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Cheers to Health

Functional Foods: Drinks and Bars Drinks and Bars

Clear labeling and healthier ingredients are the must-haves for functional foods and beverages.

Drink and bar manufacturers are becoming more conscious about health and nutrition information on their labeling and providing options for their customers with functional ingredients that are packed with antioxidants, high in protein and trans-fat-free, explained Elyse Lovett, MS, MBA, marketing manager for New York-based Kyowa Hakko USA. “Consumers are reaching for those products in stores that define the best health benefits. When reaching for a drink or bar option they tend to ask themselves, how will this improve my health? What are the benefits in this for me? Consumers love to see heart-healthy, energy-boasting and immune-fighting ingredients in their drink and bar options,” she continued.

With the focus on healthy ingredients, it is important to consider the guidance that distinguishes liquid dietary supplements from beverages by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA): “Beverages are conventional foods under the FD&C (Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic) Act. Even when the label of a product characterizes it as a dietary supplement, the product may not in fact be a dietary supplement. Products in liquid form can be represented as conventional foods as a result of factors, such as their product or brand name, packaging, serving size and total recommended daily intake (i.e., the volume in which they are intended to be consumed), composition, recommendations and directions for use, statements or graphic representations in labeling or advertising and other marketing practices.”

In regard to labeling, manufacturers are focusing on making theirs more understandable for the consumer. “The move from ‘clean’ to ‘clear’ labeling is a key trend for 2015, reflecting a move to clearer and simpler claims and packaging for maximum transparency,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights (The Netherlands).

But, it is apparent clear labels are an area that need improvement. In a 2014 poll by industry representatives—discussed at Innova Market Insights Top 10 Trends webinar—results showed that 42 percent of respondents said that “Clean to Clear Label” was at the top of the 2015 totem pole. Functional beverages are currently considered unclear and need clarity and detail when describing the vitamins and minerals in the drink.

Interest in Safety

The functional beverage market continues to explore new ways to supplement ingredients that may be considered harmful or too sugary.

According to Sid Hulse, director of new product development for New Jersey-based PLT Health Solutions, “These days, the blood sugar impact of foods and beverages is on everyone’s mind—from the mom who avoids giving her children beverages that cause a sugar spike and wants foods that help maintain a healthy weight for herself, to the athlete who wants peak performance or the person trying to manage their blood sugar health.”

The company gives manufacturers the option to include natural antioxidants, minerals and polyphenols, which make up PLT’s patented ingredient Benecarb. The ingredient has been shown to reduce the glycemic index (GI) of foods and beverages up to 20 percent, at additional levels of 4 to 6 percent of total carbohydrate content. The company’s Benecarb Glycemic Balance Complex, based on molasses phytonutrients, allows beverage companies to create products that address the lifestyle and health concerns of a broad range of consumers via blood sugar management. In addition to supporting healthy blood sugar, the newly released GI ingredient helps to support the liver, essential when consuming alcohol. Hulse said it is a win-win for product manufacturers and consumers.

At New Jersey-based Beneo, the company provides manufacturers with two condition specific ingredients for functional food and drink. Beneo’s Palatinose ingredient can be used in sports and energy beverages, carbonated drinks, wellness drinks, ice tea, enhanced fruit juices, enhanced water and drinkable yogurts, as well as nutritional and cereal bars, noted Joe O’Neill, president and general manager with the company. Palatinose is also a tooth-friendly carbohydrate derived from sugar beet.

Beneo’s Orafti high performance inulin and oligfructose prebiotic fibers are non-digestible carbohydrates derived from chicory root, and can be used to enrich the fiber content of a wide range of food and drink products, O’Neill said. In addition to adding fiber to products, it can also reduce the fat or sugar content without jeopardizing taste and/or texture.

Lovette agreed that performance ingredients are evolving quickly, such as Kyowa Hakko Bio’s combination of the amino acids l-glutamine and l-alanine.“ Kyowa Hakko Bio manufactures the only stable GRAS (generally recognized as safe) form of glutamine; Sustamine l-alanyl-l-glutamine,” she said.

According to Lovette, one trend followed by many manufacturers is incorporating proteins in beverages. Sustamine is a prime ingredient to provide the body with L-glutamine—an important amino acid for stimulating muscle protein synthesis, and L-alanine—an amino acid needed for rebuilding the body’s glycogen stores. Other examples include ingredients that benefit the cognitive health area, such as a personalized “smart bar” eaten right before a workout to stay focused. Kyowa Hakko Bio manufactures Cognizin Citicholine, which has been clinically studied to provide three primary brain health benefits: sustained mental energy, enhanced focus and health memory function, she said.

Water Enhancers

Water enhancers are also making their way into the functional beverage category—many of which seek to replace sugary energy drinks with healthier alternatives. Wisconsin-based Wixon offers Mag-nifique Bitterless National Brand Single Use Energy Water Enhancer, available in black cherry, to improve flavor and inherent bitterness in juices.

Blue California manufactures a water-soluble functional enhancer with its SolQ10Blue formulated with CoQ10—essential for efficient cellular energy metabolism and synthesized naturally by healthy individuals. This microencapsulated ingredient is soluble in cold water, a “super antioxidant,” is essential for cell energy, has enhanced bioavailability and contains no emulsifiers.


Florida-based Agro Innova formulates its South American Cacao Pulp Fruit Smoothies with nutrient-rich pulp of the cacao plant, which was once used exclusively by communities that harvest the fruit, but are now of interest to health-conscious Millennials and Baby Boomers. CEO Joseph Montgomery, a seventh generation cacao farmer, and his production team are now able to gently and efficiently extract cacao pulp from fresh pods to create a new, delicious, fruity functional beverage using state-of-the-art technologies to bring this South American line of cacao pulp-based fruit smoothies to the market, the company noted.

Agro Innova’s Suavva brand prepares beverages by separating the pulp from the seed with a unique, patented process. It offers a new ingredient profile to the juice category for consumers who recognize that cold pressed juice can benefit their health when incorporated into a daily routine. According to Suavva, cacao pulp contains certified antioxidant activity as well as several vitamins and magnesium, all of which are maintained using high pressure processing (HPP). The naturally occurring theobromine in cacao pulp allows Suavva to live up to its tagline “energizing happiness” through an all-natural, energy-providing compound, which may also reduce blood pressure.

The company referenced a study by Mintel Group, which reported that the sales of ethnic products in grocery stores would grow more than 20 percent between 2012 and 2017, with fruit flavors being essential. With this in mind, the company offers four juicy smoothie flavors: Amazing Cacao, Merry Mango, Blissful Berry and Chocolately Cheer. NIE

For More Information:
Agro Innova, (954) 384-3090
Beneo, (973) 867-2140
Blue California, (949) 635-1991
Kyowa Hakko USA, (800) 596-925
PLT Health Solutions, (973) 984-0900
Sensient, (800) 558-9892
Wixon, (800) 841-5304