Increasing use of innovative ingredients within soft drinks is one of the most notable trends witnessed by that industry over the past few years, according to Leatherhead Food Research.
In its newly published research report, ‘New Directions in the Global Soft Drinks Market’, the research firm said: “In many instances, this [the addition of new ingredients] has been to give soft drinks an added health appeal (in the case of functional food ingredients such as omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, probiotics and prebiotics).
“Manufacturers have also been experimenting with new herbal and botanical extracts in order to make their products stand out.”
Leatherhead noted that the global soft drinks industry was worth $447bn (€342bn) in 2010, with an output of 483bn litres; carbonates accounted for 43% of global sales, fruit juices and drinks 21% and sports and energy drinks 8% (although this segment only cornered 4% of the market in volume terms).
In a market dominated by multinationals the Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Red Bull, Danone and Nestlé, Leatherhead said competition was cut-throat, with an associated wealth of innovation.
Aloe vera, collagen, GABA...
Discussing some of the more significant ingredient additions, Leatherhead said that aloe vera – traditionally used within cosmetics and healthcare for soothing, moisturising and healing properties, was now finding increasing favour within food and drink manufacture, “especially given the trend towards beauty-enhancing products”.
Coenztme Q10 (CoQ10) was also growing in popularity, said Leatherhead, as a vitamin-like substance that (it is claimed) protects brain cells against oxidative damage and combats mitochondria diseases such as neurological disorders.
Also widely known in the healthcare arena, natural protein collagen was also being used to formulate beverages, according to the research firm, and has been linked with improved skin and nail health.
The report authors also mentioned gamma-amino butyric acid, (GABA), for it supposed stress and mental health benefits and ginkgo biloba: the flavonoid and terpenoid-rich herbal extract marketed as an aid to memory and concentrations.
“Studies show that this herb may slow the progress of some cases of Alzheimer’s type dementia and that it can increase blood flow to the extremities in some cases of impaired circulation,” said Leatherhead.
As a plant native to the maple family, and widely grown in Brazil, guarana (pictured, traditionally the preserve of Latin American soft drinks) was also finding favour for its “widely recognised stimulant properties”, given a caffeine content of around twice the amount found in coffee beans, the report added.
Omega-3 fatty acids from both marine and plant sources promised cardiovascular benefits, according to Leatherhead, “while they have also been linked with playing an important role in the central nervous system and in developing the brain and eyes in babies”.
Phytosterols for heart health, prebiotics to promote calcium absorbtion and probiotics for gut health were also increasingly popular with formulation teams, according to the research firm.
Meanwhile, Paraguayan plant extract stevia - used to sweeten bitter-tasting South American drinks for generations - was increasingly being used in soft drinks, Leatherhead said, and was now available under brand names such as Truvia (Cargill) and PureVia.