Creating ‘Better-For-You’ Beverages

Monday, October 7th, 2019

Brands can conquer the ‘better-for-you’ market by reformulating beverages to be healthier while maintaining a consistent mouthfeel. By Dr Jodell Jiang, Technical Business Development Manager APMEA at Kerry.   

Consumer demand for ‘better-for-you’ beverages is on the rise. According to Innova Market Insights, consumption of functional beverages rose from 12.6 percent to 27.2 percent between 2012 and 2016, whilst in Asia Pacific the non-alcoholic segment of the beverage taste modulator market alone is expected to grow to USD 169.5 million by 2023, according to a recent report from MarketsandMarkets.

In Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa (APMEA), the popularity of ‘better-for-you’ beverages is being driven by a number of macro trends. Firstly, the region’s aging population and rising levels of type 2 diabetes are encouraging individuals to pay much more attention to their diet. The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2025 India and China alone may account for up to 50 million cases of diabetes and, with Asia also poised to be home to 61 percent of the global older population by 2050, this trend looks set to continue.

The free-from movement has also gained a foothold in recent years and, because many consumers are avoiding more than one ingredient, it is now commonplace to see product launches with multiple free-from claims.

At the same time, regulations are being introduced across APMEA to reduce the sugar content of drinks. In May, Saudi Arabia became the latest in a growing list of countries to announce an excise tax on all drinks with added sugar and, with countries in the Middle East reporting some of the fastest growing obesity rates in the world, it is likely to be only a matter of time before other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council pass “sin taxes” that include sugary drinks, too.

In Asia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei have all introduced a Sugar Sweetened Beverage (SSB) tax in the past two years, while a number of other countries—including Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore—are also considering it.

Faced with this ‘push’ of government regulation and ‘pull’ of rising consumer demand for healthier choices, there is a mounting commercial and legal imperative for APMEA’s drinks manufacturers to pay closer attention to the nutritional properties of their products.

For any drinks brands that are going down the reformulation route, there are three considerations that should be front of mind:


  • Reducing Sugar Without Compromising On Quality

While nutrition is paramount, consumers are not willing to compromise on taste so the success of reduced, low and no-sugar drinks is dependent on a brand’s ability to maintain product quality.

As well as flavour, sugar also plays an important role in texture, colour, viscosity, mouthfeel and aroma too, so when manufacturers remove or reduce sugar, they need to take steps to preserve these qualities, whilst at the same time masking bitterness and off-notes which may increase when sweetness levels are reduced.

Sugar contributes solids to beverage, which in turn provides body. With reduced sugar, beverage feels empty, besides maintaining sweetness, maintaining the body is also important in sugar reduced beverages to maintain the same or better mouthfeel and texture and hence consumer experience.

There are a range of sugar alternatives that brands can consider. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin and sucralose were once popular because they are sweeter than sugar but lower in calories. However, with the ‘clean label’ movement taking hold in APMEA, there is now an emerging preference for natural sweeteners like honey and agave instead. These ingredients can have their own limitations too; natural sweeteners can add bitterness and metallic off-notes to a product.

This is where taste modulators come in and modulates the overall taste profile in the finished product.


  • Functional Fortification

While manufacturers are looking to reduce the sugar content of their beverages, they should also think how they can fortify their drinks with healthier ingredients that maintain a consistent mouthfeel.

Options for fortification are numerous – from proteins, probiotics and prebiotics, to fibre and flavonoids—and it can be a lucrative marketing tool for manufacturers to differentiate and attract ‘new’ customer segments. Functional properties can range from stability and shelf-life to an ingredient’s ability to withstand manufacturing and food preparation processes, such as boiling, and can therefore be just as important as nutritional properties when a manufacturer is deciding which fortification ingredients to use.

Fortification can even be applied to improve products that have been reformulated in other ways. For example, lactose intolerance is high among some subgroups in Asia so lactose-free products are a burgeoning market. Brands that can fortify their lactose-free products to include easily absorbable calcium will have a new unique selling proposition.

Probiotic food and drinks are becoming increasingly popular and are one area where we see a big opportunity for fortification. There is an opportunity for beverage brands to move beyond traditional products, like yoghurt and fermented culture drinks, and branch into new categories such as tea bags and flavoured water. Using ingredient like the GanedenBC30 probiotic can add digestive, immune and protein utilisation support to beverage products and, crucially, is highly stable meaning that it is viable through most manufacturing processes and can endure high temperatures allowing it to be used in categories like teabags.

With the rising awareness of obesity and diet-related diseases, the food and beverage industry is increasingly focused on adding more fibre to food and beverages for benefits such as calorie reduction, weight management and digestive health. Fortification solutions like EmulGold Fibre, which is a natural, GMO-free source of soluble dietary fibre (> 90 percent on a dry weight basis) produced from the highest quality Gum Acacia are being looked to upon by manufacturers to differentiate their beverage options

when it comes to fibre enrichment without effecting the mouthfeel and improving the flavour release.


  • Catering For ‘Clean Label’ Conscious Consumers

APMEA consumers are more educated than ever about the contents of their food and drink. Having first taken off in the West, the ‘clean label’ movement has now taken root in APMEA, with a growing number of shoppers wanting to know what is in their products and preferring to buy food and beverages that contain natural, familiar and simple ingredients.

It is comparatively easy for new products to be created with clean labels, but it can be much harder to do for established products. Often this has to be done one ingredient at a time. The starting point for any beverage brand should be to identify the right clean label strategy for them and decide whether to reformulate or innovate.

The presence and acceptance of certain ingredients varies by product category as well. For instance, high levels of sugar are more widely accepted in ice creams, but much less so in carbonated soft drinks. Beverage manufacturers need to be aware that some ingredients—such as high fructose corn syrup and monosodium glutamate—are deemed clear negatives by the clean label movement, whereas there are other ingredients that can simply differentiate products and brands as clean, cleaner and cleanest.

Oils and fats provide a rich and creamy mouthfeel to a wide range of dairy and non-dairy beverages. Whilst it is relatively easy to reduce fat levels to around 1 to 1.5 percent using the right type of texturant solution, lower fat levels can be challenging without compromising a creamy mouthfeel and indulgent drinking experience. Specific texture systems are available to help producers to achieve these challenging levels. In a number of cases the interaction of raw materials, processing and texturant make it necessary to tailor the development of a solution specific to the final product.

Consumer preconceptions and expectations about certain ingredients are constantly changing, so manufacturers need to keep abreast of the latest trends and pay attention to local nuances that will occur in diverse regions like APMEA. Manufacturers may also need to invest in educating consumers about the health benefits of ingredients that have been added to fortify the product, particularly if they are uncommon ingredients.

Overall, there is a huge opportunity for manufacturers to not only retain, but also grow their market share in APMEA by catering to the growing demand for ‘better-for-you’ beverages, so long as they can maintain product quality, consistent mouthfeel and clearly communicate the benefits of fortification to today’s better-informed consumers.


Further reading:

Mintel: Five New F&B Trends

Alternative Sweeteners Predicted To Reach US$870 Million In 2020

Novozymes Launches Online Calculator To Help Dairies Develop Products With Less Sugar

Bakery Processing Equipment Market To Exceed USD 11 Billion By 2025