SPECIAL REPORT: Natural Ingredients on the Rise in Beverages

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07 Nov 2016 --- There is a growing trend for manufacturers to incorporate healthy ingredients into formulations where possible in a wide range of market categories. In particular, new product innovation based on fruit and/or vegetables with better-for-you appeal is abundant, providing consumers with greater choice in order to eat and live well. FoodIngredientsFirst takes a closer look at what is trending in the beverages category. 

Natural claims seem to be the biggest driver in beverage trend and the industry is also seeing huge opportunities for clean label ingredients. Health claims for beverage are also trending as functional benefits are influencing product development in this sector. Herbal extracts are said to be playing a major role in this area, especially when it comes to authentic and natural taste. Even fruit tonalities such as apple and mango are also fueling this movement. 

It can sometimes be a challenge to reinvent new flavors or ingredients, particularly when it comes to interesting combinations, which have the potential to drive a trend. There are opportunities with vegetables such as beetroot, cucumber or carrots which are still niche in the beverages segment so far, and have the potential to appeal to a wide audience. Berries, have been neglected for sometime, but are back in focus and the whole area of herbs and spices are now seen in a new light, the likes of mint and ginger, give complexity as well as a mature taste to mainstream beverages.

In the past, the common energy drinks were defined by caffeine, sugar, B-vitamins, and amino acid derivatives, but nowadays the industry is looking at a much broader variety of ingredients and new positioning in the energy drinks market. 

Natural and organic ingredients providing the consumer with an energy that is perceived as being “better” or “clean,” range from green tea and guarana, to fruit juices and natural sweeteners. The natural caffeine sources are coming along with an ingredient mix that, defined by its natural source, is providing synergistic effects for health and wellness and sustained energy. Mental energy targeting effects on alertness, focus and concentration, memory, are initially associated with caffeine and the B-vitamins. 

Beverage company WILD Flavors & Specialty Ingredients (WFSI) are attempting to stimulate the beverage sector. Many of their concepts, aim to appeal to consumers that want premium-quality products, which complement their mindful approach to eating.

Most recent concepts from WFSI, a business unit of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), feature different juice contents and distinctive blends of fruits and vegetables, customized to specific target groups and consumption situations.

Anja Grzbiela, Product Management WFSI, told FoodIngredientsFirst: “The Fruit & Veggie products are triggering new impulses in the segments of still drinks and juice,” she explains, “The new taste profiles do not only arise from the combination of different fruits, but instead vegetables, a new component that has until then only been rarely used, and serves as a harmonious taste partner for the fruit juices.”

Grzbiela added: “Vegetables in drinks are well-known and familiar, mainly because of carrot or tomato in the beverage segment. What is new is that either a familiar, but still new alternative vegetable comes up in the still drinks segment or an interesting and tasty juice with additional vegetable options highlights the high juice segment.”

The new beverage products come at a time where vegetables in beverages are at their most popular. Product launches with fruits and vegetables have nearly quintupled in the European juice sector over the past five years. Whereas there were 62 new products in 2011, in 2015 the number had grown to 296 fruit and vegetable blends on the shelves. Great Britain, Germany, and Poland are leading the way.

In addition to beverages with carrot, which has been popular for years, more and more modern kinds of vegetables have established themselves and given fruit juices new flavor profiles. Examples include beetroot, cucumber and pumpkin.

“Consumers focus more and more strongly on a healthy diet and quality and are willing to spend more money on a consciously selected nutrition,” says Grzbiela, “Both options, be it still drinks or juices, perfectly fit with the modern consumer whose lifestyle is characterized by a healthy, vegetarian and diverse nutrition. Here age is not of relevance – from millennials to the modern, older generation.”

Jochen Heininger, Vice President Marketing and Product Management EMEA WILD Flavors & Specialty Ingredients commented on natural trends: “Due to consumers’ high demand for beverages made with natural ingredients, our partners increasingly ask for new product concepts to update their portfolios,” he explains. “Additionally there are different attributes consumers link to naturalness, for example vegan or functional products. These trends provide a lot of opportunities for WFSI to offer innovative products to satisfy varying requirements.”

“WFSI has always focused on naturalness and clean label, and by no means does the company see the issue as a short-lived trend. In fact, it’s quite the contrary,” he explains, “More than ever before, consumers are paying attention to what they eat and drink and putting emphasis on natural sources. Consequently, we see the natural sector as something that will continue to grow.”

Kombucha
Fueling the trend of a healthy lifestyle, the product category of functional beverages is constantly developing, one of the stand out trends for 2016 is the need for fermented foods, and Kombucha is appearing to be a cut above the rest. 

The fermented soft drink “kombucha” is trending with Innova Market Insights tracking 133 new products featuring this term in 2015, compared to 93 in 2014. Of the launches tracked in 2015, 59% were reported in the US, ahead of South Africa (9%), France (7%) and Canada (6%). 

Portugal headquartered Captain Kombucha is now set to launch an extensive line of organic beverages. Captain Kombucha is positioned as a naturally bubbly probiotic drink that is based on only the highest quality certified organic ingredients and created without the use of artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners. Flavors in the line are: Original, Pineapple/Peach Splash, Cayenne Cleanse, California Raspberry and Coconut Summer Beach. 

“Kombucha is a 2,000 year old beverage coming from Asia that is rich in probiotics, antioxidants and enzymes,” Matus Vavercak at Captain Kombucha explains. “It is a fermented tea, which is naturally sparkling. It is a prevention drink that you can drink every day and keeps the body stabilized and helps with digestion. It brings all types of antioxidants into the body,” he notes. 

“Kombucha is a big trend in the US, where it is already bigger than coconut water. We see a high potential for kombucha in Europe too, particularly in the UK and Scandinavian markets,” he adds. 

Earlier this year, BluePrint, a brand of The Hain Celestial Group, Inc., launched a line of certified USDA organic Kombucha Drinks. The drinks combine organic cold-pressed juices with the power of fermented tea, offering functional benefits, such as digestion and immunity. 

Alex Galindez, General Manager, BluePrint said: “Our consumers asked for a Kombucha product. We know they are on-the-go and need solutions to fit their lifestyles. When small-batch brewed Kombucha is blended with our crafted organic cold-pressed juice, we think it truly is ‘magic in a bottle.’ BluePrint is dedicated to helping consumers lead healthier, more energy-filled lives - organically.”

Cold-Brew Coffee
The cold-brew coffee craze has swept the US and is now tipped to make waves across the Atlantic. Costa, one of the UK’s leading coffee-shop chain, plans to trial on-tap chilled and nitrogen-infused coffee next year in a bid to capitalize on the British appetite for coffee.

“The number one priority is to innovate,” said Alison Brittain, chief executive officer of Costa Coffee owner Whitbread Plc, “Taking a leaf from the US market is one way of doing this,” she added.

Cold-brew coffees have yet to catch on in the UK to the degree they have in America. Starbucks partnered with PepsiCo to handle RTD grocery store-facing versions of its popular cold brew coffee beverage in June. In July, Starbucks described its chilled drinks as a “runaway success” in the US. The Seattle-based company will be serving nitro coffee - in which cold-brew is infused with nitrogen to give it a creamy texture and a similar look to Guinness - on tap in more than 500 outlets by the end of the year. 

A version from Dunkin’ Donuts Inc. proved so popular that the chain decided against phasing out the product, as it had originally planned and Dr Pepper Snapple announced a distribution agreement with RTD cold brew coffee maker High Brew Coffee in April, earlier this year. 

The Coca-Cola Company is now making its move into the fast-growing cold brew coffee category.Coke revealed the news in August announcing that new lines of ready-to-drink tea lattes and cold brew coffees will launch in the first quarter of 2017 under the company’s Gold Peak brand.

Doehler's most holistic approach to the efficient use of raw materials in the coffee segment. Not only is roasted coffee used to produce unique, gently-extracted cold brew coffee solutions, but comprehensive use is also made of side stream products from coffee production. 

In line with its corporate slogan “We bring ideas to life”, Doehler are launching interesting concepts like cold brewed coffees to demonstrate how these ingredients can be used in innovative beverages. 

Christoph Witte, Head of Product Management B2C told FoodIngredientsFirst: “Brewing a good cold brew coffee takes time, thanks to gentle preparation without heat, the Cold Brew Coffee is much less bitter and acidic than its hot counterpart and is characterized by fruity, caramel and chocolate nuances.”

“The gentle production, almost as if made by hand, fits right in with the trend of “crafted” products, for which high quality is of particular importance,” he explains.  

Doehler provides beverage manufacturers with everything they need to realize these concepts. In addition to product inspirations like “Nitro Cold Brew Coffee” in an absolutely innovative can or concepts with almond milk as well as brown or fruity flavors, Doehler supplies every natural ingredient: from tailor-made ingredients to ready-to-fill ingredient systems, which already contains all the ingredients. Doehler offers strong and particularly aromatic cold brew coffee infusions specially developed for cold brew coffees. 

The need for natural in beverages is positively trending. With reformulations and sugars tax in discussions globally, there has never been a more demanding consumer base for healthy, clean label beverages that still have a great taste. The need for indulgent, yet functional ingredients is obvious across the board, not only in beverages but on food also and this is a trend that is likely to be around for quite some time. Answering to these demands and creating innovative solutions is a challenge for the industry but one which they are certainly succeeding in. 

by Elizabeth Kenward

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