Looks good, tastes good...
By Sarah Chapman - 27 July 2012
And, by golly, it does you good! That was the claim of the makers of a very famous stout in the 1960s. I suppose, in a way, it was an early example of the mass marketing of a 'functional' claim. Since then, functional drinks have grown in popularity. Sports and energy drinks have been a major part of this general product area - and are being highlighted again now that the Olympics are finally upon us!
Sports drinks aim to provide water, energy and electrolytes in a form that is both palatable and easy to absorb. Energy drinks generally claim a particular energy boost (from something like caffeine or guarana). According to figures from the British Soft Drinks Association, the consumption of these types of drinks rose from 320 million litres in 2004 to 600 million litres in 2010.
At Campden BRI we are involved in a wide range of product development work, and developing drinks products has provided an increasingly significant proportion of this. There are many facets that have to be brought together to get a product to market.
We are often brought in to advise on ingredient alternatives - perhaps to improve the stability or shelf-life of the product or enable it to be processed in a particular way, without losing the functionality being claimed. The product innovation team regularly liaises with our legislation people about this - changing a formulation can often invalidate a claim, sometimes in quite a subtle way. On the other hand, to keep the claim 'valid' may result in a drink that is either unstable or unacceptable to the consumer in some way. It is important to be clear right from the start what you want your drink to do and to confirm that it is basically achievable (and legal), or a lot of time can be wasted following impractical ideas.
Getting the right balance of nutrients for elite high-performance athletes is still an evolving science. Recently, we have seen the introduction of drinks based on beetroot juice and other unusual ingredients: originally formulated for elite athletes, they are now being marketed to those of us of lesser sporting ability! Continually improving the understanding of human physiological needs and of the characteristics of plant metabolites will drive these developments on.