Functional drink manufacturing requires specific considerations

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

Pic:getty/porosolka
Pic:getty/porosolka

Related tags functional beverages

As consumers today want health, immunity and digestive benefits from their beverage formulations, we explore with leading brands and industry experts the key considerations, conditions and techniques for manufacturing functional drinks.

Beverage launches that focus on live cultures such as kombucha and kefir, proteins, caffeine-enriched drinks, cold-brew coffees and brain functioning claims are all popular in 2021, driving consumer interest and update.

A healthy microbiome

Today, one of the biggest areas of the functional drinks market capturing the attention of consumers are those that strive to help consumers increase their healthy gut bacteria.“A healthy and diverse microbiome in the gut is crucial to being physically and mentally healthy,”​ says Valia Christidou, Founder, The Food Launchpad.

Detailing how “scientists have proven that the state of people’s microbiome is far from optimal”​, Christidou adds that as a result, foods designed to help gut microbiome in both quality and quantity are appearing.

Gut-health pioneer, wildwonder, combines gut-healing ingredients with heritage-inspired flavors to create its sparkling beverage. After struggling with digestive issues, founder Rosa Li created the brand’s first drink to combine both probiotics and prebiotics. “Over 90% of Americans have digestive issues and over 70% report struggling with digestive issues,” ​says Li.

At present, over 50% of consumers are drinking beverages to boost their health. Digestive health ingredients—probiotics and prebiotics—are among the fastest-growing functional ingredients.

“Consumers are recognizing the importance of gut health and are looking for gut health beverages,”​ says Li. “But, the current options​—think Kombucha, drinking vinegar​—have an acquired taste and aren’t serving the mass market,”​ Li shares.

Demonstrating this stance, wildwonder teamed up with microbiome experts to develop a unique strain of probiotics that can withstand the harsh environment of the stomach acid and reach the gut. “We are intentional about every ingredient we put in our drinks,”​ shares Li.

Stress Management

The idea for botanical beverage brand, Moment, started when its founder, Aisha Chottani, was working in a  stressful management consulting job, with afternoons filled with notifications and deadlines. Noticing how all of her drink options were sugary and caffeinated, leaving her “more frazzled and anxious”​, the founder started building meditation mindfulness rituals and incorporated some of the active ingredients she had grown up with, including Ashwagandha and Tulsi.

“I started replacing them with caffeinated and sugary drinks, noticed the impact it had on me, and wanted to make this feeling available to everyone,” ​says Chottani. On average, an American consumes 1.5 purchased beverages per day. With people consuming so many beverages, Moment saw an opportunity to introduce new and healthier products.

“Stress has been a massive problem, especially during Covid,” ​says Chottani. “There is now an active narrative around it and people are starting to take control of their mental health as they see the impact it can have on their everyday lives—given this, beverages were the perfect opportunity to help address the mental health of millions,” ​adds Chottani.  

Moment strives to stand out in the marketplace as it addresses health more holistically. The functional drink brand uses adaptogens and nootropics to help provide stress relief and mental clarity.

Manufacturing for functionality

Manufacturing with functional ingredients involves specific conditions. “An important consideration is keeping prebiotics and probiotics efficacious and stable over time,”​ states Li. Working with microbiome experts in selecting probiotic strains and prebiotic sources, wildwonder chooses those ingredients that are efficacious and stable over time in a beverage format. The brand laboratory tests its products to ensure there is a quantifiable amount of functional ingredients in the bottles (probiotic and prebiotic count).

Talking through the process of choosing functional ingredients for its products, Chottani explains: “It was the ingredients that came first and the company after.” ​At Moment, manufacturing with functional ingredients requires specific techniques and considerations to ensure blending and pasteurization. Given the shorter shelf-lives of these ingredients, as they are all-natural, the brand also has to manage its batch sizes and production timings carefully.

Focusing on the manufacturing process at Moment, Chottani reveals: “The key considerations generally are around the life of the ingredient, where in the world it is grown and the ability to blend and mix with other flavors/ingredients.”

Global supply chains creating significant amounts of costs as well as climates and seasonal crops altering ingredient tastes are also notable manufacturing factors that functional drinks producers need to consider. 

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