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Formulating Functional Beverages

Flavor may be king in functional beverages, but other members of the sensory royal court, such as visual appeal, mouthfeel and scent, also need careful consideration.

By Anthony Palmieri, Contributing Editor

Great taste, proven benefits, simple messages, great taste, stable ingredients, scientific substantiation, compliance with regulations, beverage-friendly ingredients, consumer trends and needs and did we mention great taste? There are numerous considerations when formulating a functional beverage for todays market. Beverage manufacturers increasingly seek out partners that can bring nutrition and applications expertise to the table, as well as innovative ingredients, to help them discover untapped opportunities in functional beverages.

When examining the need for a functional beverage, consumer trends need top consideration. Mintel reported dollar sales in the non-alcoholic beverage category grew 13.1 percent between 2003 and 2008, and are projected to grow at a rate of 3.7 percent between 2008 and 2013. The market research firm is projecting higher-than-average growth for functional waters, energy drinks and ready-to-drink (RTD) teas and coffees.

Specific health platforms offer strong growth opportunities within demographic, gender and active lifestyle categories. Key areas of interest include enhanced cognitive function, bone health, energy, weight management, beauty (skin health) and immune function. Scientific substantiation for these specific health messages is critical as the regulatory environment tightens and consumers are better informed and educated in the area of health and nutrition than they were just a few years ago. For these reasons, it is of paramount importance for beverage formulators to be able to fully substantiate a products claimed health benefits.

In addition to science-based benefits satisfying consumer wants, ingredients must meet certain regulatory and certain religious (i.e., kosher, halal) requirements. From a regulatory perspective, ingredients must be GRAS (generally recognized as safe) or approved food additives to be incorporated into mainstream functional beverages. And certain religious supervisory groups have different requirements and standards for addressing kosher and halal labeling.

Obviously, when formulating beverages, Taste is King, but other members of the sensory royal court, such as visual appeal, mouthfeel and scent, also need careful consideration. Ensuring a product has mass-market appeal is part of the foundation when developing a beverage. For these reasons, ingredient selection is instrumental in product development, as many functional ingredients may negatively impact the products sensory profile. For example, incorporating vitamin E into a clear beverage may be a challenge, as most vitamin E market forms are not clear in solution. Therefore, the selection of the proper vitamin E form is essential for optimal beverage presentation. Additionally, ingredient interaction is an area that needs a good deal of thought. For example, vitamin A breaks down in the presence of trace minerals and isomerizes at a low pH. Iron, copper and other metal ions enhance ascorbic acid degradation. However, the use of specifically formulated ingredients or addition of antioxidants can help improve the stability of certain vitamins and functional ingredients.

Ingredient interaction may not only affect beverage sensory characteristics, but may also affect a beverages claimed shelf life. Formulators must ensure the amount claimed per serving for each of the functional ingredients is maintained throughout the products life cycle. Formulation and manufacturing complexities are dramatically reduced when working with a supplier capable of providing customized nutritional blends that address the various technical, sensorial, religious and regulatory challenges, allowing the producers to concentrate on satisfying consumers needs. However, ensuring a beverage meets customer expectations requires a very good understanding of the many factors that can affect a beverage producte.g., beverage base, processing conditions, pH, packaging type, expected shelf life, etc. A superior premix supplier has the ability to provide technical- and product-based expertise in a marketable form that addresses those factors affecting the overall quality of a product. Ultimately, the supplier is providing the formulator with a product that can be directly added to a beverage formulation that has the best chances of functional success.

In todays market, the complexities of formulating a functional beverage are far greater than would appear on the surface. This creates the need to identify and align with an innovative partner with strong cross-functional expertise in nutrition science, marketing, regulatory affairs, technical applications and ingredient manufacturing. For a formulator, peace of mind in launching a successful product lies in choosing the right partner.

Anthony Palmieri is the director of technical marketing at DSM Nutritional Products.

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