Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after the Atlanta Business Chronicle ran a story suggesting that Coca-Cola is seeking to patent a “new sugar-free fiber drink”, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman said the article drew on a patent application that Coca-Cola had made in September last year, but which had only been published on March 28 this year.
Asked whether new products utilizing the intellectual property outlined in the patent application could hit the market soon, she said: “While other applications could be possible, it’s not something we’re considering at this time.
“Our focus is specifically on this product [Slurpee Lite].”
She also played down the fiber element, stressing that what is special about Slurpee Lite is that it is a “great new low-cal, sugar-free frozen beverage” and is “not about something that is focused on dietary fiber”.
She added: “The related product is a low-calorie, sugar-free, frozen Fanta offering: Slurpee Lite. It has been in market since last May. While the beverage contains fiber, the fiber helps provide texture in the absence of sugar.
"We believe the use of dextrin in a sugar-free frozen carbonated beverage is both novel and innovative."
Without a modification to the freezing point, a sugar free concentrate would freeze into a solid block of ice
The patent application - which you can read here - covers a novel beverage concentrate that contains a dietary fiber called soluble dextrin which allows for sugar-free or low calorie frozen drinks that can be dispensed like slurpees.
While it is easy enough to create sugar-free and low calorie beverages by using high intensity sweeteners and polyols instead of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, they won’t have the “‘slush-like’ consistency required for dispensing”, says the application.
“A sugar free beverage concentrate lacks sucrose or HFCS and therefore an appropriate amount of freezing point depression to operate in commonly utilized, frozen beverage dispensing equipment.
“Without a modification to the freezing point, a sugar free concentrate would freeze into a solid block of ice, and not exhibit the desirable, ‘slush like’ consistency required for dispensing.”
How to modify freezing points without impacting taste and quality
While you can modify freeing points by adding a lot of sugar alcohols,” in certain circumstances the quantity required to effectively control freezing point depression may exceed current guidelines for maximum use”, says Coca-Cola.
Meanwhile, other ingredients commonly known to depress freezing points, such as salts or acids may also “impact the taste and quality of the beverage”.
To tackle this conundrum, Coke has applied to patent a fiber-rich concentrate that will enable it to modify the freezing point of sugar free and low calorie beverages such that it can be used in a slurpee-style dispensed drink.
There exists a need for healthier frozen carbonated beverages
The application #20130078353, which was made on September 21, 2012, and published on March 28, 2013, says the fiber level in the concentrate can be between 0.1% and 30%, but is ideally between 15-25%.
The concentrate could be sweetened with zero calorie sweeteners including steviol glycosides, sucralose and aspartame or polyols such as erythritol or maltitol, and is carbonated “or is capable of being carbonated”, and can be dispensed, says the application.
Dietary fiber has demonstrated the necessary freezing point depression without negatively impacting taste or quality
It adds: “There exists a need for healthier frozen carbonated beverages and frozen non-carbonated beverages that exhibit the taste, dispensability and stability properties preferred by consumers.
“Dietary fiber has demonstrated the necessary freezing point depression without negatively impacting taste or quality. The fiber is a soluble dextrin, low in carbohydrate content, necessary to meet requirements for a sugar free claim in the beverage in accordance with FDA guidelines.
“Additionally, it adds body or mouth feel to the beverage, which is commonly provided by sucrose or HFCS.
“The fiber is also tolerant of the required beverage concentrate processing conditions, including low pH and high shear force, and is stable over the shelf life of the concentrate, all of which are favorable characteristics typically associated with sucrose or HFCS.”
An 8-ounce Slurpee Lite Fanta Sugar-Free Mango - which is sweetened with erythritol and sucralose and contains an unspecified amount of dextrin - has 20 calories vs. 66 calories in an 8-ounce Fanta Wild Cherry Slurpee drink, the best-selling conventional Slurpee.
Click here to read the full application.