The quest for the perfect soft drink: Delivering a BCAA boost

Cola soda fizzy drinks cans

A new concept overcomes the two major hurdles associated with BCAAs: taste and solubility.

The need for efficient sports performance solutions is no longer restricted to elite athletes and fitness fanatics. Sports nutrition products are being offered in regular supermarket aisles that cater to amateur sports people tracking their activity, goals and achievements on apps and looking to boost their performance levels.

One of the consequences of this trend is the rise in popularity of products containing branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), reaching a market beyond athletes and bodybuilders alone. BCAA drinks fit firmly within the image of well-being and a healthy lifestyle. But while elite athletes may be willing to sacrifice some taste for a performance boost, recreational athletes are more demanding. Many are also looking for vegan solutions amid this massive lifestyle and health trend.

Overcoming the hurdles

With this background, Thomas Fanzlau, Business Unit Manager Food Solutions DACH, and his team, set out to overcome the two major hurdles associated with BCAAs: taste and solubility. The product developers succeeded in creating two complete vegan solutions that perfectly meet two of today’s major market needs: alertness and performance. The developers succeeded in creating harmonized taste profiles for concepts containing BCAAs, as well as further fortification through the use of caffeine and vitamins in one case and L-Carnitine in another.

The development pipeline of these concepts, which began in early 2020, presented a host of formulation challenges. While there are many commonly available products on the market to mask the after taste of BCAAs, many contain milk powder as part of the taste harmonizing system thereby conflicting with the needs of a vegan diet.

"Taking all these cornerstones into account, we worked on a solution in cooperation with our extensive supplier network to develop the right system of taste harmonisation for a neutral and vegan BCAA solution", explains Thomas Fanzlau. The replacement of soya lecithin with sunflower lecithin also resulted in the absence of allergens.

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Young sporty attractive woman practicing yoga, doing Donkey Kick exercise in front of her laptop

A strong sports nutrition performer

The used nutrients leucine, isoleucine and valine in the BCAA solution are produced through a fermentation process. The neutral taste of the concept means that developers have the opportunity to add flavor, without compromise.

“We put our focus on the best possible taste harmonization of the blend to ensure an easy neutral incorporation into the finished product with the preferred flavor,” Thomas explains. “Best processability is ensured through the use of high-quality amino acids that are fully soluble,” he adds.

Beyond having excellent solubility, other advantages include the fact that the concepts can be marketed as “sugar-free” (if sweetened only with sweeteners in the final product, sugar content is ≤0.5 g/100ml) and low energy (if the final product has no more than 20kcal/100ml). Available in 250ml, 330ml and 500ml packaging concept formats, the beverages indeed present an opportunity to broaden the product lines of an established brand or to help create new ones altogether.

Customized to specific requirements

Right now, Brenntag F&N is busy preparing ready to drink (RTD) samples at their Application Development Centers (FA&DC) around the EMEA region. The ultimate aim is to offer brand owners, private label owners and beverage companies the opportunity to develop their own solution that fit the brief exactly.

Markus Kammerer, Sales Manager Sweet & Beverage Solutions, Brenntag F&N EMEA is proud of the development work that has led to the creation of these on-trend concepts. “Standard BCAAs are always followed by a bad and specific after taste when used as a plain ingredient,” he notes.

“Our team used its capabilities to fortify and modify this product into a prepared and easily soluble functional solution for beverages or powdered and solid sports nutrition products. They succeeded in blocking out the aftertaste of the BCAA and specific ingredients like L-Carnitine through the use of the formulated system,” Markus adds.

As always, Brenntag F&N in EMEA utilized local Food Application & Development Centers with regional flavors portfolio and know-how. The concept reiterates how local cooperation is possible and how product concepts can be customized towards specific requirements.

“A global trend should always be translated and adapted for regional requirements, functionality and taste profile,” Markus concludes.

Cans with Energy drink in supermarket. Selective focus.