokinetic ingredients

Stoked competes with other high-octane stimulant drinks for a share of the younger, "gamers" market.

According to Alex Hughes, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at UCLA Hospital and CEO, MD Drinks Inc. (www.functiondrinks.com), Santa Monica, Calif., pharmacokinetics - the rate of absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination of a compound from the body - guided selection of ingredients for MD Drinks' Function Alternative Energy beverage. For his formulations, he chose tropane and xanthine alkaloids, known for their mild stimulating effects, plus betaine alkaloids for their mood effects.

Icariin, from the Asian plant Epimedium grandiflorum, is included for its nitric oxide-enhancing properties is another key ingredient. Nitric oxide is a chemical signalling molecule relaxes smooth muscles and has been studied for its ability to dilate blood vessels. Some heart studies indicate it has value in treatment for lung function in infants and cardiovascular disease in heart patients. It also has been shown in animal studies to control erectile dysfunction.

These ingredients help allow for sequential onset and elevation of energy for six to eight hours without the heart palpitations or crashes associated with glucaronolactone or L-taurine - stimulant hallmarks of traditional energy drinks. Hughes credits Wild Flavors with technical assistance with flavors while formulating with ingredients not used before in beverages.

An emerging trend is to move toward more natural energy ingredients. The Organic Beverage Co., a subsidiary of Integrated BioPharma Inc. (www.ibiopharma.com), Hillside, N.J., created Syzmo. Syzmo is sweetened with organic blue agave nectar, and has no preservatives or artificial colors and flavors. Its active ingredients include organic coffee fruit (which surrounds the bean) concentrate, guarana, green tea and yerba maté.

Not just beverages

Beverages aren't the only vehicles of energy. Jelly Belly Candy Co. (www.jellybelly.com), Fairfield, Calif., formulated Jelly Belly Sports Beans for portable energy with electrolytes, carbohydrates and vitamins B and C. Willow Lake, S.D.-based Dakota Valley Products Inc. (www.sumseeds.com) won a fan base of truckers, gamers, programmers and construction workers who rely on its SumSeeds caffeinated sunflower seeds for an energy buzz. Each ounce of SumSeeds has 35mg of caffeine, without bitterness.

Another enhanced savory snack is NRG Phoenix Fury Potato Chips, by Golden Flake Snack Foods (www.goldenflake.com), Birmingham, Ala. The company infused the chips with taurine, caffeine and B-Vitamins because "the fastest growing categories in food are the energy-related products," says Julie McLaughlin, marketing director.

Energy into Immunity

Green Giant is taking smart advantage of the natural immunity boosters in fruits and vegetables.

Usually people reach for tea or coffee when tired. Discovery that coffee's high antioxidant levels could make it a powerful deterrent to illness prompted Michael Sweeney, president of Soave Republic Inc. (www. SpavaCoffee.com), Houston, Tex., to develop a revolutionary fortification technology to infuse coffee beans with a variety of all-natural supplements.

Sweeney complements the first fortified, all-organic, fair-trade Spavin by making the entire process "from our exact supplement ingredients and quantities to our bean provenance available for review." Spavin Clarity contains ginkgo biloba, white tea and other natural substances believed to boost short-term memory, while Spavin Immunity has echinacea, rosehips and other ingredients touted to ward off colds and promote wellness.

Zafi Beverages Inc. (www.zafibeverages.com), Bensenville, Ill., also combined energy drinks with immunity ingredients. In its Low-Carb Ultralight Zafi and Pumped Zafi drinks, Zafi includes folic acid for its cell-protection and stress-releasing properties, and inositol for its fundamental role in the nerve, brain and muscle function.

System Analysis

The human immune system is made up of three layers of defense - physical barriers, the innate or humeral-based system, and the adaptive or cell-based system - all working simultaneously. Maximum protection is afforded when all three work perfectly; a chink in the armor makes one prone to bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic infection based illnesses. Physical exertion, nutritional irregularities, caloric restriction, aging, emotional stress, environmental conditions, or sleep deprivation also cause undulations in the preparedness and effectiveness of our immune system.

Studies show certain nutrients have significant modulating effect on our immune system. MD Drinks Inc.'s Function House Call contains two such modulators - cell-wall B-glucan and chlorella - in a stable micro-emulsion antioxidant base of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine), rounded off with honey and green tea for health and taste.

Beta-glucan, a polysaccharide found naturally in certain bacteria, mushrooms and oats, "amplifies the readiness" of the immune system and helps it focus on relevant threats. Polysaccharides with similar function are also found in Chlorella, nutrient-packed, single-celled green algae.

Minneapolis-based Biothera's (www.biotherapharma.com) Wellmune WGP is a yeast-derived, pattern-recognition beta-glucan that activates macrophages and neutrophils (human immune cells) to rapidly recognize and kill foreign challenges. The GRAS-approved, GMO-free, kosher and nonallergenic Wellmune WGP has the added benefit of pleasant sensory qualities and is available as a soluble and insoluble glucopolysaccharide powder for ease of formulation in a wide range of foods and beverages.

"Mainstream processors are realizing the growing importance of immunity with consumers," says Rich Mueller, president and CEO of Biothera. "The new focus is on ingredients that work with the immune system and are backed by credible science and which can be formulated into foods and beverages that are consumed every day on the ‘daily dose' principle."

Read More on Biothera's Wellmune WGP


"Micro-encapsulation technology is enabling innovative ingredient solutions for complex formulations," notes Cecilia McCollum, vice president of ingredient manufacturer Blue California (www.blue-calingredients.com), Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. "Micro-encapsulated, water-soluble ingredients are significantly different from other water-soluble forms. They do not use emulsifiers which cloud solutions. Also, microencapsulation can cluster several ingredients and stagger their release, while protecting them and making them more bioavailable." Emulsions are unstable by nature and tend to separate.

Bacterial defense

The human digestive tract contains many varieties of bacteria that help maintain a healthy intestinal system, aid digestion, boost the immune system and reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Depletion of the intestinal flora weakens the body's natural defenses.

Dannon, Tarrytown, N.Y., (www.dannon.com) created DanActive, a probiotic drink clinically proven to replenish the gut flora and help strengthen the body's defense system. DanActive contains Lactobacillus casei immunitas (a culture exclusive to Dannon), Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus cultures. These probiotics were designed for superior digestive and regularity health benefits.

Clearly consumers buy in - they pay as much as two- to three-times the price of similar mainstream products. Probiotic supplier Chr. Hansen Ltd. (www.chr-hansen.com), Milwaukee, follows this practice, marketing its cultures under such monikers as BB-12, LA-5, RC-14 and GR-1 as probiotic ingredients for manufacturers of dairy products and dietary supplements.

Dannon subsidiary and maker of functional yogurts, Stonyfield Farm (www.stonyfield.com), Londonderry, N.H., incorporates six live, active cultures to help replenish gut flora. Stonyfield claims it makes the only U.S. yogurt containing Lactobacillus reuteri, a species that naturally inhabits the gut of mammals and clinically proven to boost immunity and enhance digestive health.

Danisco, Overland Park, Kan., (www.danisco.com), created Howaru - a strategically branded probiotic culture available frozen or freeze-dried in concentrates or as customized formulas for food and beverage applications. Purity Dairies Inc. (www.puritydairies.com), Nashville, Tenn., makes its 1 percent Sweet Acidophilus Milk with Howaru acidophilus and bifidobacterium bacteria. Danisco also supplies Howaru probiotic cultures to Atlanta-based Freshëns Quality Brands (www.freshens.com) for its yogurt line and Howaru culture-based immunity boosters for smoothies in their retail stores.

Read More on HOWARU

Howaru Acidophilus includes Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM - probiotic strains shown to survive passage through the gastrointestinal tract and have which possess extraordinary adherence to intestinal mucosa. "Howaru Bifido" is Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 and Howaru Rhamnosus is Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001. Known specifically for their immunomodulating properties, their efficacy has been confirmed in human studies in several countries. Results of these studies show improved immune function due to the consumption of Howaru Bifido and Howaru Rhamnosus may reduce the risk of different types of enteritis and non-gastro-intestinal diseases and enhance the body's natural immune response, especially in the elderly.

Kraft added probiotics to its LiveActive Cheese Sticks and Cheese Cubes with probiotics. Eugene, Ore.-based Nancy's Naturally Cultured Low Fat Organic Kefir is made with  organic milk from small family farms with grass fed cows and offers billions of probiotic cultures in every sip. The kefir is sweetened with organic agave nectar - a naturally low glycemic index sweetener - and contains organic inulin.

General Mills Inc. (www.generalmills.com), Minneapolis, incorporates Optibalance - a blend of probiotic cultures and natural fibers for immunity and digestive health - in its Yoplait Yo-Plus yogurt and Go-Gurt Fizzix fizzy yogurt snacks.

Studies show clear correlation between inulin or oligofructose and a statistically significant increase in bifidobacteria levels in the colon. Today, inulin and oligofructose are among the most widely utilized prebiotic fibers used in food and beverage formulations.

Turning to natural sources of immunity ingredients, General Mills released, under its Green Giant brand (www.greengiant.com), "Immune Boost" microwave-steamable vegetables in seasoning. The vegetables are broccoli, carrots and red and yellow sweet peppers, marketed for being "naturally rich in antioxidants vitamins A and C to help support a healthy immune system."

Botanical Basics

Cranberries were one of the first natural ingredients to be recognized for their effect on immunity, specifically in warding off urinary tract infections via anti-adhesion properties of compounds called proanthocyanidins which help protect the body from harmful bacteria.

Ocean Spray ITG released results of a new study suggesting unique cranberry compounds also may help ward off the flu. The research suggests the anti-adhesion components also prevent certain flu viruses from attaching to host cells.

Decas Botanical Synergies (www.decasbotanical.com), Carver, Mass., provides a number of cranberry- and other berry-derived ingredients under its Nutricran label targeting specific immune aspects. Examples include Nutricran GI, a gastro-intestinal health fruit powder blend shown to inhibit the H. pylori bacteria linked to ulcers, Nutricran AM flavorless and odorless antimicrobial additive to protect protein foods such as beef and fish and Nutricran AO high-antioxidant powder.

Luna Elixirs and Luna Bar (www.lunabar.com), both part of the Berkeley, Calif.-based Clif Bar & Co.,  also emphasize immunity ingredients that are naturally derived. Luna Elixirs contains green tea extract loaded with polyphenolic antioxidants. Green tea extract was selected for its ability to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Kerry Foods (www.kerryfoods.com), Beloit, Wis., collaborated with Brattleboro, Vt.-based NutraGenesis to create Essentra, a patented, GRAS-affirmed derivative of the herb Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Essentra is standardized to contain glycowithanolides (8 percent), withaferin-A (2 percent), and oligosaccharides (32 percent). The oligosaccharides serve as a carrier for the glycowithanolides and withaferin-A helps maintain a consistent ingredient ratio. NutraGenesis President Suzanne McNeary said, "Essentra is shown in human research to shield the body with stress reduction, mental clarity, enhanced energy, heart health and glucose release. The Ayurvedic botanical is marketed as a highly standardized patented nutraceutical ingredient."

Kagome (www.kagome.com), Foster City, Calif., provides Lactobacillus brevis KB290, a plant-derived lactic acid bacterium for dairy beverages. The bacterium, discovered in traditional Japanese pickles, can survive in the intestines longer than the L. casei strain used in most dairy products.

Consumer demand for energy- and immunity-enhancing products will continue to surge as long as the current trends of lack of sleep, exercise, and abundant stress continue. As consumers seek foods and beverages for energy and immunity, processors are working closely with ingredient manufacturers to meet this untiring demand.

Read More on Botanicals For Energy

Paramus, N.J.-based Stella Labs (www.stellalabs.com) makes Cha'de bugre10:1 extract - with low levels of caffeine offering a powerful, clean, natural energy boost without the nervous jitters or stomach upset commonly associated with stimulants.
 Ginseng is another ingredient popular for its energy benefits. Ginseng extracts sold on the market today may contain the chemical residues of certain pesticides such as quintozene and procymidone, not permitted for use in ginseng cultivation in the U.S. or in Europe, but used widely in other countries.

Rhodiola rosea is known to increase brain energy and accelerate the recovery processes after workouts. It also stimulates muscle energy status, glycogen synthesis in muscles and liver and anabolic activity.

Botanicals are gaining rapid ground in every ingredient category. Energy and immunity are no exceptions. The educated population will increase market prospects for botanicals. Ingredient suppliers and distributors will have to communicate more diligently about the value of their fare in terms of active compound content, proven efficacy and lack of undesirable contaminants or adulterants.

Note To Marketing

Consumers seek energy products for different reasons. Understanding their motivation helps guide selection of ingredients relevant to their needs. People on weight loss or restricted calorie diets, for example, wish to counteract the effects of their negative energy balance: energy drain, reduced interest in exercising and cravings for high caloric eating episodes. Products for this audience should boost their energy without setting them back in their calorie management. Non-nutritive sweeteners aspartame and sucralose work well here especially with the fruity flavor profiles favored by this demographic - typically female and mid to older aged.

Regulatory Issues: Immunity and Energy Claims

A manufacturer must have substantiation that any immunity and energy claims appearing in the labeling and advertising of a food are not false or misleading. Failure to have adequate substantiation, at the time a claim is made, is a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and/or the Federal Trade Commission Act. The FDA and the FTC require competent and reliable scientific evidence, from well-designed studies. The overall message should be substantiated, as well as any separate claims. If a claim has more than one reasonable interpretation, substantiation for each interpretation is expected.

Note To Ops

The new trend of using botanicals and bioactive ingredients in foods and beverages creates a mix of hope and trepidation for plant operators, especially the QA/QC personnel. The rules are the same - whether one is dealing with expensive bioactive ingredients or less pricey commodities:

  • Store in a cool and dry place
  • Store in airtight containers
  • Store away from light
  • Ensure ingredients are well within their expiration codes
  • Ensure all Certificates of Analyses are on file
  • Keep a copy of the Material Handling Data Sheets in the plant for easy access during emergencies.

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