Sponsored By

Enhanced Water on the BrainEnhanced Water on the Brain

August 1, 2007

12 Min Read
Enhanced Water on the Brain

Making enhanced water delicious and nutritious often requires the use of masking agents to disguise the off flavors from added vitamins or nutraceuticals.
Photo: Fortitech, Inc.

Consumers are thirsty for new beverages, especially waters. Americans spent $10.9 billion in 2006 to hydrate. According to Gary Hemphill, managing director, Beverage Marketing Corp., New York, bottled water is the fastest growing of the major U.S. beverage categories. With 8.3 billion gallons consumed, it surpasses beer, coffee and milk, propelling bottled water to the No. 2 slot only behind carbonated soft drinks (CSDs). Enhanced waters, a fastemerging subsegment of the bottled water market, accounted for 231.7 million gallons in 2006, increasing 24% from 2005s 176.0 million gallons.

The growth is driven by heightened consumer demand for healthier refreshment, says Hemphill. Other factors that have helped drive the growth are ever-broadening distribution, package-size proliferation and aggressive pricing.

Water by any other name 

Enhanced waters go by many fancy names, and may carry different health claims or bio-benefits. Some of the terms used to describe enhanced waters include: fitness, functional, fortified, energy, vitamin, smart, premium, fruit, flavored, structured, life, and wellness, among other lengthier and clever marketing monikers. Consider Pentas ultra premium purified drinking water or Glaceaus VitaminWater Power-C nutrient enhanced water beverage. Or try Hydrate20, which transforms purified water into an oxygenated, energized and magnetized wetter, better, water.

But what is enhanced water? Well, its not water, according to FDAs definition of bottled water, which it regulates as a packaged food product. Title 21, Part 165 of the Code of Federal Regulations says: Bottled water is water that is intended for human consumption and that is sealed in bottles or other containers with no added ingredients except that it may optionally contain safe and suitable antimicrobial agents. FDA has established a standard of identity to define the several different types of bottled or drinking water, based on their origin or treatment: artesian, mineral, purified, sparkling, spring, well and municipal.

I cant find anything that regulates the term enhanced waters, says Mark Newman, a flavor chemist and independent product development consultant based in Minneapolis. To me, water should have nothing added to itbecause then it becomes a beverage.

Others agree. Cheryl Mitchell, Ph.D., president and senior research chemist, Creative Research Management, Stockton, CA, says FDAs guidelines for bottled water are pure and simple: If the water has calories in it, it is classified as a beverage. Companies are positioning enhanced beverages that contain sugars as waters, but, in reality, the FDA may not support this definition of bottled water, she says. Any type of additive can change the playing field away from what should be considered a water.

In fact, there is no standard definition for enhanced waters, says Phil Ross, beverage industry manager, Synergy Flavors, Wauconda, IL. Consumers accept and understand water as clear and calorie-freethat is what they expect. The term enhanced waters connotes the image of pure water with some good things added to it. Marketers are taking liberties with the term water, when in fact they are marketing something else.

Water works 

Savvy marketers capitalize on the word water, because they know consumers believe water in any form is good for them. So, manufacturers use water as the base and add myriad ingredients to enhance it, including vitamins, minerals, proteins, sweeteners, herbs, botanicals, fiber and fruit. And consumers are buying it.

A number of factors are driving the demand for enhanced waters. One is the consumer trend toward making lifestyle changes to achieve optimal health, offers Kurt Stiles, executive chef and CEO, Intelligent Ingredients, LLC, St. Paul, MN. We want to achieve wellness; people associate water with well-being, he says. We need to drink enough water to advance a normal diet cycle, which can offset making poor food choices from time to time.

In addition, notes Max Maxwell, business development manager, Glanbia Nutritionals, Monroe, WI, people want to get more from their basic food and drink. In this case, more can refer to nutrients, convenience, affordability, portability or availability.

While some people want water that tastes, well, like water, others want a little something extra, without crossing into other beverage categories, many of which are thought to be unhealthy, unnatural and calorie-ridden. Consumers definitely want taste in addition to healthier drinks, says Bill Meer, Ph.D., director of extract operations, BI Nutraceuticals, Long Beach, CA.

Whats in the water 

Water itself is a forgotten nutrient, says Ram Chaudhari, Ph.D., senior vice president of R&D, Fortitech, Schenectady, NY. But there are many ingredients floating around in enhanced waters:

Vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins, including C, B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 and B12, are most commonly found in vitamin-enriched waters, which are sometimes referred to as aquaceuticals. Vitamin C is as an antioxidant, and the B vitamins assist in energy metabolism, both important to a healthy immune system. B vitamins are especially desirable in enhanced waters, says Ross, noting that vitamin content has to be balanced. You cant have too much of one vitamin and too little of another.

Newman cautions that adding B vitamins can create off-flavors, which will require the use of specialand sometimes costlymasking agents; this is especially true with B1 (thiamin), which carries sulfur qualities or associated rotten-egg flavor and smell.

Fat-soluble vitamins A and E aid immune-system function and are also found in vitamin waters, though less frequently than their water-soluble counterparts. However, surfactants or other additives can render these watersoluble for easier addition to water-based beverages. Developers formulating with vitamins A and E have to be careful of the cloudiness that can occur in the end product.

Chaudhari suggests using only moderate levels of vitamins in any enhanced water product; add too much and it wont taste good. He recommends adding only enough vitamins to meet 10% to 15% of dietary recommendations. In addition to flavor issues, its possible that a regular and frequent consumer could consume a megadose of vitamins if the levels are too high.

Minerals. Many minerals occur naturally in water or can be added without major problems, and many typically enhance the taste of the product, says Newman. Silica, a natural cleansing and strengthening agent, is a main mineral ingredient found in Fiji Natural Artesian Water. Fiji also contains low levels of calcium and magnesium, which join forces in maintaining a healthy heart.

Electrolytes are responsible for the efficient movement of nutrients into cells and the passing of wastes out of cells. Commonly included electrolytes include sodium and potassium, a combination that improves rehydration while eliminating fluid retention. Chloride and calcium also are considered electrolytes.

Some debate is ongoing about the benefits of minerals in water, as well as misconceptions about hydration, according to Larry Stowe, Ph.D., chief scientist, Hydrate20, Eagle, ID. Most minerals in water on the market today are inorganic and the body cannot easily use them, he says. The Hydrate20 product combines fulvic acid, an organic mineral electrolyte, with Himalayan salts, also a natural form of trace minerals.

Any water has to quickly flow and absorb into the cells to achieve hydration. Water in the cells delivers high performance, he says. Just because you throw something into the mix does not mean the body is going to utilize it, Ross says. Combinations of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients should be in correct proportion to what the body needs.

Protein. Important for muscle recovery, protein is included in several enhanced waters. Whey proteins, in particular, work well in water because they have high solubility and dispersibility, and they produce a high-clarity beverage with a smooth mouthfeel. Sugar or citric acid is typically added to overcome the chalky texture that can occur. The amount of protein used should be determined by testing and taste, but 10% to 20% of the RDI serves as a guideline.

Whey protein isolate plays a starring role in Glanbias prototype High-Protein Sports Water, with 40 grams per 8-oz. serving. In sports nutrition, whey protein is accepted as a superior protein, because of an athletes desire for extended endurance and muscle building, Maxwell says.

How much protein should be added is a matter of testing and taste, but 10% to 20% of the RDI serves as a guideline. For example, Kelloggs Special K20 Protein Water delivers a small dose of whey protein: 5 grams per 16-oz. bottle.

Sweeteners. Sweeteners can serve to mask other additives and nutrients, as well as provide a low calorie content (10 to 30 kcal per serving) in enhanced waters. When the desirable calorie limit for enhanced waters is zero calories, natural and artificial sweeteners and acids are the obvious choices for flavor, says Newman. Most producers of flavored waters use classic artificial sweeteners sucralose, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) and aspartamenone of which match sucroses taste, which is more widely used, regardless of calorie implications. A synergistic blend of artificial sweeteners, for instance sucralose and Ace-K, tend to give product developers the best results.

Depending on the function of your water, developers can choose between nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners, says Joe Willoughby, beverage industry director, Cargill Flavor Systems, Minneapolis. Many of the waters on the shelves will be in the range of zero to 20 calories. Zerose erythritol is an all-natural alternative to sugar, which meets consumers growing demand for no-calorie, natural and low-sugar products.

Nutraceuticals, herbs and botanicals. The best ingredients for enhanced waters are those that, first and foremost, are safe and have demonstrated efficacy, says Robert Worsena, director of sales, food and beverage, InterHealth Nutraceuticals, Benicia, CA. They must also be heat-stable and highly soluble; not provide taste, color or odor; and not contribute to mouthfeel. The ingredients should not detract from the finished product in any way.

The array of nutraceuticals is endless depending on regulatory status of the ingredient and the finished product, since not all are considered GRAS. For example, InterHealth markets two FDA GRAS-affirmed products for weight management. SuperCitri- Max is a hydroxycitric-acid compound bound to both calcium and potassium. This tasteless, colorless nonstimulant helps curb appetite and burn fat. Its counterpart, ChromeMate, is a niacin-bound chromium complex that helps promote healthy blood sugar levels and normal body weight, especially in individuals who are diabetic or obese.

Other popular choices include energy-enhancing ingredients, like guarana, or ingredients that provide antioxidant benefits, like tea catechins.

One of the challenges of adding herbs and botanicals is flavor impact. Many herbs have unique flavors that are hard to cover up with conventional flavors, says Newman. Some popular botanicals found in enhanced waters include:

  • Ginseng (energy boost and stress relief);

  • Ginkgo biloba (enhanced memory);

  • Echinacea (immune health);

  • Chamomile (calming effect);

  • Mint (coolant, refresher).

MetroMint Spearmint water is faring well, as it stays true to water, with less than 1% of mint flavor essence and no sweetener; it has zero calories. Chaudhari says 25 to 50 mg of any botanical is plenty, and higher levels often leave a bitter, unpleasant aftertaste. Flavor-masking agents, such as citrus (lemon, lime), tropical, peach, raspberry and cherry, can alleviate bitterness and contribute a light flavor.

BI Nutraceuticals offers natural botanical extracts, such as açaí, acerola, goji and blueberry, that provide antioxidant benefits to enhanced waters. For a caffeine kick, developers can specify the Brazilian plant extract guarana to produce an energy water. Water with botanicals typically contains a small amount of flavor, citric acid, preservative and non-nutritive sweetener to make a balanced, low-calorie beverage, according to Meer.

Fiber. Fiber is known to lower blood cholesterol and promotes heart health and proper digestion. Soluble-fiber ingredients can be added to water, as long as they dont introduce too much viscosity. ADM, Decatur, IL, recently debuted its version of fiber water. Fibersol-2 clear, dietary-soluble fiber (digestion-resistant maltodextrin) is stable, has low viscosity and adds no flavor to the finished product. ADM advises adding a small amount (5%) of juice for a refreshing taste.

Superfruits. Rich in antioxidants, superfruits, according to Stiles, are the latest craze in the ready-to-drink beverage category and enhanced waters are no exception. Glaceau VitaminWater Power-C has dragonfruit extract, the fruit of a pitaya cactus indigenous to Central and South America. VitaminWater XXX claims triple antioxidants with its blend of açaí, blueberry and pomegranate extracts. Function brand waters include an açaí version rich in omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids. Superfruits to watch include açaí, black currants, cranberry, dragonfruit, kiwi, feijoa (pineapple guava), goji (also known as wolfberry), noni, mangosteen and pomegranate.

Developers have to temper, or mask, the addition of tart and/or acrid superfruits with light sweetness and acidity, to make them desirable in an enhanced water product, says Stiles. Above all, it has to be refreshing, not to mention low in calories10 to 50 per serving.

Phil Ross cautions marketers on positioning their superfruits. There needs to be some consumer awareness on the fruit before it will be accepted, he says.

Watered down 

Mitchell predicts the whole-foods movement will ultimately create a new category of whole-food beverages, with ingredients like whole fruits and grains leading the way. This position is a 180-degree turn from the current trend in waters.

Enhanced water does a wonderful job of providing nutrients that the American public wouldnt normally consume on their own, Newman says. But why not just eat a raw piece of fruit? He cites laziness and busyness as factors contributing to consumers decision to get nutrition from Flintstone sources, rather than eating, cooking and enjoying the more bio-available sources of nutrients.

If behavior patterns shift radically toward eating vs. drinking nutrients, then Steven Goldstein, president, FoodThinque, New York, envisions a change in the way we get water. Water may go back in the other directionto just water. Water purification in the home and in the office is a growing market segment that cannot be ignored. When the price of bottled water exceeds the price of gas, people will take notice, he says.

Deb North is a freelance food writer, marketing consultant and recent graduate of LeCordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. She can be contacted at [email protected]

Subscribe and receive the latest insights on the healthy food and beverage industry.
Join 47,000+ members. Yes, it's completely free.

You May Also Like