More Than Just Energy

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

As one of the rapidly growing beverage segments in the world, competition within the energy drink market is becoming more intense. The addition of plant extracts into traditional formulas can provide the differentiating factor. By Anja Nabasik, editor, SternVitamin

Energy drinks are one of the rapidly growing segments of the soft drinks industry worldwide. No wonder, then, that more and more products are crowding onto the market and steadily widening the available range.

Concentrated energy shots have progressively established themselves alongside the classic energy drinks. Strategies directed towards specific target groups promise additional sales potential.

As a rule, the classic energy drinks contain caffeine, various B vitamins, inositol and taurine, but it is possible to enhance them further by adding plant extracts like guarana, ginseng, gingko biloba or yerba maté.

As Dr Sabine Hildebrandt, head of research and development at SternVitamin, explains: “In principle, any combination of nutrients requested by the customer is possible. But in the development of new products especially, the choice of the right ingredients always presents a challenge. The most important requirement is that the ingredients are readily soluble and do not react with each other. Flavour, colour, pH and mouthfeel must not be impaired.”

Experience and intensive applications research are therefore essential, and stable, high-quality raw materials are a further ‘must’ in order to achieve top quality in the finished products.

With beverages, especially, the dosage form of the premixes plays a major role too. That is why the company uses modern production techniques such as fluid-bed drying.

“For example, our fluid-bed processor enables us to convert powders that do not dissolve well into agglomerates with a porous structure which dissolve much more readily in water. That gives us a wider choice of usable nutrients”, the research scientist elaborates. Other processes made possible by this plant are drying, granulation and coating.

Close Cooperation

According to her, another important requirement for success is close cooperation between the premix supplier and its customers. When implementing ideas for new products, the company cooperates very closely with the customer’s development department.

“A premix may go through several stages of development before it is finally ready for production or the market. We first simulate the production process and the end product in our applications laboratory before making them ready for the market together with the customer. As a rule, the formulation is finely tuned to ensure optimum results in respect of colour, flavour and mouthfeel.”

But even when developing classic premixes that only contain the basic ingredients for energy drinks, the vitamin and mineral specialists go into every detail carefully.

“We take a close look at the product parameters and the process by which the end product is made. Then we can tell which of these factors may have a degrading effect on the individual ingredients”, the expert explains.

“That makes it possible to calculate any loss of effect caused by the manufacturing process or storage of the end products and compensate for it with suitable overdosing. In this way, we ensure that the substances advertised as functional really do stay effective until the end of the product’s shelf life.”

Energy Shots

Energy Shots

That applies to energy shots as well. As a highly concentrated variant of the energy drinks, they give additional stimulus to the segment. They, too, contain a mixture of caffeine, various B vitamins, inositol and taurine—but in a much higher dosage.

As a result, the high-energy drinks often find their way onto the market as food supplements. She adds: “Energy shots are intended to improve concentration, performance and the ability to react within a short time. Because of the high concentration of the active ingredients, only a small amount is needed to achieve the desired effect.”

For this reason, the energisers are usually sold in small bottles of 60-80 ml each. They fit into any jacket pocket and are therefore, especially suitable for travelling, for example, on long car journeys, and they provide a quick boost of energy at endless meetings in the office.

New Target Groups

As cult products, energy drinks are especially popular with younger consumers. But for some time they have been finding their way into other target groups as energy boosters.

There is a demand for new, innovative product concepts that meet consumers’ wishes in respect of health and lifestyle, as well as maintaining performance.

“Interesting ideas for new products include ‘love boosters’—drinks containing plant extracts like damiana extract powder, which is said to have a stimulating effect”, the researcher reports. “For this segment, we have developed two premixes—one for women and one for men.”

Sophia La
Sophia La

The mixture for women contains the plant extracts ginseng and damiana, as well as L-arginine, magnesium and vitamins B6, B12 and C. Besides damiana and guarana extract, the ‘stimulator’ for men contains vitamins B1, B6, B12 and C.

“Plant extracts like damiana and ginseng make trend products particularly attractive and increase their value-added potential. When combined with our basic compounds for energy drinks they make it possible to create totally new product lines”, she says.

Guarana has been known for its stimulating effect for a long time. In Asia, where it originates, ginseng is regarded as a universal remedy. The root is a classic tonic to combat fatigue and exhaustion.

Damiana, on the other hand, is still scarcely known in many countries. The plant’s natural habitat extends from the US to Argentina. Mexican doctors and the native inhabitants use damiana as a medicinal plant to relieve spastic conditions of the respiratory organs, nervous tension, depression and sexual dysfunction.

Other Possibilities

The energy drinks sector still offers good value-added potential, but other segments can benefit as well. Possibilities include isotonic drinks for athletes with extra energy-giving ingredients or energy sweets as a quick, inconspicuous way of recharging one’s batteries during a meeting.

Besides supplying standard premixes and ready-to-use blends that only have to be mixed with water, processed and filled, the company develops special mixtures for individual customers.

“Against the background of increasing competition in the market, suppliers are more and more obliged to stand out with ideas for individual products in order to generate additional sales”, Dr Hildebrandt says.

“It’s now part of our daily business to develop new, creative approaches together with our customers—ideas that can be put into practice simply and economically.”