National Starch targets functional beverages category with emulsifier

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Coffee Drink Water

The R&D team at National Starch Food Innovation (NSFI), looking at further uses for its emulsifier, Q-Naturale, said results showed that it is highly suited to clear beverages such as vitamin waters due to its compatibility with natural colours.

Manufacturers targeting the demand for fortified and flavoured waters have up until now been restricted to a limited number of flavours but in-house trials show that Q-Naturale can enable formulators to use oil based and natural flavours and actives to ensure transparency of beverages while retaining stability, said Claudia Fiannaca, business development manager, beverages and flavours, NSFI.

"Due to the particle size of our emulsifier, drink makers can now incorporate omega-3 oils or beta-carotene based colours into beverages and avoid the opacity that normally occurs when natural colours such as lemon are combined with emulsifiers like gum arabic," ​she explained.

Emulsifiers work by stabilizing oil suspended in water, and this is achieved electrostatically. Part of the emulsifier is attracted to water, while another part is attracted to the oil. The isoelectric point (pI) is the pH at which the emulsifier has no electrical charge, and therefore in a food or drink with a pH close to the pI the emulsifier can no longer stabilize the emulsion effectively.

Robust results

Fiannaca told that NSFI was aware of the potential applications of Q-Naturale in terms of clear beverages at its launch in 2008 but she said that over the past 12 months, the European and US R&D teams, have achieved, in parallel, a more robust way of maintaining transparency while combining the emulsifier with natural and oil based ingredients.

"We are really confident about the results of our pilot scale trials, but they are not dependent on scale of equipment - we expect peformance to be even better on the industrial level,"​ she added, saying that NSFI will work closely with beverage manufacturers on formulation of clear beverages using Q-Naturale.

And the emulsifier, she said, can be added to existing manufacturing processes for functional beverages, on standard homogenized mixers, with no step changes requried, while achieving excellent long-term room, cold temperature and pH stability.

The supplier first introduced Q-Naturale, which comes from the South American Quillaja saponaria tree, in the US and Canada in 2008. Quinaia (or quinaja) saponins have around a 100 years history of use in food and beverages, as well as other uses such as production of photographic films and cosmetics.

According to NSFI, Q-Naturale is interesting to beverage formulators because it supply and cost is more consistent that for other common emulsifiers, such as gum arabic.

Functional innovation

Sales of functional waters are growing strongly in Europe aided by health concerns, clearer marketing, and advances in formulation, according to a report in November last year from Zenith.

The market research company said the European market for functional and flavoured waters rose 5 per cent to 3,600 million litres in 2008.

“Increasing public awareness about the benefits of hydration and mounting concerns over calories in other soft drinks have led to extensive innovation in flavoured and functional waters over the past few years,”​ said Zenith market intelligence director Gary Roethenbaugh.

“Scientific advances in tailoring functional ingredients to beverage-based applications have widened the opportunities for functional products,"​ he added.

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