Speaking at Zenith International’s InnoBev Global Soft Drinks Congress in Lisbon last week, Katja Reichenbach, product manager for Palatinose at BENEO, cast a glance at the current energy category.
“Look at the sector of energy drinks – the current approach is very simple. Common ingredients are sugar, caffeine, taurine, vitamins, etc. These beverages have a very extreme communication and also the target group is very special – party people and younger consumers,” she told delegates.
“But there are some target groups missing, perhaps you and I when we talk about energy drinks. People consume these drinks for energy, but they really fear crashes and spikes from the current energy drinks on the market,” Reichenbach warned.
Sugar and caffeine fears
“Ask working mums. According to our research they’re heavy users of energy drinks, but also hidden users – they fear high amounts of sugar and caffeine,” she said, citing BENEO research from 2009 and 2011 concluding that 50% of mothers used energy drinks often or regularly.
“They’re looking for more sustained or balanced energy – that trend is clear. So we need healthier energy and see lots of opportunities for a more prolonged and balanced energy supply,” Reichenbach said.
BENEO casts “next generation carbohydrate” Palatinose (the generic name is isomaltulose) as an ingredient that can meet this need.
Reichenbach described it as a natural, slow release carbohydrate that does not cause the same peaks and crashes sugar does, although it considered a sugar since it is fermented therefrom as a naturally sweet constituent of honey and sugar molasses.
“It is the only fully digestible carbohydrate with a low GI that is well-tolerated and provides prolonged energy release in the form of glucose, as opposed to sugar,” she said.
The main benefit of using Palatinose is that it causes small increases in blood glucose levels, which means brands can formulate healthier low Glycemic Index (GI) products that provide sustained, prolonged energy.
Energy, an ‘unstoppable global trend’
Reichenbach said BENEO research backs the ingredient, as do European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) claims on low blood glucose response and dental health, since enzymes in the mouth cannot break Palatinose down.
Speaking more generally about the need for energy and its “unstoppable global trend” status, Reichenbach said that 2011 research by BENEO showed that a significant number of consumers polled aged 22-39 said they often/always felt tired or lacked energy.
“Glucose is the major energy source, we need to keep all the basic life processes going – to have proper brain function, muscle movement, function of liver, lungs and digestive system,” she said.
“Our body needs a constant source of glucose to keep all those processes alive. Glucose can be used as a direct source of energy or stored as glycogen in muscles or as fat,” Reichenbach added.
But she warned that a lack of energy, glucose, or a higher demand for it (during sport, exam revision, etc.) could lead to a drop in mental or physical performance.