Juices set to lead functional innovation

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Functional drinks Nutrition

Fruit and vegetable juices are excellently placed to take
functional innovation forward, but producers must first get to
grips with the intense scrutiny their products will attract from
regulators and consumers, says Cargill nutritionist.

Modern processing techniques mean that it is possible to extract more of the goodness from fruit and vegetables, such as antioxidants and phytochemicals, and insert them in higher concentrations into juices.

Dr Fred Brouns, a nutritionist representing the Juice Beverage Applications division of ingredients firm Cargill, is expected to say this in a presentation at this year's Anuga expo in Germany.

"Consumer research has shown that fruit and vegetable juices are excellent carriers for functional food ingredients that, until now, were primarily used in the dairy industry,"​ Brouns will assert.

Probiotic juices based on dairy have already been launched on the market, including those under the Gefilus brand owned by Finnish dairy firm Valio.

It has also become more popular to target specific health benefits, such as adding calcium for bone health and phytochemicals aimed at enhancing the consumer's immune system or mental performance.

Soft drinks giant Coca-Cola recently got clearance to launch a cholesterol-lowering juice in the UK using phytosterols. The drinks maker already launched a similar juice in the US in 2003 called Heart Wise, containing phytosterols from Cargill.

However, Brouns will warn producers that there are important essentials in functional development that are crucial to consumer confidence and "are not those that the juice and beverage industry has been dealing with historically"​.

Firms must ensure that the ingredient has the desired effect and meets any claim, that it is safe and that it clears any regulatory hurdles.

Dr Michael de Vrese, of Germany's Federal Research Centre for Nutrition and Food, said in a talk at the recent Drinktec expo that a functional product "must have scientifically proven benefits beyond the normal nutritional benefits"​ of similar products.

These basic assurances are more important in some markets where functional drinks are still trying to gain a foothold in the mainstream.

In the UK, US firm Bravo! Foods has just got its vitamin-enriched milk drinks into the number three supermarket, Sainsbury's, yet a probiotic juice from Swedish firm Skane has struggled to progress in the UK compared to its success in Sweden.

At Anuga, Brouns will also warn firms that functional drinks must still meet certain market trends to be successful.

These, aside from health generally, are: great taste, indulgence, desire convenience, on-the-go, extreme, sharp mind and enhanced mental performance as well as healthy ageing and wellness.

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