Soft drink formulation: hard work ahead

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Soft drink

As soft drink makers face growing criticisms over the potential detrimental health impacts of some of their ingredients, takes a look at how the industry is adapting to ever-changing market concerns in the first of a two part article.

As soft drink makers face growing criticisms over the potential detrimental health impacts of some of their ingredients, takes a look at how the industry is adapting to ever-changing market concerns in the first of a two part article.

After the publication of research earlier this week linking the onset of type 2 diabetes to sweetened beverage consumption, including some fruit-based products, the industry has unsurprisingly moved to defend its reformulation efforts.

The British Soft Drink Association (BSDA), which represents the interests of some of the world’s leading soft drink manufacturers, told that its members had, for some time, been making significant steps in reformulating their products in line with consumer needs.

However, the claims have not been enough to prevent tightened restrictions on how soft drinks can be sold and marketed though.

Southampton study

Following the continued fallout from last year’s Lancet published-Southampton Study, which looked at the impact of some prominent colourings on childrens’ behaviour, the European parliament has adopted new labelling legislation on the additives.

Foods containing tartrazine (E102), quinoline yellow (E104), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), ponceau 4R (E124) and allura red (E129), will have to be labelled "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children", as a result.

Changing formulation challenges

Amidst these concerns Andrew Lea, a retired beverage chemist and analyst who has worked with some leading manufacturers, said that he believed that reformulation was high up the agenda for the industry in terms of innovation.

Lea stressed that drink groups had been quick to move away from full sugar formulations, particularly on the UK market, towards lower calorie ingredients, a move embraced by consumers, despite the taste ramifications.

“Unfortunately even the best of artificial sweeteners still lack physical 'body' in a drink, making low cal drinks 'thinner' to taste,”​ he claimed. “It seems to me that the consumer is gradually accepting this and prepared for the trade-off.”

Lea said that this trend had been increasingly noticeable since non-diet products had moved away from being full sugar.

However, for its optimism in moving away from high sugar drinks, preservative innovation in drink may be proving more troublesome for drink groups.

Lea said that replacing the current industry standards of sorbate and benzoate products were not viable for drinks makers as yet, though technological advances may hold some solutions.

“That is probably the most difficult area to tackle although clever ingredient formulation and aseptic packaging, especially at low pH, can mitigate this but needs careful and ongoing microbiological control​,” he stated. “Good old pasteurisation still has a role to play here.”

In terms of the colourings that are finding their way into drinks, Lea said that there has been a clear shift within the industry towards more natural colours such as anthocyanins and carotenoids, which he believes offer improved stability in the final product.

Manufacturers still had some work in ensuring they are using these colourings efficiently though, he added.

“There are still some issues regarding stability to light, [particularly in regards to] pH ,so they need skilled application and not just 'throwing in'​,” said Lea. “They are probably more costly than the synthetic dyes.”

The next part of this article will appear on on Monday.

Related topics: Markets, Ingredients

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