The definition of a healthful beverage is driven by whether the consumer perceives the product to be “better-for-you,” says Gary Hemphill, senior vice president of the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC, New York). This definition can include those products that have added beneficial ingredients, or have had undesirable ingredients removed. Regardless of whether the product is perceived as healthful, its success still is dependent upon the product's flavor, texture and tangible benefits.

For Prepared Foods' 2005 “Functional Foods Survey” (see PF's April 2005 issue), some 67% of respondents who work with beverages ranked them as the category that offered the greatest opportunity for the development of functional foods. “In terms of growth, the area of health and wellness is the best place to be--from a beverage standpoint,” says Hemphill. “It is relatively underdeveloped, and more and more consumers are adopting healthier lifestyles.”

Evolving from Evian

In the 80s, consumers who had limited beverage options drove the demand for healthful beverage alternatives. With Evian (The Danone Group, Fribourg, Switzerland), the U.S. saw the introduction of the first single-serve, bottled water. It paved the way for premium, single-serve fruit beverages that address consumers' taste for increased variety and products with a “better-for-you” halo.

With the consumer at the helm, manufacturers started removing ingredients that were perceived as unhealthy, and placed more emphasis on diet or carbonated soft drinks with lower calories. The formulation of healthful beverages today includes the addition of ingredients with a healthy aura. “We think that is going to evolve even more so,” says Hemphill.

Healthier versions of carbonated soft drinks, fruit beverages, bottled waters, bottled and canned ready-to-drink (RTD) teas, sports drinks, RTD coffee, energy drinks and value-added milk-type products steadily are penetrating the market. Some 64% of PF beverage respondents characterized their future functional food product development efforts as “brand new products.”

Today's consumers have higher expectations for tangible benefits, as opposed to benefits that are more “perceived” than “real,” explains Hemphill. “Oxygenated water and beverages with Ginkgo biloba are examples of a product that has the 'healthy halo' but doesn't necessarily deliver…in a proven, scientific way.”

Caffeine is an example of an ingredient that has real benefits in teas and energy drinks, but consumers have mixed sentiments in regards to their attitudes toward it. White tea, another example, is a hot segment of the tea category, as is green tea. “There is more segmentation in the marketplace. As the category starts to develop or mature, consumers become more sophisticated about the category and want more variety,” adds Hemphill.

Examples are Honest Tea's (Bethesda, Md.) Mango White Tea, an organic white tea with acai and packed with a “double serving” of antioxidants. Consumers are trending toward teas with fewer calories and a lighter taste profile. Yet, they are still a small part of the RTD tea picture. “Tea is a very good antioxidant. It blends well and has a very gentle flavor, meaning it can accept flavors readily,” says Gerry Blight, a supplier of vitamins, antioxidants and beverage flavor blends.

The trend toward fortification with calcium and other vitamins is becoming popular in the area of nutritional enhancement of beverages (including juices and carbonated soft drinks), says Blight.

Unique flavor systems, such as Land O' Lakes' (Dean Foods, Dallas) 80 'N Sunny blended juice and milk products, are becoming more popular. Fast food chains are marketing smoothies, also. “Smoothies are great because they can increase fruit intake,” says Blight. In addition, they tend to stabilize more easily, allowing food manufacturers to process and distribute them with less fuss than some milk-based beverages. Blight says he likes the combination of dairy and fruit juice because it gives a whole new direction to the category, opens consumers' eyes to innovative products, and offers a new area of competition for beverage companies.

“We are on a threshold of a broad expansion of beverages--similar to what was seen years ago with granola bars [in the choice of breakfast foods],” he adds. “Beverages seem to be a more universal option than nutritional snacks. There are dozens of nutritional bar options but, with beverages, there are literally thousands of options.”

There is a definite advantage to fortifying beverages as opposed to other prepared food applications. Drinks are easy to formulate, in that many nutrients are easily dispersed within an aqueous system. Besides the solubility factor, however, our bodies contain more fluids than anything else, explains Blight. “It is an excellent delivery mechanism because of the normal requirement of fluid intake.” This convenience is coupled with the fact that liquids are amenable to a great variety of flavors.

Whereas everyone consumes liquid, there is a good deal of variability between cultural eating patterns. “If I were to fortify white bread, for example, that wouldn't necessarily provide good penetration into a Hispanic marketplace because they tend to eat more flat bread,” Blight speculates.

Bottom of the Bottle

A market-viable beverage will have a good flavor system, a sweet taste (but not overpoweringly sweet) and a balanced texture; it also will provide a nutritional benefit.

Taste/flavor was listed as the greatest challenge to product development efforts of respondents who primarily work with beverages in the PF April 2005 survey. “People will try a beverage once and maybe twice, but they won't go back time and again if they don't like the taste of the product,” observes Hemphill.

Delivering a good texture and flavor is just as important as nutritional benefits because the marketplace is unforgiving, says Blight. “Nobody wants a calcium-enriched drink if it tastes like chalk. If it won't stay in solution, then it probably won't be viable in the marketplace.” A consumer is inclined not to buy products with sediment in the bottom of a beverage container.

Fortification Education

“One serious challenge with beverage systems that other prepared foods evade is the necessity to keep the additional ingredients solubilized,” says Blight. There are limits of how much solute can be put in a beverage, which determines how much supplementation is possible.

Many of the nutritional additives in beverages are oil-based ingredients that may be insoluble in water. Water-insoluble vitamin additives tend to cloud a beverage and can lead to an off-taste. “Sometimes a 'ring' or 'cream' will form and rise to the surface of the beverage,” says David Olsen, a technical associate at a beverage ingredient supplier. Formulators of clear beverages should look for water-soluble vitamins.

Alternatively, some manufacturers want to keep the natural cloudy appearance in a beverage. During juice extraction and processing, the natural compounds of the juice that cause cloudiness can dissipate. Adding weighting agents to an emulsion can bring back the natural look of cloudiness in a beverage.

“Adding a weighting agent to a vitamin-enriched beverage formulation will increase the specific gravity of the flavored or enriched oil to that of water to help ensure an even dispersion of the vitamins and flavors throughout the beverage,” says Olsen. “Weighting agents, such as sucrose acetate isobutyrate (SAIB), extend product shelflife and ensure the integrity of beverage brands,” he explains.

Some ingredients create a synergistic effect, while others cancel each other out or, at least, reduce how beneficial they are. For example, a substance in grapefruit abstract inhibits the effectiveness of statin drugs. “That is unusual, because it is not uniform to other citrus juice--just grapefruit,” says Blight.

On the flip side, the mineral selenium will increase the antioxidant effectiveness of vitamin E. More than 62% of May's 2005 “Functional Food Survey” beverage respondents said that antioxidant usage would be more important in the coming years. “Antioxidants such as vitamin E and C are becoming very commonplace,” informs Blight. Pomegranate juice has been commercially successful the last couple of years because it is rich in antioxidants.

“RTD Too”

Across the board, ready-to-drink is more popular than reconstituted healthful beverages because of convenience. “Powders and frozen, concentrated juices are not growing,” says Hemphill.

Finished beverage products provide an obvious convenience for on-the-go consumers. However, for manufacturers, they create a greater energy demand than powdered drinks, since shipping fully reconstituted beverage products from Miami to Seattle is far more costly, says Blight. Reconstituted powders also appeal to backpackers who do not carry heavy products, and the value-oriented consumer.

A lot of fiber-based beverages are mixed and consumed all at once because it is hard to keep them in solution. Additionally, with powdered formulas, it is easier to super-saturate milk or water with vitamins and minerals since precipitation over extended periods of time is not a concern.

Blight informs that starch companies have made progress by dispersing omega-3 oil in a powder carrier. “In the future, consumers will see things like omega-3 and antioxidants in flavor packets that can have applications as part of fitness-type beverages,” envisions Blight.

The aging population presents another advantage to beverage powders over liquid forms. Due to dysphagia, a disruption in the swallowing reflex, the infirm have a growing demand for beverage thickeners. It is harder for them to initiate a swallowing reflex with low-viscosity beverages. However, manufacturers have a more difficult time keeping ingredients soluble in thickened beverages over a long shelflife. Although such types of drinks are specialty beverages, with an increased aging population, that specialty will become more common.

In the past year, some groups have targeted the beverage industry as an example of companies that enable obesity. “I think the category is doing a good job, but I'm not sure they've done such a good job of telling their story,” notes Hemphill. For example, 7 Up Plus (Plano, Texas), which features real fruit juice, calcium, and vitamin C fortification, displays a positive example of how brands with global market penetration are making adjustments to reach beyond traditional possibilities. Other examples include Coca Cola's (Atlanta) new Diet Coke with sucralose and Anheuser Busch's (St. Louis) 180 Energy X-3, an energy drink with vitamins B6, B12 and C. “Consistently and in almost any category, there are healthful alternatives in beverage segments,” counters Hemphill.

Showcase: Fortifiers and Omega-3s

Functional beverages offering health benefits have become more popular. PURAC offers natural mineral lactates and gluconates, which are highly soluble, allergen-free, non-GMO and kosher. Exhibiting neutral flavor and good in vivo bioavailability, PURAC's minerals are well-suited for juices, enhanced water, sports drinks and fortified carbonated beverages. PURAC recently commissioned a study to measure consumer attitudes and preferences for minerals in beverages. Contact the company to learn the results. PURAC, Health and Nutrition Department, 847-634-6330

ADM's vitamin enrichments can boost your product's nutritional value and market profile, without affecting taste. These added nutrients usually are mixed in at very small inclusion rates, and sometimes are difficult to accurately scale and distribute uniformly throughout the base food. ADM's vitamin/mineral premixes offer both convenience and quality insurance, as the company accurately tests, formulates and blends mixtures of actives (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, etc.) with suitable carriers. ADM, Amy Chiligiris, 217-451-4795

This company's ingredients are uniquely capable of promoting health while improving quality, taste and texture. Manufacturers are turning to GTC Nutrition for their formulation needs to satisfy the needs of today's health-conscious consumers. GTC Nutrition offers NutraFlora prebiotic fiber, which promotes calcium absorption and immune health, and enhances flavors, as well as CalciLife prebiotic mineral formulation, which provides added calcium, encourages calcium absorption and masks off-notes. GTC Nutrition, Trina O'Brien, 800-522-4682,,

L-carnitine, a vitamin-like substance, enables the generation of energy from fat. Clinical research suggests that L-carnitine supplementation helps in supporting cardiovascular health, weight management and exercise performance and recovery. Lonza's L-Carnitine Crystalline and L-Carnitine L-Tartrate are GRAS for use in certain conventional foods, including energy beverages, fruit juices and herbal teas. Both products are highly water-soluble, odorless and form colorless solutions. L-Carnitine L-Tartrate imparts a pleasant, fruity flavor. Lonza, Tom McMahon, 201-316-9321,,

The Grande Custom Ingredients Group has developed a Black Cherry Protein Fortified Beverage, using Grande Ultra 8020 hydrolyzed whey protein. Using a proprietary process, Grande is able to hydrolyze the proteins for improved absorption and digestibility with minimum bitterness and a mild flavor. All Grande Ultra Whey proteins are produced using Grande's exclusive three-step, cold filtration process, and include Grade A, instantized, low-lactose, heat-stable and 85% protein versions. Grande Custom Ingredients Group, Michelle Koehler, 800-772-3210,,

Solbar's Solgen 3/S (3%) and Solgen 10/S (10%) natural soy extracts have high levels of genistein and daidzein, known to reduce total and LDL-cholesterol, and elevate HDL-cholesterol. Solgen 3S and 10/S highly soluble soy isoflavones, with the benefits of a “less-beany” flavor, are designed specially for a variety of beverages, soy milks, yogurts and powders. The newest family of Solpro 900 isolated soy proteins includes Solpro 950, designed for nutritional health beverages. Solbar, Gary Brenner, +972-8-8632111,,

These concentrated fish oils and powder are formulated to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, specifically in DHA or EPA. Lipid Nutrition's extended Marinol product range offers various formulations with omega-3 concentrations up to 40% in DHA. The company's Marinol High Stability Powders improve stability, smell and taste of the end-product. All Marinol products can be utilized in dietary supplements and are GRAS for functional food applications such as bars, margarines, dairy spreads, yogurts and pasta sauces. Lipid Nutrition, Patrick Luchsinger, 815-730-5208, patrick.luchsinger@,

Specializing in custom, condition-specific micronutrient blends, Seltzer Nutritional Technologies assists in R&D, from ideation through final product approval and subsequent line extensions. Seltzer helps its customers stay ahead of the market by identifying scientifically supported nutraceuticals, recognizing functional synergistic nutrient relationships to enhance marketability, and ensuring product compatibility and integrity. As both a raw materials distributor and premix specialist, Seltzer has the market positioning to ensure ingredient access and quick processing turnarounds. Seltzer Nutritional Technologies, Hugh Lippman, 800-735-8137,

With its fine texture and light golden color, this flaxseed ingredient blends well into fruit or yogurt smoothies and soy milk products. BevGrad[tm] contains all of the nutrient-dense properties of flaxseed, making it a rich source of “vegan-friendly” and allergen-free omega-3 fatty acid, soluble and insoluble fiber, lignan phytoestrogens and antioxidants. With the inclusion of very low levels of BevGrad, manufacturers are able to enhance their labels with omega-3 nutrient content claims. Pizzey's Milling USA, Mary Ekman, 877-804-6444,

An insoluble dietary fiber with the benefits of soy, FI-1 Soy Fibre[r] is odorless and tasteless, reduces net carbs and calories, adds dietary fiber, improves yield, improves mouthfeel and is GMO-free. The product's consistent particle size promotes easy incorporation into both liquid and dry formulations. Its neutral flavor and white color make it the right fiber for applications including: baked goods, breakfast foods and pasta products. The Fibred Group, Dennis Drake, 800-598-8894,,

Recent clinical results of Enzymotec's CardiaBeat[tm], obtained from professor Peter Jones' human study, conducted at the Mary Emily Clinical Nutritional Research Unit at McGill University in Canada, confirm its significant superior effects on the body's total lipid profile. The ingredient lowers cholesterol, triglyceride and oxidative stress levels. Adding CardiaBeat to beverages provides a complete package of unique cardiovascular health benefits. It addresses the health needs of populations that suffer from diabetes, obesity, heart disease and hypertension. Applications include dairy and soy-based beverages and yogurts. Enzymotec Ltd., Ayala Berenson, +972-4-6545112,

RFI Ingredients can provide a turnkey fortified beverage formula for your healthy beverage offerings. Whether manufacturers are interested in an energy drink fortified with all-natural caffeine from guarana or yerba mate; an antioxidant offering with our phytonutrient-based OxyPhyte[r] antioxidant line; or a wheat grass and spirulina-based greens drink mix, RFI offers the finished products. They are available in a ready-to-drink or powder mix format. RFI Ingredients, 800-962-7663,,

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid, supports brain, eye and heart health throughout life. Martek DHA[tm] is a highly purified oil from a patented, vegetarian source (algae), ideal for food and beverage applications because it is stable, has a consistent composition, is free of oceanic pollutants, will not compromise flavor, aroma or texture, and is safe for all consumers including pregnant women and children. Martek Biosciences Corporation,,

Micro-component systems that provide body, texture and consistency are necessary for any beverage manufacturer hoping to expand his business. Continental Custom Ingredients is an international manufacturer of ingredient systems for the food industry. CCI provides complete ingredient systems, including stabilizer and emulsifier systems, nutritional fortification and custom blending. The company's kosher-approved, Grade A certified blending facility in Illinois and its subsidiaries throughout North America allow CCI to provide the highest-quality materials for the best value. Continental Custom Ingredients, Gary Smith, 800-323-9489,

Calcium reduces the risk of osteoporosis and high blood pressure, and also can be a weight-management aid. Magnesium, synergistic with calcium in bone maintenance, often is overlooked. Research demonstrates a correlation between magnesium consumption and heart health. Phosphorus is in functional food ingredients including calcium and magnesium phosphates, and is essential for proper growth and development; it is essential in maintaining bone mass. Astaris LLC, Barbara Heidolph, 314-983-7940,

The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (specifically EPA and DHA) found in OmegaPure[tm] can be easily incorporated into healthful beverages to increase daily intake of omega-3s. OmegaPure is taste-free and odorless, and offers customer-friendly labeling opportunities with the FDA health claim. Contact the company to learn how to incorporate OmegaPure into drinkable yogurts, fruit smoothies or juices. Omega Protein, 877-866-3423,

Fibersol-2 is a readily dispersible, tasteless source of dietary fiber (90% min. DSB) with many beneficial physiological properties. It is perfect for beverages, including sports drinks and fortified waters, processed foods, baked goods, dairy products and dietetic foods. The fiber has very impressive functional characteristics, including acid and heat stability, low viscosity, clear solution, prebiotic and high solubility. Matsutani America, Bob Heard, 217-875-9819,,

Scientific research associates diets rich in tomatoes and tomato products with a lower risk of degenerative diseases. Researchers attribute the lower risk to the high lycopene content, and other tomato phytonutrients. LycoRed products are designed to fortify food with these tomato phytonutrients. LycoRed produces LycoMato[r] as a non-hygroscopic, free- flowing powder from spray-dried, lycopene-rich tomato pulp. It has a low-sugar, high-dietary fiber, high-phytonutrient content. LycoRed Natural Products, a division of MANA Inc., Dave Thomas, 608-783-0872,

Choline is an essential nutrient with many health benefits that can be easily formulated into beverages. Using only 110mg of choline per serving is an excellent source of choline, according to the FDA. That is easily achieved with Balchem's USP-grade choline chloride--at low cost and low impact on the flavor profile. Choline benefits everyone from pregnant mothers to newborns, athletes and senior citizens, as confirmed by many well-controlled scientific studies. Balchem Corporation, Lucien Hernandez, 845-326-5681,

As a leading supplier of custom-engineered nutritional solutions that combine innovative technology, exceptional quality and superior customer service, The Wright Group delivers only the finest products and services to the functional food and nutritional supplement industries. Utilizing its SuperCoat[r] microencapsulates and SuperBlend[r] custom premixes, the company's team of research and development professionals have the expertise and latest ingredient knowledge of how to work with clients to ensure effective nutrient delivery in a variety of product applications. The Wright Group, Joel McSpadden, 337-783-3096,

Dietary fibers' natural and functional characteristics make them a salubrious food ingredient additive for chemical and mechanical stability. J. Rettenmaier manufactures fibers from natural sources: oats, wheat, bamboo, cottonseed, cellulose, apples and oranges. Each fiber has different length spectrums and absorption properties. Flow and handling characteristics, water/oil absorption, baking time, shelflife, surface texture and processing rates can be modified. Due to the high fiber content (up to 98%), neutral taste and color, fiber enrichment without sensory change improves many foods. J. Rettenmaier USA, Richard Karnemaat, 269-679-2340,,

BASF helps make beverages, food and dietary supplements better with a broad portfolio of nutritional ingredients, backed by technical support and expertise, and reliable partners that provide custom blends. The company's advanced, proprietary microencapsulation technology enables omega-3 fatty acids to be added to beverages, creating a meaningfully nutritious product. BASF, Barry Kaufman, 973-245-6378,

ORAFTI offers ground-breaking nutritional and functional properties with the soluble, all-natural fiber RAFTILINE[r] (inulin), RAFTILOSE[r] (oligofructose) and Synergy 1. Healthy benefits include improved calcium absorption, “invisible” fiber enrichment, improved mouthfeel, and enhanced gastrointestinal health through prebiotics. RAFTILOSE and RAFTILINE replace fat and sugar in food, beverage and nutraceutical applications--without adversely affecting taste or mouthfeel. RAFTILOSE Synergy 1 offers enhanced calcium absorption at lower use levels. ORAFTI, John Martin, 610-889-9828,,