Innovative Meal Replacement Beverage

Dietary guidelines recommend adults consume at least 3-5 servings of whole grains per day and children at least 2-3. Unfortunately, 40% of Americans eat no whole grains at all. Now, an exciting new beverage concept has been developed as a true “meal replacer.” It is a whole-grain, drinkable meal that also contains proteins, minerals and vitamins. Until now, “meal replacer” beverages have lacked a major food group--whole grains.

“The reason whole grains may not have been added to drinks before is because the thought of a whole brown rice cooked into a rice pudding-like consistency does not sound appetizing for a beverage application,” offers Rick Ray, vice president, sales and marketing for Creative Research Management (CRM). That is why CRM has come up with a line of whole grains that can be added to a beverage, resulting in a smooth, milk-like consistency. Originally created for the school lunch program, these beverages are not yet on the market, but potentially provide a quick and easy meal consisting of fruit, milk and grains. Soy is the primary protein, and the beverages are currently available in strawberry-banana or chocolate flavors.

With a neutral pH of 7.0, similar to milk, the products had to be homogenized in a sterile environment and aseptically packaged. CRM needed customized equipment and turned to MicroThermics for processing equipment to achieve proper temperatures and hold times in order to guarantee sterility. The fact that MicroThermics’ equipment enabled small test runs also made it cost-effective to achieve the best formula. By using the aseptic filler, product could be shipped to several potential customers without refrigeration. Both real-time and accelerated shelflife testing were performed.

The most critical factor in development was the flavor. Added flavors behave differently at elevated temperatures. Additionally, interesting protein interactions at elevated temperatures were addressed in the 10 test runs performed in one day. Equipment used to produce this drinkable meal included:
* MicroThermics UHT/HTST Lab-25EHVH modified for FDA filling.
* MicroThermics UHT Steam Injection Module modified for FDA filling.
* Niro/MicroThermics Continuous Flow Homogenizer.
* MicroThermics sterile product outlet condenser.

 According to Ray, “More on-the-go-type beverage meals are being developed. The challenge in marketing to schools is that schools are required to provide at least two physical items for breakfast. So, even though this beverage provides a high amount of nutrients, compared to many other options, it has not been allowed in school systems, since a beverage is not considered a physical item.”

With the consistency of a rich milkshake that requires no preparation, it is both nutritious and convenient. The beverage is ideal for children; elderly who may have difficulty preparing and consuming meals to maintain a proper diet; college students who traditionally have a diet consisting of convenience foods; and busy adults, whose proper dieting habits often take a back seat to other obligations.

Without the MicroThermics equipment, this product would not have been developed as shelf-stable. Achievement of the elevated temperatures and hold times were the secret to this product’s success.
 -- Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

For more information:
MicroThermics Inc. • Raleigh, N.C.
David Miles • •
Creative Research Management (CRM) • Stockton, Calif.
Rick Ray • • pf