To your health: Beverages packing a nutritional punch

Attractive young blonde sportswoman is refreshing with cold drink after jogging in nature on sunny summer day at sunset

In the second part of a two-part series on healthy beverage formulation, we go into more detail regarding fortification, protein, and the targeting of health platforms, including immunity.

Consumers are becoming far more knowledgeable about the nutritional properties of vitamins and minerals and more aware of promising herbal extracts and botanicals. In the first part of this two-part series, we discussed the rise of urban and adult soft drinks and themes such as sugar reduction. Now it’s time to delve into fortification and more specific health platforms, including immunity.

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Strong on healthy options

Despite the existence of a tough health claims regulation regime, the EMEA region has been strong when it comes to nutritional beverage product development. In fact, Innova Market Insights reports that, for example in 2019, Europe ranked first for new product launches globally in 2019 for both energy drinks and sports drinks.

Brenntag Food & Nutrition (F&N) notes strong levels of reformulation work taking place in energy drinks as this market reinvents itself with a healthier image through sugar reduction and fortification. The sports beverage industry is also changing fast to attract a broader demographic base of healthy active consumers, who are increasingly demanding on the performance, taste, and convenience of these caffeinated drink products.

Particularly at a time when boosting immunity has never been more in the spotlight, we are seeing a wave of interest in well-documented nutritionals such as vitamin C and zinc. But this is not a mere opportunistic blip. Functional and fortified waters have been trending for years, with immune health-forming just one of the key pillars for growth, in addition to other areas such as mental & visual alertness, and bone & joint health.

Specific fortification for customer needs

Fortification with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and extracts, is profound across most EMEA beverage categories, including juices, energy drinks, flavored waters, and sports drinks.

“What we are seeing now is an evolution of the ongoing trend towards fortification,” says Markus Kammerer, Sales Manager Sweet & Beverage Solutions, Brenntag F&N EMEA. “While in the past, we may have talked a lot about vitamin waters, consumers are now becoming much more aware of which specific micronutrients and compounds to use for their specific lifestyle needs,” he adds.

This deeper consumer-level insight allows manufacturers to better combine the functionality of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and extracts in NPD, as the boundaries between vitamin-fortified, energy drinks, sports nutrition and weight-management products blur. “We are seeing the combining of nutritional benefits in a single product, where energy drink brands strive to offer the functionality of sports nutrition drinks, and vice versa."

“For example, more and more endurance products being offered on the marketplace are fortified with caffeine for energy. While in the past, energy drinks were being fortified by adding vitamins, it was always with the same standard. Now they are benefiting from additional health claims too,” Markus notes.

a young woman drinking water from a bottle on the street

This trend is also heavily influenced by technology. As those who regularly partake in sporting activities increasingly use apps on their phones to track their performance levels, they are looking at the potential of nutritional beverages to help improve their personal bests. The rise of recreational athletes with high expectations of their own performance presents an opportunity for creative product developers.

“Recreational athletes are hunting for more. A sports drink is no longer a classic electrolyte product that only contains sugar for energy and vitamins,” Markus points out. He highlights the potential for incorporating dietary fibers into beverages (e.g. oligofructose for clear beverages), as just one example of how to meet the needs of more specific target groups concerned about performance nutrition.

Cute 2 year old girl is reaching out for her glass of milk!

Delivering high protein content beverages

The protein trend has been storming the food & beverage marketplace in recent years to go far beyond the professional sports arena itself. Protein fortified products are attracting a broad demographic base that includes anyone from healthy active, to weight-conscious and senior consumers. Interestingly, proteins cover all demographics groups and address the needs for muscle building, weight management, and broader physical performance.

Consumer knowledge around protein is proliferating with a growing interest in incorporating active ingredients such as branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), which play a specific role in muscle build-up, and sports recovery. Mainstream consumers are increasingly aware of the amino acid profile of specific protein types and the role of protein quality, as well as quantity. Considering this quality aspect is particularly relevant right now amid the growing demand for vegan options.

Combinations will also be required in order to offer complete solutions. As Stéphanie Pretesacque, Technology Director, Brenntag F&N EMEA notes: “Combinations are becoming increasingly important, particularly since no single plant protein contains the full essential amino acid profile properties that dairy proteins have.” Brenntag F&N application specialists are therefore assessing the full variety of proteins out there, including peas and rice, and emerging options such as pumpkin, Sacha Inchi protein (not aproved as novel food in the EU yet), and much more.

The company is placing a specific focus on proposing protein solutions to the beverage industry as demand increases and customers face significant formulation challenges. One of the Brenntag F&N’s recent developments is a 100 percent vegan BCAA containing drink with optimized taste and solubility properties that has been fortified with caffeine or L-Carnitine and combined with different vitamins.

Condition-specific platforms

The notion of holistic health products that cater to a “healthy body, healthy mind” are trending within the EMEA region and translate to meet the differing nutritional needs of Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers. While marketing may be segmented to adapt to these diverse demographics, some similar needs can clearly be identified:

  • Immunity: The immune health trend accelerated during the first months of 2020, as both the awareness and wish to boost natural immunity increased due to the COVID-19 situation. It leads some beverage manufacturers to reassess the composition of their products and consider, for example, increasing the vitamin C content. At the same time, it has also stimulated beverage manufacturers to take a fresh look at certain high vitamin C superfruits that may have slipped off the radar in recent years, such as acerola and sea buckthorn. But ingesting products that support the immune system is a long-term trend. It is therefore worth looking seriously at this space and opting for well documented efficacious ingredients that work within the EU regulatory framework, carrying approved European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Article 13.1 claims. Brenntag F&N offers a broad variety of nutritional ingredients that can serve perfectly the immune health space including vitamins and minerals, as well as trace elements (zinc) and extracts with standardized vitamin contents.
  • Mental & visual alertness: Mental health products, aka nootropics, appeal to all age groups. It is all about mental focus and acuity. Beyond the traditional botanicals like ginseng and gingko biloba, others to watch include green tea, coffee extract, and mate. A current interesting sub-trend is the rise in demand for nutritional ingredients for e-sports, particularly among millennials and gamers. These consumers are essentially looking for meal replacements since standard energy drinks will not give them the full nutritional dose, they need for a 4-hour video game. Such a product would contain a high dose of protein, vitamins & minerals, as well as a natural source of caffeine. Nutritional solutions for vision will also appeal to avid gamers, who want to ensure they can see all the tiny dots on the screen. While in the past these types of products were completely geared towards seniors losing their visual acuity, younger consumers are taking an interest now too. This means opportunity for traditional vitamins, but also lutein, zeaxanthin, and other carotenoids.
  • Bone & joint health: The market for bone & joint health products has similarly widened as a growing number of younger people become more competitive in the sports they play and increasingly struggle with bone and joint issues. In the EMEA region, it is important to work with well-documented vitamins and minerals that carry approved health claims, including vitamin D and calcium. Furthermore, collagen remains a key nutritional to watch that aids joint health, beauty from within, and skin health.

Plenty more to come

It all means that exciting work is on the agenda for technical specialists such as Jerzy Baczewski, Technology Manager, Brenntag F&N EMEA. “We are also working on fortified meal replacements that offer the full nutritional score of a protein beverage,” he reveals. “We are developing new concepts for a next-generation energy drink with a high degree of ingredients from natural sources, e.g. plant-based extracts and natural caffeine sources,” Jerzy concludes.

The EMEA beverage arena is high on creativity and beverage solution partners such as Brenntag F&N will support customers with the on-trend product development required to stand out in a changing marketplace. The company offers a complete range of healthy ingredients for fortification to enable claims around immunity, energy and bone health to be made. In addition, Brenntag F&N has a long experience in the formulation of energy compounds and sports drinks. The team is also proud to offer an exciting range of proteins from vegan sources and the technical knowledge to formulate beverages containing them.

Berries smoothie glass jar on blue table. Predominant colors are red and blue. DSRL studio photo taken with Canon EOS 5D Mk II and Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens