January 1, 2004
Drinking Your Way to Better Health
One can argue that all beverages are nutritional because their major component, water, is essential to life. But even in ancient times, plain water was not the only beverage. Throughout the ages, people have modified water by extracting flavors and other substances from plants to make teas and other drinks - many of which purportedly supplied health or healing qualities. They also created beverages by pressing juices from fruits and vegetables. Today, the proliferation of ready-to-drink products and beverage mixes aimed at different segments of the population is creating a new generation of beverages.
Historically, technologists have designed many nutritional beverages as medical foods to help nourish people with specific medical conditions, such as renal or liver disease, and have followed prescribed nutritional requirements dictated by the disease process. Other beverages were designed as meal replacements for those who couldn't or wouldn't eat a complete meal, such Nestle(r) Carnation(r) Instant Breakfast, or as a supplemental feeding for those with a diminished capacity to consume foods due to illness, such as Ensure(r). Additionally, a number of over-the-counter, ready-to-drink beverages (e.g., Slim·Fast(r)) or physician-delivered powder mixes that serve as substitutes for meal or snacks are aimed to help those endeavoring to lose weight.
New nutrition in old beverages
Why are beverages such a popular vehicle for adding nutritional value? Steve Snyder, vice president of sales and marketing, Cargill Health & Food Technologies (HF&T), Minneapolis, says, "It is not entirely clear, but it may be because there are more occasions to consume liquids and therefore, people are looking for more variety." He adds that migrating from a dietary-supplement form, like pills, to a nutritional product consumed as a beverage or functional food seems to be an easy move for most consumers after they become familiar with and accept new health-promoting substances.
In recent years, products originally marketed to the sick and elderly have morphed into formulations designed to supply energy; key nutrients, such as calcium; and beneficial ingredients, such as soy protein, for the healthy, active baby boomer. According to Mintel International Group, Ltd., Chicago, the functional-beverage industry experienced 7% growth each year for the past five years. Now a $9 billion industry, it is projected to grow another 44% by 2008.
This fits with the research group's report released earlier in 2003 on 2002 new-product introductions in the United States that found a four-year trend to "positive nutrition" claims, such as "all natural," "no additives/preservatives," "added/high fiber," "added/high calcium" and "organic."
As part of this functional-beverage growth, fitness waters now join sports-nutrition beverages to help both the serious and weekend athlete. For example, PepsiCo Inc.'s Gatorade(r) product line includes Propel(r) Fitness Water with B-vitamins and vitamins C and E; Gatorade Thirst Quencher, the grand-daddy of sports drinks; a nutrition shake with 22% protein from milk protein isolate; and an energy drink with high carbohydrates, four B-vitamins and three antioxidants.
Additionally, enhanced waters fortified with various combinations of vitamins, minerals, isoflavones and botanicals are expanding the traditional bottled-water market. These lightly flavored products contain few, if any, calories and have special appeal to women. (For more information, see "Wonder Waters: Fortified and Flavored Waters" in the August 2003 issue of Food Product Design.)
Mac Farms, Burlington, MA, is carbonating milk and fortifying it with needed vitamins and minerals to increase its appeal, and is positioning it as an alternative to soda and sports beverages for kids and young adults. The company introduced its first entry, kid-targeted e-Moo(r), in 2001. Now it is focusing on young, active adults and teenagers with the recently introduced RPM(tm) (Refreshing Power Milk), which is lower in calories, but has more calcium, magnesium and potassium in a 12-oz. bottle than 8 oz. of skim milk. Future plans include carbonated, milk-based beverages supplemented with the nutrients most needed by adults.
Even beverages with dubious nutritional attributes are being upgraded to include healthful properties. One example is Steap(tm) Green Tea Soda from The Healthy Beverage Company, Newtown, PA. The company lightly carbonates microbrewed, organic Ceylon green tea and sweetens it with organic cane juice. It manufacturers the soda, the first USDA certified-organic variety of its kind, in a certified-organic microbrewery. One 12-oz. bottle possesses the antioxidant levels of one cup of green tea. The company positions it as a healthy, flavorful alternative to traditional sodas.
Another alternative to a frequently maligned beverage is "soy coffee," made from roasted soybeans. Introduced in late 2002, organic-certified Rocamojo(tm) Coffee Alternative from Rocamojo, Inc., Woodland Hills, CA, is available as 100% soy or as a blend with 100% organic, specially grown coffee from Oaxaca, Mexico. A Los Angeles chiropractor, Ron Marinaro, and his wife, Katharine, developed the drink for his patients who desired a good-tasting, noncaffeinated, low-acid beverage. Although not the first soy coffee on the market, it offers more nutrition than some of the others, with 13 grams and 7 grams of soy protein in the 100% and 50% blend products, respectively. It also contains dietary fiber, calcium, iron, riboflavin and niacin. Imagine being able to get a serving of healthy soy protein along with your morning caffeine fix!
Coffee is not the only hot beverage using soy. A number of manufacturers make cocoa mixes, green teas and chai with this healthful ingredient. Country Choice Naturals, Eden Prairie, MN, makes soy-based cocoas. Green teas are available from Vitasoy USA Inc., Ayer, MA, and American Soy Products Inc., Saline, MI. And, chais are offered by White Wave's Silk(r) brand, Boulder, CO; Imagine Foods' Power Dream brand and WestSoy, Garden City, NY; and R.W. Knudson, Chico, CA.
What are the chances of survival for all these new products? Snyder says, "The winning functional beverages are often the ones that are healthy to begin with and then have something additional to make them 'healthy-plus...a specific benefit.' However, you have to be conscious of the overall nutritional content, including calories. Likewise, taste is always important and so is formulation. Successful consumer companies have insight into taste and formulation, but also the consumer aspects of the why, when and by whom a new product will be used."
Improving calcium supplements
Other research supports the need for adequate phosphorus intake along with calcium for proper bone growth, and questions the overuse of nonphosphorus calcium supplements when dealing with therapy for osteoporosis, especially in the elderly, who tend to consume low levels of phosphorus.
According to Bill Haines, Ph.D., vice president, business-to-business marketing, Dairy Management Inc.(tm) (DMI), Rosemont, IL, milk-based calcium with a natural mix of minerals is better than the mineral-salt sources of calcium but is more expensive. He adds that the preferred, economical way to add milk calcium is by adding milk solids.
An alternative source of milk-based calcium is a milk mineral complex from Glanbia Nutritionals, Inc., Monroe, WI. With 24% calcium and 13% phosphorus, it provides a balanced ratio conducive to bone growth, plus other minerals found in milk, such as magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper and iron. A powder with a bland flavor and soluble in the acidic pH range, it works in diet, sports and isotonic beverages as well as calcium-enriched dairy products.
Inorganic calcium phosphate usually presents solubility and altered taste problems in beverages. However, Nadeen Myers, marketing technical service representative, Altaris, LLC, St. Louis, says, "We have found a way to work with beverage manufacturers to get calcium phosphate into products using a proprietary technology called Forti-Cal Plus(tm)." She adds that the neutral pH of this fine-particle-sized calcium phosphate eliminates the need to change ingredients to fix the taste profile.
"Another advantage is its cost-effectiveness due to its high calcium content, so you need to use less to get the same level of fortification," Myers notes. But probably the most impressive aspect is its solubility. Besides working in any beverage, such as soy and dairy, she says, "It is good in clear juices. It won't precipitate and they will remain clear." Introduced in October 2003, this new product probably won't appear in commercially available beverages until later this year.
Whey beyond bone health
Whey protein has promise in the healthy-dairy area, with many potential roles for improving health and managing diseases. Possible health benefits associated with whey protein concentrates (WPC), isolates (WPI), hydrolysates and fractions (such as lactoferrin and glycomacropeptide) include a decrease in high blood pressure, improved immune response, and antioxidant activity.
Glenn Ward, senior research scientist with Land o' Lakes, Inc., St. Paul, MN, says, "The nutritional benefits come from the encrypted peptides in whey protein." He explains that encrypted peptides have the same sequence as bioactive peptides in the body, and therefore, can impact biological functioning.
Formulas for infants and medical conditions have long used whey protein as an easy-to-digest protein source, and makers of high-protein performance mixes for athletes frequently incorporate WPC or WPI in their products. Now, more mainstream products contain whey protein. Ward says, "The most common use is dry mixes for body building. Now, there is a smoothie craze with added whey protein isolates, which gives them a nice clean flavor. Ready-to-drink beverages are more challenging because whey protein is more thermally reactive than casein."
Ward cites research that indicates an intake of 10 to 20 grams of whey protein is beneficial and attainable by consuming two 8-fl.-oz. beverages with 5% whey protein. WPC, with about 80% protein, is less expensive than WPI, which has about 90% protein. WPI, however, has lower fat and lactose levels and has a milder flavor than WPC. He notes that the higher fat content in WPC offers the benefit of phospholipid components, which may help with tumor apoptosis.
Liquefying the mighty bean
Among beverages, probably the most widely recognized soy product is soymilk. The United Soybean Board, Chesterfield, MO, reports in its 10th Annual Survey on Consumer Attitudes About Nutrition that trial of soymilk increased to 39% and regular use climbed to 17% in 2003. However, it means that only about half of the 89% of consumers reporting that they were aware of soymilk were willing to try it, and only one-fifth actually drink it on a recurring basis.
The good news for those who want to incorporate more soy in their diet is that manufacturers are now incorporating soy in many different types of beverages. Ingredient suppliers from the divisions of large conglomerates like ADM, Decatur, IL, Cargill Soy Protein Solutions, Minneapolis, and The Solae Company, St. Louis, to small companies like Protient, St. Paul, MN, market soy protein isolates and concentrates that address some of the challenges encountered in soy-based beverages.
Key issues are taste, solubility and viscosity, and each company claims that its processing techniques help to solve these problems while preserving isoflavone content. Thus, formulators have many options for creating products that provide the desired sensory and nutritional characteristics in juices, smoothies and other beverages.
Protient, a whey protein supplier, is a newcomer to the soy protein market. Penny Garcia, product development specialist at the company, says, "Our soy protein isolate undergoes different processing than the others. We treat the protein gently, so there is not a lot of denaturing. We use membrane filtration and lower temperatures for heat pasteurization." She adds that this results in differences in functionality and sensory characteristics. Currently, the company has a range of isolates suitable for use in ready-to-drink beverages, and it is developing an instant version that will work in dry mixes.
Jean Heggie, segment marketing director, The Solae Company, notes, "The market is growing and very favorable for soy-based beverages." She cites a new lower-carbohydrate juice beverage with 7 grams of protein due out in January 2004 from the Snapple Beverage Company as part of the next wave of new-product introductions.
Adding soy protein to juice typically is a tricky proposition. However, The Solae Company has developed technology that deals with the solubility and flavor aspects specifically in acidic beverages.
"Our ingredient functions very nicely in low-carb, and certainly we are doing a lot of work in that area to see how our products optimally function with the non-nutritive sweeteners that are out on the marketplace and used quite extensively in this type of beverage product," Heggie says. Other opportunities she sees for soy-based beverages include soy lattes, heart-healthy drinks, good-for-you drinks for kids as well as general good-for-you beverages that can be enjoyed by the entire family.
In addition to offering soy protein isolates, The Solae Company recently acquired Central Soya and its ALPHA(tm) series of protein concentrates, "which is a brand-new way to process soy protein, and the resulting products are really very bland in flavor." Heggie says. She adds that these products are conducive for use in neutral soy beverages, such as flavored soymilk.
According to Heggie, the type of product, desired amount of protein per serving and entire ingredient system determine the choice of soy protein and the use level. She says, "It really depends on the type of taste experience you are trying to create for consumers, what level [of soy protein] might be appropriate in that particular beverage. But certainly there is a wide spectrum of levels of inclusion of soy protein that are possible across the wide range of different types of applications." She notes that all soy proteins function a little differently, and not one soy protein is the answer for an application.
Isoflavones are key to the nutritional value of soy protein. What's not known yet is whether the health benefits of soy are due to isoflavones only or to isoflavones in combination with protein and other components. Processing can greatly affect the level of isoflavones in a soy protein - for example, an alcohol wash will destroy them and some are lost in the by-product as the protein is concentrated.
Heggie explains, "We process our isolates using a water-wash process, so many of the isoflavones still remain intact through that process. We even have a product line where we guarantee a minimum level of isoflavones in those at 3.4 mg per gram of isoflavone, for marketers who are interested in making a claim around isoflavones."
Another way to ensure an adequate level of isoflavones is to add them. Both Cargill H&FT and ADM market branded isoflavone ingredients suitable for beverages. These GRAS ingredients contain some protein and other soy components, as well as isoflavones.
For those wishing to formulate natural "whole-food" beverages, ADM provides NutriSoy(r) organic whole-bean powder, which retains the composition of the natural dehulled whole beans and maintains nutritional components, such as proteins, isoflavones, phytosterols, prebiotic sugars and oil. The ingredient has a microfine particle size and a good flavor profile, so product designers can use it in soy-based beverages.
The power of blue
Several of natural fruits and their juices, especially highly pigmented ones like grapes, cherries, raspberries, dried plums and pomegranate juice, contain high levels of antioxidants that appear to have biological functions. Many reports put blueberries high on the list for antioxidant content and activity. Studies with highbush blueberries (Vaccinium ashei and V. corymbosum cultivars) and their juice indicate a role in preventing urinary-tract infections, inhibiting cancer and improving memory and brain performance in laboratory tests and animals. Other studies on specific compounds found in blueberries demonstrate properties that reduce heart-disease risk, strengthen collagen, regulate blood sugar, improve night vision, reduce replication of the HIV virus and treat diarrhea.
The color blue is a favorite for consumers of all ages across the globe, according to focus groups and color experts. Blueberries offer beverage manufacturers the opportunity to formulate products with natural blue color and good nutrition and taste. According to Tom Payne, market development, U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, San Francisco, the demand for fresh blueberries has skyrocketed in recent years. The good news is that the blueberry cultivars that are good for eating are not good for juice, so the popularity doesn't affect juice availability. Blueberries are available in single-strength purée, purée concentrate, single-strength juice, juice concentrate and essence for use in juice products.
Payne points out, "There are some technical difficulties in using blueberries in beverages, and that's why it is important that the processors have a dialogue with the manufacturer. Those growers who market for juice know which cultivars to use. Certain varieties have higher pectin and end up gelling in a beverage." By specifying product requirements, the manufacturer can receive an appropriate cultivar and/or advice on needed processing modifications. He adds that all products need to be chilled to preserve the antioxidants.
Blueberry beverages on the market include juices, tea, smoothies, beers and wine. Several nutritionally fortified beverages on the market include blueberry juice for its color, taste and antioxidant content. The juice has about 12% sugar with a low acid content of about 1.9%. Payne says that 100% blueberry juice is very tart, so blending 20% to 30% with apple and cranberry juices works well. He adds, "The skin is where the good stuff is," so incorporating the skin provides the antioxidants and blue color.
Blueberry beverages are also making the restaurant scene in a new drink trend, bubble beverages, which contain tapioca balls with a chewy consistency. At Vong's Thai Kitchen in Chicago, a blueberry smoothie with fresh blueberries is the base for a bubble beverage.
The good side of fat
Clinical research shows that CLA intake at 0.7 grams and higher may help reduce body fat and increase muscle mass when combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Other proposed health benefits based on animal and in vitro studies include anti-carcinogenic, anti-atherogenic, anti- diabetic, enhanced immune function and increased bone-formation effects. The fatty acid is a natural component of dairy and ruminant meat products, but only in small quantities (3 to 7 mg per gram fat) that vary according to season and feed. Efforts to increase the level of CLA in beef and dairy foods by adding oils such as canola, safflower, linseed or flaxseed look promising but are a few years from commercialization. So, based on current levels of CLA in foods and effective doses for body-composition changes, one would have to consume excess calories and fat to consume effective amounts of CLA.
In answer to this, Loders Croklaan Lipid Nutrition, Channahon, IL, markets Clarinol(tm) CLA for use as a dietary supplement and as an ingredient in foods and beverages. The company makes it from safflower oil using a patented process. A current application is nutrition-shake mixes for weight loss sold in health-food stores.
Cognis North America, Cincinnati, also makes a CLA, Tonalin(r), from safflower oil using a patented technology. This brand of CLA is used in many clinical studies and can be found in a number of dietary-supplement products.
Research on omega-3 fatty acids reveals their multiple roles in promoting health and preventing disease. As highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA), omega-3s and their cousins, omega-6 fatty acids, are precursors to eicosanoids, which are part of the body's self-healing response. Omega-3s and omega-6s elicit different responses and compete with each other for the eicosanoid-forming enzymes, with eicosanoids being formed from omega-6s more rapidly and producing a more-intense receptor signal.
The ratio of dietary omega-3s to omega-6s is reflected in tissue composition, and therefore, diet can impact eicosanoids and the body's response to antagonists. A number of health benefits - reduction of risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer and stroke; improved vision and mental functioning; and anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic action - are associated with a higher intake of omega-3s than is commonly consumed in current dietary patterns.
The primary source for the key omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is fish oil. Alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) is a precursor of the EPA and DHA found in some vegetables, nuts and seeds. However, the conversion rate of ALA to EPA and DHA is modest and considered inefficient.
Manufacturers supplement many infant formulas with DHA, and omega-3-fortified milk debuted in Canada and Australia in autumn of 2003. But when formulating most beverages with omega-3s, fish-oil-based ingredients can present flavor and processing challenges.
A couple of manufacturers market fish-oil concentrates that address these concerns. Marinol(tm) oil from Loders Croklaan is a fish-oil concentrate manufactured by a unique process that results in a cleaner taste and aroma, allowing its use in dairy and fruit beverages. And DSM Nutritional Products, Parsippany, NJ, (formerly Roche Vitamins) markets ROPUFA '75', a deodorized oil from cold-water fish, suitable for use in milk and other drinks.
Daniel Best, marketing director, Pizzey's Milling, says that the ingredient's key three characteristics are that it is very finely milled; whole flaxseed - not a meal; and pasteurized, so it can be added to a dry mix. Because it contains both soluble and insoluble components, a suspension of the insoluble fraction forms in beverages; therefore, it is not suitable for clear drinks. However, it works well in soy beverages and many fruit juices, resulting in a smooth, creamy texture.
Recommended use levels for this flaxseed ingredient are 2.2% to 2.8% by weight, which results in 1,200 to 1,800 mg of omega-3s per serving. With 18% dietary fiber and 6% soluble fiber, it contributes to the viscosity and competes for water with other ingredients, sometimes necessitating ingredient and processing adjustments. The manufacturer recommends pectin and agar as stabilizers, which suspend the flaxseed particles while providing textural and flavor-release properties.
The product works well in both high- and low-acid beverages. Best says that this flaxseed ingredient has potential in milk, juice-based smoothies and soymilk, where it gives manufacturers an opportunity to offer more nutrition and differentiate their products.
Question of carbohydrates
A sports drink from PacificHealth Laboratories, Inc., Woodbridge, NJ, currently uses trehalose. Tagatose just debuted in a Diet Pepsi-flavored Slurpee(r). Many high-intensity and low-calorie carbohydrate-based sweeteners offer flavor-enhancement properties in addition to sweetness and low glycemic response. With the current high level of consumer interest in low-carbohydrate and -calorie beverages, these sweeteners offer nutritional and marketing advantages.
For the serious athlete, a beverage with easy-to-assimilate carbohydrates taken during an endurance competition, such as a marathon, or during a high-intensity sport, such as tennis, may make the difference between winning and losing. Consequently, most sports drinks contain sugars. However, not all sugars are equal in their effect on glucose and energy metabolism during exercise and recovery. Pure glucose and pure fructose have varying effects on insulin response and glycogen metabolism, and the body absorbs them at different rates. Fructose is poorly absorbed, produces a low insulin response and spares muscle glycogen, but it can also cause intestinal distress. Glucose, on the other hand, is quickly absorbed and metabolized for energy; however, it causes a high insulin response that encourages the storage of glucose as glycogen at a time when it is needed for more energy. Thus, most sports beverages use a mix of carbohydrates.
Honey is a natural mixture of fructose, glucose and some oligosaccharides. Recent research from the University of Memphis, TN, Exercise and Sport Nutrition Laboratory, supported by the National Honey Board, Longmont, CO, demonstrated its effectiveness as a carbohydrate source for athletes pre- and post-exercise.
The other main category of carbohydrates in beverages is fiber. While technically not a nutrient, fiber is considered essential for health. Some fiber is totally nondigestible and some is partially digestible. Both types play a role in intestinal health. Nondigestible fibers, such as cellulose and resistant starch, are generally insoluble and create bulk that aids in intestinal peristalsis. Partially digestible fibers, such as inulin, fructooligosaccharides and polydextrose, are generally soluble and aid intestinal health as prebiotics. In addition, soluble fibers are associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. The success of adding fiber to a beverage depends on its characteristics. Smoothies and other milk- and juice-based beverages are naturals for adding fiber, while clear beverages pose more difficulties in terms of taste, texture and consumer expectations.
"Solubility, transparency, and low viscosity are important ingredient characteristics for a clear beverage," says Deb Erpelding, technical services, ADM. "That's why Fibersol-2 is a good choice. We can add dietary fiber to clear beverages at levels which meet nutrition content claims without a noticeable effect on flavor, texture or appearance." This fiber ingredient is acid and heat/retort stable, she notes, so it will work in a wide variety of beverage applications.
(For more information on carbohydrates, see "Formulating Function into Beverages" in the January 2003 issue of Food Product Design.)
Putting it all together
Packaging some of the ingredients in a premix can improve their delivery while simplifying processing steps. Steve Fowler, director of applications, beverage flavors, at Mastertaste, a division of Kerry Group, LLC, Lakeland, FL, says, "We have expertise at blending ingredients to come up with the nutritional and flavor delivery and the visual that a beverage manufacturer wants. We are expert at the entire construction of the beverage." He adds that the company considers factors such as stability, separation, equipment constraints, processing conditions such as pasteurization or UHT, appropriate stabilizers for the type and pH of the beverage - all of which are important to delivering the right mouthfeel and flavor.
Primo Bader, vice president, of beverage flavors North America, for Mastertaste, adds, "Functional beverages have developed a following with a certain percentage of the population. But if it doesn't taste good, consumers won't come back." He says that when working with functional ingredients, the company likes to use efficacious levels, which can create challenges to taste and texture. He explains that often the supplements, like grape seed and glucosamine, have distinct tastes as well as solubility problems. Glucosamine comes in two versions, and one is salty, so knowing which to use to create the proper taste profile is essential. He adds that omega-3 fatty acids and plant sterols can be difficult to work with in beverages, but esterified sterols will go into emulsions that make it easier to add to a beverage. Fowler and Bader hold a patent on sterol esters in any beverage.
Functional ingredients must provide technological and nutritional functionality. At Cargill H&FT, Snyder says, "we have the capabilities to modify ingredients from difficult-to-formulate forms to more food-friendly forms. We have developed proprietary processes that result in ingredients with the same functional benefit but are easier to use in food."
At recent trade shows, the company showcased a number of beverages and other functional foods containing its brands of trehalose, phytosterols, chondroitin, soy isoflavones and inulin. Trehalose, a unique sweetener that also stabilizes proteins, enhances flavors and has a low glycemic effect, was featured in sports drinks and fitness waters. "Bone Appetit," a prototype raspberry tea for women, contained calcium and erythritol, plus soy isoflavones and inulin, which may help promote bone health.
However, one of the company's biggest ingredient successes to date is in the recently introduced Minute Maid(r) Premium Heart Wise' with CoroWise(tm) plant sterols, the first orange juice clinically proven to reduce cholesterol. CoroWise is co-branded both on the package and in print advertising with Coca-Cola Co.'s Minute Maid.
Nutritional beverages have much to offer in the ongoing campaign to improve dietary intake of traditional nutrients and other health-promoting substances. At the same time, new beverages incorporating novel ingredients and botanicals must provide real value and not oversell their health benefits. Hopefully, as FDA updates labeling regulations and the approval process for claims, it will become easier for consumers to recognize which products in the new generation of beverages will help them drink their way to better health.
Angela M. Miraglio, M.S., R.D., ([email protected]) is a Fellow of the American Dietetic Association from Des Plaines, IL. She has extensive experience in trade communications, public and consumer affairs and technical communications, as well as product development and nutritional assessment. Her firm, AMM Food & Nutrition Consulting, provides food and nutrition communications and technical-support services to food and beverage companies and trade and professional associations.
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