Better beverages: High protein and digestive health tipped for strong growth

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03 Jul 2018 --- Nutrition science is making itself heard in the beverage category. Protein coffees, probiotic juices and turmeric teas are common sightings as the demand for convenient and functional foods increases with consumers. The penetration of better-for-you related claims for soft drinks products increased from 58 percent in 2012, to 65 percent in 2017 globally. 

If we look more specifically at the fastest growing active health claims in beverages, including soft drinks, dairy drinks and sports RTD, we can see that strong front-of-pack protein claims are performing well. There was a 27 percent rise in high/source of protein claims between 2013 and 2017. Particularly strong growth has also been reported in added iron claims of +26 percent, while eye health, probiotic and more general vitamin/mineral fortified claims are also performing strongly in NPD. 

There is an ongoing rise of herbal ingredients in beverages too amid the plant-based trend and a real shift towards natural options. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of new beverage launches reported with herbal ingredients is growing with an average annual growth rate of +11 percent globally. In fact, in 2017, 10.5 percent of beverage launches reported globally featured herb ingredients. Some of the fastest growing herbal ingredients include basil, which enjoyed +26 percent CAGR between 2013 and 2017, and ginger which was up by 20 percent over this period. 

Click to Enlarge
Dr. Lisa Ryan, Head of the
Department of Natural Sciences at
Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology

During a webinar on FoodIngredientsFirst last week, Dr. Lisa Ryan, Head of the Department of Natural Sciences at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in Ireland discussed some of the up and coming nutrition ingredients. 

Dr. Ryan highlights the health benefits and functionality of ingredients gaining attention in emerging nutrition research, as well as the types of beverages for which they may be best suited, in a Q&A session shortly after the presentation. 

“Any claims related to digestive health are indeed set to grow and I do see a bright future for this. The more we know about bacteria in the gut and how it communicates with the whole human system is a huge and innovative area. It’s a vast area set to grow, without a doubt, but there is a lot of understanding that needs to be achieved before that,” she explains. 

Seaweed extracts are one area that holds potential within the functional beverages space, she points out. “There are a number of trends that look at seaweed extracts in beverages and although there has been a traditional use of seaweed products in the past, it hasn’t been a common ingredient. If you take Ireland, for example, on the coastline, there is a traditional use of seaweed, but there is only now a development of products that are becoming more widespread.”

Meanwhile, green tea and green tea extracts have become more popular in beverages that are marketed on a weight loss platform. “Satiety reduces hunger, and green tea works through a number of different mechanisms, it includes polyphenols, which can also be extracted and effective for weight loss,” says Dr. Ryan. “It also has the dual effect of increasing energy expenditure and also potentially lowering glycemic response to sugar.”

Following on from Dr. Ryan was Dr. Ben Lawlor, Director of Sensory, Consumer and Analytical Sciences at Kerry.

Dr. Lawlor discusses how sensory science can be used to influence food intake across age groups and highlights the techniques to create beverages that can help reduce calorie intake for consumers focused on weight management or help populations who struggle with appetite eat more to meet their daily nutrient requirements.

“There is a lot of crossover from sports nutrition and the aging population. There are huge opportunities for development in anything that enhances the muscle mass, from a sports nutrition point of view and equally for seniors. Obviously, there are different opportunities in sports nutrition, but certainly, there is a huge growing market for better-for-you beverages specifically targeting those markets,” he says.  

Click to Enlarge
Dr. Ben Lawlor, Director of Sensory,
Consumer and Analytical Sciences at Kerry

He notes how we have seen how sensory attributes can influence energy intake. “The elderly population has problems with malnutrition and the food industry can really help these populations by producing high-quality products,” he continues. “Higher protein beverages can help with satiety for both the sports nutrition market and seniors.”

Many plant proteins do have a strong aroma and aftertaste and Dr. Lawlor discussed some of these issues.

“We are always trying to mask the taste of proteins, specifically soy proteins. Of course, it does depend on the expectation of the consumer,” he replies. “If the consumer is buying a drink and they see soy protein listed as an ingredient, they sometimes expect it to have a certain aftertaste. With medical nutrition, they expect it to have an off tasting aftertaste because they feel like it’s going to make them better. On the other end, if it’s high-end or premium product they expect a good taste. You also have to consider the expectation on the brand – does it communicate a great tasting, deliverance or it is more of a sports brand. If so, they would likely sacrifice a bit on taste as it’s a tradeoff between the taste and performance of a product,” he claims. 

In sensory, there are a wide range of techniques available, so if you do need more consumer-related terms to use more consumer-related sensory methods, according to Dr. Lawlor. 

“It’s a case of applying the right tool to the right occasion, but there is a tool for every scenario in beverages that you can imagine,” he adds. 

“Higher-end phrases, such as refreshing, savory or indulgent refreshment savory evoke an emotional attachment. All of these more upper-end terms can be translated down and decoded to sensory attributes. There is a lot of interest in beverages, which is driving the higher end terms and people are fascinated in the experiences that their beverages can offer,” he concludes.

The future for functional and fortified beverages looks strong as sensory innovation aids formulators in overcoming tomorrow's taste and texture challenges.

You can listen to the webinar here

By Elizabeth Green

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