The Coca-Cola Company has patented what it says is a new method allowing it to naturally fortify beverages including colas with high vitamin levels using a single micro-organism.
Inventors Jeroen Hugenholtz and Thilo Strachotta, who work at Coke in Atlanta, explain in their international patent filing (published internationally on April 24 2014) that vitamins are essential for normal growth and for the healthy development of cells, tissues and organs.
“Dietary supplements are often used to ensure adequate amounts of these essential nutrients are obtained on a daily basis. New and improved formulations of beverages are desirable to meet changing market demands,” they write, in a passage that gains added spice from Coca-Cola Life’s 2013 launch in Argentina, and pending September launch in the UK.
Colas with high levels of vitamin B12, vitamin K, folate and biotin
Tantalizingly, later on, the inventors add: “Cola beverages, which typically exhibit a dark brown color derived from caramel coloring resulting from heat-treated carbohydrates, can also benefit from the increased vitamin content method in accordance with the principles of the current invention.”
Introducing their filing, the inventors link vitamin deficiency to “numerous physiological disorders”, and claim that their natural fermented beverage compositions can increase vitamin B12, vitamin K, folate and biotin levels up to 20-fold (2,000%) relative to the US recommended daily intake (RDI).
“The principles of the present invention are based at least in part on the surprising discovery that fermenting beverages with vitamin-producing micro-organisms can naturally, and significantly, increase the concentration of vitamins,” Hugenholtz and Strachotta write.
“As a result, beverages are greatly enriched with vitamins and exhibit little flavour change and at least partial maintenance of sweetness and mouth feel,” they add.
The inventors define a ‘fermented beverage’ as a solution/dispersion derived from a drink containing sugar – one example given is fruit juice. Microorganisms work to break down this carbohydrate rich substrate into simpler organic compounds.
Technique works with everything from coffee to carbonates
Coke says it can use standard fermentation methods to boost vitamin levels in carbonates and non-carbonates, frozen RTD drinks, coffee and tea-based drinks, dairy drinks, flavored waters, fruit juices, sports drinks, even alcoholic drinks – by fermenting them or adding fermented beverages to them.
Hugenholtz and Strachotta claim that their enrichment technique differs from existing methods by boosting the content of at least four vitamins in a given drink using a single fermentation step and micro-organism – older methods use microorganisms to boost levels of single vitamins.
The inventors claim in their patent that Propionibacterium freudenreichii CH15460 or mutants thereof can be used to ferment the beverage and produce vitamin B12, vitamin K, folate and biotin, then removed from drink thereafter.
Coke's scientists said in their patent filing that some fermented beverages made using this method could contain up to 20 times the recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamins for healthy adults irrespective of age and gender, according to the Food and Nutrition Board of the US National Research Council.