Positive Energy

America may be in the midst of an energy crisis at the fuel pumps around the country, but there certainly is no shortage of energy to be found in beverage aisles. The only possible hurdle to overcome might be the perception of some consumers that these drinks lack in healthfulness.

Combating such notions is a new line of bottled drinks combining natural stimulation with nutrition in a 16oz beverage. The natural stimulation comes from yerba mate; manufacturer Guayaki says the Yerba Mate drinks are made with organic rainforest-grown yerba mate and 100% organic cane juice and, at the same time, provide 24 vitamins and minerals and 15 amino acids. More importantly, says a company spokesperson, the line is free of sugar, caffeine and “synthetic concoctions that can actually deplete (consumers) of nutrients and cause a crash and burn.” The products actually contain 140mg of caffeine per bottle, comparable to coffee.

The three varieties--EmpowerMint, Raspberry Revolution and Traditional--also boast a “natural content” of theobromine, which the company notes is a “smooth muscle relaxant.”

Bud Man, Bud Brand

While beverages would seem to be one of the hottest categories in the marketplace, one beverage powerhouse is looking to expand its brand into a segment that has seen little growth.

The sauces category may have been somewhat glacial in recent years, but Budweiser is bringing its powerful brand name to the segment with a new line of sauces. The range will include a baste, two barbecue sauces and a wing sauce. Vita Food Products Inc. will create and distribute the Budweiser-branded products in time to celebrate the Fourth of July.

According to a press release, the Budweiser sauce recipes were the creation of a team of chefs led by certified executive chef Brent Wertz at Anheuser-Busch's Kingsmill Resort, in conjunction with Anheuser-Busch brewmasters. Budweiser beer was a key ingredient in the creation of all of the savory sauces.

Like Looking into the Sun

Frito-Lay Inc. has announced the switch to a new oil that will reduce the saturated fat content in its Lay's and Ruffles potato chips by more than 50%. Use of the heart-healthy sunflower oil, the company claims, will not alter the taste of the products.

The saturated fat content is not the only positive attribute from the switch. The move to the new oil also will increase the mono- and polyunsaturated fat (good fat) content and will have no effect on the 0g of trans fats, which is the standard for Frito-Lay's entire snack chip portfolio.

Lay's chips are the company's largest brand, accounting for more than $2 billion in sales; products with the new oil are available in the Northeast and should be nationwide by the end of the year.

As excited as company spokespeople are about the reduction of saturated fat, there also is notable appreciation for the mono- and polyunsaturated fat content of the revamped products. These fats have heart-health benefits that include lowering total and LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Stick It

The editorial in the April issue ofPrepared Foodsaddressed McDonald's disclosure that its fries were not gluten-free. While the affected consumers remain unhappy with the fast food giant, it is worth noting that the company did reveal the news willingly, if perhaps a bit surreptitiously. Consumers, therefore, might be willing to cut the company a little more slack; however, companies should be warned: consumers might not be as forgiving if they themselves discover something unreported in their food or beverage.

Scientists at Washington University are working to allow consumers to test caffeine-free claims.

A report in RedEye, an edition of the Chicago Tribune, reveals work on a dipstick to measure caffeine levels on the spot. Hot beverages have been a particular challenge, it reports, but immune system proteins from camels and llamas bind to caffeine, thereby allowing a measurement of the caffeine content. A patent application has been filed, but it is too early to tell when the product will be available commercially.