Functionality in beverages is meeting consumer demands

Berry-smoothieThe growth in global demand for functional beverages is fuelled by several consumer trends that have been identified by IFT’s Food Technology magazine, starting with the number one trend labelled ‘real food nutrition’, which is seeing consumers choosing to get more of their nutrients from the food and beverages they consume, rather than from supplements.

According to the April article, Top 10 functional food trends of 2012, research has found that core supplement users are switching to nutritional super foods because they have doubts about the bioavailability and effects of long-term use of supplements.

Other trends include ‘liquidification’, which will see more new functional beverages on the market as producers respond to consumer interest in beverages for gut health, heart health, immunity, sports, energy, alertness, and weight control; and ‘first aid’, which says consumers are using functional foods and beverages in place of medications to deal with some health problems, such a gastrointestinal problems and colds.

Sharon Bolel of Sharon Bolel Chemical Marketing, a division of CJP Chemicals, says there is a growing interest in functional beverages in South Africa as forward-thinking beverage producers take serious notice of the trends that are burgeoning in other parts of the world. ‘The fact is that functional beverages are an easy solution for time-strapped and health-conscious consumers, both for themselves and for their family members,’ says Bolel.

With this in mind, Bolel believes that Naturex’s astute awareness of global trends and its ability to respond proactively to them is a driver behind the leading natural ingredient manufacturer’s recent recommendation of a series of functional beverage ingredient combinations for specific health conditions. These ingredients fall under the Naturex Nathealthy brand and the beverages address issues of cognitive performance, detox, weight management and cardiovascular health.

The cognitive beverage ingredient combination is based on green tea extract, which contains theanine. Theanine has a similar chemical structure to glutamate, which is a neurotransmitter related to memory and has the ability to pass through the blood-brain barrier. It has been shown to have a cerebro-protective effect and a preventative effect on neuronal cells. Theanine also has a positive effect on focus and attention during demanding cognitive tasks.

The beverage recipe includes more than 35 per cent green tea extract, as well as citrus flavouring, dextrose, citric acid, aspartame and acesulfame K.

The detox beverage is based on milk thistle and dandelion extracts. Milk thistle contains sylimarin, which has been shown to stabilise cell membranes in the liver, thus minimising cell damage, and is also known for helping to regenerate liver cells. Dandelion leaf contains various active compounds including flavonoids. It demonstrates diuretic action along with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The detox beverage recipe includes milk thistle and dandelion extracts, apple flavouring, dextrose, citric acid, aspartame, and acesulfame K.

The weight management beverage is also based on green tea extract, which contains a high level of polyphenols as well as caffeine. Green tea can inhibit fat digestion, increase calorie burning, and promote a reduction in body fat. The recipe for this beverage includes green tea, garden mint flavouring, dextrose, aspartame and acesulfame K.

The cardiovascular smoothie is based on blackberry, blackcurrant, and bilberry extracts, which are all high in antioxidants, and which reduce cell-damaging free radicals. This smoothie is rich in polyphenols (and one of its sub-category anthocyanosides), which are said to counteract the process of ageing and immune system deterioration, thus reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. The recipe for the smoothie includes blackberry, blackcurrant and apple powder, bilberry extract and silicium dioxide.

‘There is excellent opportunity here for a beverage manufacturer to develop powder stick sachets of these functional drink recipes for consumers to then simply dilute in water,’ comments Bolel. ‘This solution to the growing demand for functionality in food and beverages would also have the added benefit of being more budget friendly than some of the excellent functional beverages already flying off the shelves in our stores.’