Natural solution developed to combat bacterial spores in beverages

By Nicola Gordon-Seymour

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | Natalia Semenova
Getty | Natalia Semenova

Related tags Energy drink functional beverage beverage

Biotech start-up, Resorcix, and Israeli beverage manufacturer, Gat Foods, have developed a natural botanical to eliminate Thermophilic Acidophilic Bacteria (TAB) that reduce product shelf-life and affect the flavour of ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, including sports and energy drinks.

Flavorwatch disintegrates TAB cells (through a process known as the bacteriolytic effect), removing the need for microbiological filtration and is effective at low dosage (175ml for 1,000 litre RTD beverage), which prevents undesirable off-flavours or smells, explains marketing manager, Hila Bentman.

“From high-carb, high-mineral, concentrated isotonic beverages to nootropic, botanical-infused drinks that come in exotic flavors, this category of functional drinks is the subject of constant innovation to boost organoleptic and wellness qualities,” ​she says.

“However, TAB spoilage can markedly hinder their appeal and the consumer experience and damage the brand’s reputation. FLAVORWATCH dramatically reduces these risks and can help provide peace of mind to beverage manufacturers.”

Negative impact

TABs are non-pathogenic microbes that belong to the Alicyclobacillus​ family and produce strong off-flavours and odours in RTD beverages. They manage to evade pasteurisation that eliminates all other micro-organisms, giving them free rein to propagate.

Bacterial spoilage is categorized by a white sediment and a hazy, cloudy appearance, as well as a sour “medicinal” ​or “antiseptic”​ taste that renders it undrinkable. TAB outgrowth begins soon after bottling and has a negative impact on product quality and organoleptic properties.

Since the first documented case in the 80s, dozens of scientific reports have analysed TAB outgrowth cases in different beverage categories around the world (US, Japan, France, UK) and the European Fruit Juice Association (AIJN) established an online platform for reporting to monitor TAB events. However, the scale of contamination remains unclear.

“The scale of TAB cases is unknown since it's a quality issue that doesn’t require a recall by regulation. If, and when, consumers complain, beverage manufacturers may perform a silent recall or compensate these specific cases, depending on their policy and brand reputation,” ​says Bentman.

Typically associated with fruit-based drinks, TAB spoiling is now known to affect all kinds of soil-derived raw materials and, as such, can be found in any beverage with these ingredients.

Sugar, water, stabilizers, emulsifiers, and other ingredients turn out to be potential sources of TAB,​” explains Lior Sinai, PhD, a microbiologist and Chief Technical Officer of Resorcix.

“The good news: FLAVORWATCH botanical solution works just as efficiently in non-fruit-based beverages and is effective in all types of sports beverages.”

First natural solution

Flavorwatch is the first and only natural, botanical solution to TAB spoilage and is suitable for all clear high acid drinks. Moreover, the synthetic preservative, Nisin, currently used to treat the problem, is incapable of completely eradicating spore outgrowth, according to Bentman.

“In addition, microbiological tests are only statistical and quarantine periods lengthen Time-To-Market and still don't guarantee TAB outgrowth won’t occur after release to market​,” she says.

Good Manufacturing Processes (GMPs) can minimize outbreaks but there are no guarantees. On the other hand, Flavorwatch have proven efficiency in tests and scientific trials on clear juice-based drinks, sports drinks, coconut water, and energy drinks.

A recent trial compared product efficacy on a batch of non-carbonated fruity water, sports, and energy drinks. Products were divided into a treatment and control batches and inoculated with spores of four different Alicyclobacillus acidoterrestris​ strains to a concentration of 1,500 colony-forming units (CFU) per litre. The TAB batch was subsequently treated with Flavorwatch, and both were pasteurized to 95o​c for 30 seconds and hot-filled into bottles.

The treatment batch demonstrated effective resistance against TAB spoilage over the entire 180-day trial, while control bottles showed signs of TAB multiplication after just seven days.

Bentman says the botanical ingredient can provide manufacturers with guaranteed “constant quality during the product's entire shelf-life”.

Consumers, on the other hand will not notice its presence, since it's used in a minimal amount without any effect on taste and is all natural, marked as a natural flavour,”​ she adds.