Formulating Nutritional Shot Products

Nutritional single-serving liquid products, or shots, have the ability to address consumer health concerns such as digestive health and energy boosting, but pose challenges to formulators to include efficacious amounts of scientifically substantiated ingredients while controlling nutrient interaction.

Shots for everyone! No, thats not some happy-go-lucky fellow at your local watering hole celebrating an accomplishment. Its whats going on in the nutrition industry at the moment and it shows no signs of slowing down. One-shot servings (usually in 2- to 4-oz. sizes), delivering everything from improved digestive health and immune boosts to sustained energy and lower cholesterol, are catching the attention of consumers all over the world. And whats driving this market is the consumers demand for nutrition in a quick, convenient and portable format.

Todays consumerswhether a business person, stay-at-home mom or truck driverare pressed for time. Under constant deadlines and functioning under tough time constraints, it is an ongoing struggle to maintain a nutritious diet, or to get the optimum amount of exercise. Single-serving, fortified/functional shots have been embraced by consumers realizing their health can truly be impacted in a positive way by including them as part of a daily routine. They also realize that, in most cases, these products need to be consumed on a daily basis over a certain period of time to realize their individual benefits. Also contributing to the rise in popularity is that, for many consumers, a beverage application is a more natural way to contribute to their health, versus popping a tablet or capsule. Most shots are consumed as part of the morning rush to get to work or school, which means these products can easily fit into already established rituals.

So, what types of shots are consumers purchasing? An array of products ranging from drinkable yogurts with probiotics for immunity and gut/digestive health (which many experts point to as the launch point of the overall product category), to shots that can help support bone health, enhanced cognitive function, boost energy, lower cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health, just to name a few. The variety of categories that exists, and continues to evolve, is due to the fact that consumers are looking for personalized nutrition that addresses specific health and lifestyle concerns. Consumers have come a long way in understanding the role nutrition plays in long-term health and are actively seeking out specific vitamins/nutrients that target specific needs.

Formulating a Successful Shot

There are several variables that must be taken into consideration when formulating shots. Among these are taste, texture, mouthfeel and ingredient selection/interaction. Formulators looking to address certain health conditions via shots might consider the following options:

  • Cholesterol Reduction: plant sterols, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), B vitamins, lycopene, vitamin E;
  • Weight Management: conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), 5-HTP, Garcinia cambogia, chromium, fiber, green tea;
  • Energy/Fatigue: taurine, B vitamins, omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs), L-carnitine, rhodiola;
  • Bone Health/Osteoporosis: calcium, vitamin K, manganese, boron, vitamin D; or
  • Enhanced Cognition: GABA, L-theanine, omega-3s, choline, Gingko biloba, phosphatidylserine (PS).

That said, there are many interactions that are likely to occur when utilizing some of these nutrients. Omega-3 EFAs and minerals like copper and iron can cause oxidation at elevated temperatures and give rancidity and/or an undesirable odor to the finished product. Chromium and vitamin C in the presence of iron and copper would enhance a discoloration reaction; adding vitamin B to the mix would impart sulfur notes in the finished product. And choline in the presence of L-carnitine tends to interact in the presence of any transition minerals and causes discoloration, as well as giving off a fishy smell.

Instead, formulators are increasingly using custom-blended nutrient premixes in product formulation. The challenges associated with premix formulations that incorporate multiple nutrients include the type of finished product, as well as the desired taste, flavor and color of the finished product, solubility, bioavailability, pH level, safety/toxicity, interactions among various ingredients and bioavailability and stability of the individual ingredients. Factors that can affect stability, for instance, include temperature, pH, oxygen, shelf life, type of packaging, light and moisture.

Many shots utilize a fruit-flavored base, because the link between fruit and health is intuitive for consumers. Having said that, an example of a potential interaction is the formulation of a product that contains thiamine, as well as a superfruit and its possible sulfur dioxide content. Thiamine plays an important role in helping the body metabolize carbohydrates and fat to produce energy, and helps to maintain proper functioning of the heart and the nervous and digestive systems. Combining this nutrient with a superfruit can possibly result in immediate degradation of thiamine due to the fruits carry-over of sulfur dioxide. The level of sulfur dioxide should be determined prior to fortification and appropriate overages should be added to compensate for losses.

To further minimize interactions, a manufacturer can separate vitamins and minerals into two individual premixes, encapsulate certain vitamins or minerals, or utilize a particular form of a specific ingredient.

Incorporating nutrient premixes in single-serve shot products can help manufacturers stay competitive in todays marketplace. Selecting a premix partner with strong relationships and strict quality control (QC) guidelines can provide further assurance of the quality of the blends and finished product.

Ram Chaudhari, Ph.D., FACN, CNS, is the senior executive vice president and chief scientific officer at Fortitech Inc. For more information on nutrient premixes and formulation, visit Fortitech.com.

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