Functional beverages: Antioxidants, kefir and botanicals spur NPD innovation at Food Matters Live

Functional beverages: Antioxidants, kefir and botanicals spur NPD innovation at Food Matters Live

27 Nov 2018 --- Food Matters Live, which returned to London last week, presented innovative insights across the food and more notably, the beverage sector. One key theme which dominated the show floor was functional beverages, as many consumers globally seek to improve their health and well-being through the consumption of healthy products. Industry moves to overcome the recent sugar reduction challenges remained top of the UK NPD agenda, with significant shifts towards openness around development and reformulation.

The UK sugar tax which was implemented earlier this year continues to gain momentum in the UK, as consumer appetite for highly sweetened products has weakened and interest in low-calorie or naturally sweetened beverages has begun to take center stage.

As reported by FoodIngredientsFirst last week, Treatt presented their range of sugar-reduced concepts in beverages, using odor and flavor components.

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst earlier this year, Event Director, Briony Mansell-Lewis said: “We have seen this change dramatically over the past four years – the industry has really stepped up and as a result, they have been forthcoming with the importance of reformulation. Manufacturers have been very open in sharing their success stories, looking for solutions in which they can contribute to the public health agenda, but also the challenges they have faced during this time.” 

The shift in soft drinks are not only related to sugar reduction but also to lower or reduced alcohol content. Mansell-Lewis noted that innovation in this space has also exploded in the past few years. “Health drinks and beverages with added health claims is a trend that we have been keeping one eye on. Non-alcoholic adult soft drinks are influencing not only the more established brands but even smaller companies who are looking to tap into these trends as well,” she noted.

FoodIngredientsFirst takes a closer look at some of the innovations presented on the show floor:

The UK’s first antioxidant coffee drink: LivOn! by Liver Health UK

Click to EnlargeAsanka De Silva, Founder and
CEO of Liver Health UK 
In the UK, 1 in 3 people are affected by poor liver health which has now become a pressing societal concern. In response to this, Asanka De Silva, Founder and CEO of Liver Health UK launched “the UK’s first antioxidant coffee drink,” LivOn!, as he says that coffee is the only ingredient with clinical evidence to improve liver health. 

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, he says: “We set out to offer the benefit of two cups of coffee in one bottle which contains a very high level of antioxidants that are essential for health.”

In a single bottle of LivOn!, there is three times the antioxidant level found in a regular cup of coffee, according to De Silva.

“Over the years coffee has had a negative reputation and I believe this is partly due to the way we consume coffee, as opposed to the coffee itself,” he comments. “As consumers, we need to learn how to separate the two. Most of the time you’ll find people drinking milk as appose to drinking coffee. For example, milk is the single biggest ingredient in a latte, and so you aren’t gaining any benefits from the coffee. We also tend to add sugar and cream, meaning we can often end up drinking a beverage that is 300 to 400 calories.”

De Silva wants to make coffee part of a healthy diet and balanced diet, delivering it in a palatable way and without taking away any of the health benefits. 

The coffee beverages are available in two different flavors, a plain Cold-Brew Coffee and Toffee Apple. 

“We have seen a spike in interest in younger consumers for cold-brew styles beverages and these consumers are happy to drink coffee without Click to EnlargeLivOn!: Plain Cold-Brew Coffee and Toffee Apple    sugar,” De Silva notes. 

Meanwhile, consumers over the age of 30 have grown up with sugar and they tend to prefer sweeter beverages, he says. 

“In response to this, we have added a small amount of sugar content to the Toffee Apple coffee drink. We don’t add any refined sugar just apple and date juice, so the total sugar content is 2.8g. This offers an appealing flavor to consumers who want a sweeter coffee experience and it’s also well under the recommended level of sugar in the UK,” De Silva explains.  

“In the future, this amount of sugar is likely to be even less, but I think the consumers have to move with government regulations for that to happen,” he adds. 

Fuss-free gourmet tea: Tea-Pop

Tea-Pop presented its “innovative crystalized tea in a fuss-free and easy to make concept.” According to the company, Tea-Pop is the result of a collaboration with Chester University which seeks to offer a traditional tea experience wherever, whenever. 

Click to EnlargeTea-Pop: A traditional tea
experience wherever, whenever 
Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Tan Diep, Managing Partner at the company says: “We developed Tea-Pop because we thought there was a gap in the market for on flight tea beverages. The idea came about when we were traveling and we could never get a good cup of tea.”

This innovative tea solution is shaped like a lollipop and, according to Diep, “contains all the antioxidants and vitamins of tea.” 

“It can be fully dissolved in water to create the perfect cup of tea,” he says. “When we introduced this to different airlines, they thought it was a very novel idea and we have started to sell these products in airport lounges as a result. We have also had interest from department stores to sell as a novelty gift for tea lovers.” 

“Originally it was created with B2B businesses in mind and commercial products,” adds Diep.  Click to EnlargeTan Diep, Managing Partner at Tea-Pop 

It took the company 18 months working closely with Chester University to bring this product to where it is today. “The difficulty was the extraction process maintaining all the goodness of tea from the leaves and then turning it into a solid crystalized format. We developed a patented way in doing so, which helped us to bind all the synergies together easily and we freeze-dry it so that the product can last between 18 months and three years if sealed correctly.” 

“We have many different blends, including popular flavors such as lemon and ginger. You can actually dissolve the Tea-Pop into cold water, which takes longer but you still get the same aroma, taste and intensity, as if it was brewed in hot water,” Diep explains. 

Diep took inspiration for the flavors from different countries in Asia specifically, where consumers prefer more traditional herbal teas. “Also in North America, consumers enjoy fruit teas, and this is shown in our range. With our process, we can create any blend of tea which will dissolve instantly and this is really exciting for us,” he adds. 

Greek live probiotic drinks: Mount Olympus Pure Foods

Meanwhile, capitalizing on one of the hottest trends found in foods like kefir and yogurt, Mount Olympus Pure Foods presented their range of beverages that boast probiotic benefits for gut health. 

Lana Kapelas, a Nutritional Consultant working with Mount Olympus Pure Foods tells FoodIngredientsFirst: “Our drinks are based on the live culture ingredient – kefir. Kefir is a power-pack of healthy ‘non-transient’ bacteria that has positive benefits for your gut microbiome.”

Click to EnlargeKefir: A power-pack of healthy
“non-transient” bacteria 
“Our kefir contains 29 strains of live probiotic and 6-8 billion active (good) bacteria. These beneficial bacteria work with your system to convert food to energy and restore any imbalances in the gut by repopulating and allowing healthy bacteria to flourish and restore your microbiome,” she says.

According to Kapelas, the company’s kefir drinks are “made with Greek tradition.”

“We ferment the milk or water with live kefir culture, resulting in a creamy, subtly tart drink with billions of probiotics per serving. Our line includes dairy, goat and vegan kefir drinks, fitting with today’s consumer trends,” she says. “We are strict with our processes and are against artificial stimulating hormones and antibiotics, 100 percent preservative free and all natural.”

The range also presents trends in the market that step away from the traditional dairy cows’ milk and goats’ milk is steadily gaining traction. According to Kapelas, goats’ milk has been proven to be more beneficial than cows’ milk, boasting a smoother curd. “It also has a proportionately higher short and medium chain of fatty acids and lower lactose levels, meaning that its enzymes are easier to break down and digest. It’s a good alternative for those with allergies and intolerances to cows’ milk,” she adds. 

“A healthy gut is the foundation for overall health and vitality,” Kapelas states. “Many common health complaints among both children and adults – whether its ongoing infections, eczema, allergies, asthma, IBS, digestive distress and nutritional deficiencies – can be traced to one underlying factor: poor digestive health.”Click to EnlargeKefir: Drinks “made with Greek tradition”  

Recent research has also revealed that the state of our gut bacteria may be the key to boosting weight loss and even improving mood, Kapelas notes. 

“The collection of bacteria living in and on our body known as the ‘microbiome’ consists of about 100 trillion bacterial cells, the highest concentration of which is in your gut. Our diet, genetics and lifestyle influence the diversity and number of these bacteria,” she continues. “Unfortunately, many people have a depleted microbiome because of a poor diet that’s high in sugar, refined carbohydrate grains, processed foods and artificial sweeteners or antibiotics. IBS, for example, is thought to affect around 20 percent of the UK population and for many, it can affect their daily lives tremendously,” Kapelas says. 

Naturally flavored sparkling water: Upstream by Clearly Drinks

Clearly Drinks is a soft drinks company offering popular brands and the company presented a range of soft drinks brands for the UK and international customers including Perfectly Clear and a new brand called Upstream. Upstream is a naturally flavored premium water with a hint of sweetness and full on flavor, which is expected to launch in January 2019.

Discussing this new range, Amelia Hastings, Brand Marketing Manager at Clearly Drinks says: “The Upstream range keeps things simple, delivering no sugar but a great taste. Only using natural flavors, and a tiny amount of sweetness, Upstream offers flavor unlike many of the other seltzer-style products.”Click to EnlargeClearly Drinks' new Upstream range  

“Unlike other manufacturers, we have always been champions of low or no-added-sugar drinks. However, we did see that consumers were becoming much more aware of sugar and wanting to reduce it, so Upstream was created to offer a viable alternative without any compromise on taste,” she comments. 

The Upstream flavors (Lime & Pomegranate, Grapefruit & Bergamot and Cucumber & Mint) have been formulated over the last six months to deliver complex and interesting flavors that are different from the generic flavors currently seen in the market, according to Hastings. 

“They all are recognizable flavors, but they still excite the taste buds. We used powerful yet delicate flavors so Upstream can be enjoyed on its own or with food,” she adds. 

Upstream is less sweet than many other mainstream flavored waters, so Hastings believes it appeals to an adult market. “Having said that, as Upstream is full of flavor, we do feel that a large age range or different consumer groups would enjoy these drinks.”

Dairy-free, fruit and vegetable shakes: GNT Exberry

GNT presented their dairy-free fruit and vegetable shake concepts using coloring foods. The company is tapping into plant-based and vegan trends, as consumers look to add a variety of colors into their diets.

Adrian Nathan, Senior Applications Technologist at GNT, tells FoodIngredientsFirst: “These concepts only contain natural ingredients and colorings. They are all vegan-friendly, the bases are rice milk, coconut milk and oat milk. For the green shake, we have used green fruit and vegetables in keeping with the theme, such as avocado, mint, lime and apple. The pink shake contains beetroot, cherry and raspberry and the yellow shake contains orange, pineapple, turmeric and mango.”

CiClick to EnlargeUren Food Ingredients' cider vinegar
and kefir drinks
der vinegar and kefir drinks: Uren Food Ingredients

Uren Food Ingredients presented a range of sparkling cider vinegar drinks which included botanical and floral ingredients and combinations of both. The company also produced a variety of kefir dairy-based beverages with innovative flavor concepts. 

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Hayley Lett says: “Botanicals have been very trendy for some time thanks to the renaissance of gin in recent years. We also see floral flavors coming through leaps and bounds, although many consumers enjoy traditional flavors, we see interest in more adventurous flavors concepts such as cardamom and geranium and combinations of different botanicals.”

50 percent sugar reduction: ITS Taste

ITS Taste has been working on a new natural range of flavors to help reduce sugar and calorie content in beverages. Designing sugar reduction technology has sat high on the agenda for some time, but government pressure has increased consumer negativity towards sugar usage. In turn, this has placed pressure on manufacturers to find ways to make sweet products appealing and palatable, with a much lower sugar content, says the company.

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Marta Comas, Marketing Manager at ITS says: “Our company focus is to be one step ahead of the market and anticipate customer trends and needs before they arise. We have a range of natural taste and texture solutions to help companies deliver great tasting and healthy products. Our sugar reduction solution significantly reduces sugar and sweeteners without compromising on flavor or taste.” 

“Artificial sweeteners have long been used as a substitute for white sugar. However, these are equally seen in a negative light by consumers, leading to a need for natural sweetening concepts. With this in mind, the team at ITS have been working on a new range of natural flavors to help reduce sugar and calorie content,” she explains.Click to EnlargeITS Taste: 50 percent sugar reduction   

According to Comas, two concepts will be key to the flavor market in 2019: experimental and natural. 

“Experimental refers to the consumers' need to experiment with new, exciting flavors, such as spices from world cuisines, or flavors that awake their senses, like exotic fruits. Also, every range of flavor with a natural appeal will continue to grow,” she claims. “Florals, herbals, botanicals in tea and coffee will continue to be popular.”

With consumer awareness around health on the rise, functional beverages are continuing to be a competitive space. Concern around gut health, diabetes, obesity continues to drive these trends and manufacturers are responding with innovative solutions. The beverage sector is rife with new flavors and formats, as adventurous consumers seek more from consumption experiences. 

You can view a review of further innovations from the show here

By Elizabeth Green

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