Choosing the right ingredients is paramount for a successful product with real consumer appeal, writes Mona Rademacher from Ingredion in Germany.

The beverage market today is thriving: By 2015, the global functional drinks market is expected to be worth over US$62m, while estimates from Euromonitor suggest that the dairy drinks and yoghurt market will grow by up to 41% in parts of Europe by 2016. One reason for this rapid growth is the wide range of products now available. As manufacturers try to keep up with consumer trends, beverages have become more and more diverse.

As many consumers take an increasingly proactive approach towards nutrition, health and wellness, functional and flavoured waters are growing in popularity, with their key transparency seen as a sign of ‘goodness’. Cloudy beverages are still in demand, with their opacity suggesting a premium fruit content. Indulgent dairy drinks with added health benefits are also on the rise, with their creamy texture proving popular with consumers seeking guilt-free satisfaction, while the freshly-squeezed texture of exotic fruit drinks is still sought after.

Diverse drinks need diverse formulations. As the requirements of beverages have grown, so has the number of ingredients with specific functional benefits. Choosing the right ingredients is paramount for a successful product with real consumer appeal.

Clear success for transparent beverages

Functional and flavoured waters are growing in popularity, with many consumers viewing them as an effective and convenient way to improve nutritional intake. These drinks are low-calorie with perceived health benefits, for which their clarity is key.

Maintaining transparency in these beverages has posed a challenge to manufacturers in the past. Until recently it was not possible to formulate clear beverages with natural colours. Manufacturers were forced to choose between using natural colours in an opaque beverage and losing the all-important transparency, or using artificial colours, thus foregoing the product’s ‘natural’ appeal.

Recognising this challenge, the Ingredion group of companies offers Q-Naturale natural liquid emulsifier. With Q-Naturale, beverage manufacturers using oil in water emulsions can exploit the growing trend towards natural, clear beverages, and fortified and flavoured waters.

The silver lining of cloudy beverages

While clear flavoured water is rising in popularity, this hasn’t dampened the appeal of cloudy beverages. With consumers turning to luxury fruit juices to satisfy their increasingly sophisticated tastes, there is a demand for new, premium products on the market. Cloudy beverages advocate premium quality, as they suggest a higher level of fruit content.

Yet, achieving this sought-after luxurious appeal isn’t easy. The cloudy appearance of many soft and alcoholic drinks is achieved by the emulsion of small oil droplets. It is these oil droplets that make the liquid appear translucent.

However, these oil droplets can also negatively impact the stability of a beverage. The right emulsifiers can stabilise this process, and provide the necessary opacity in the end product. Ingredion’s Purity Gum Ultra is an emulsifier that can boost the stability and turbidity of beverages, as well as reducing recipe and manufacturing costs. This allows for the production of premium cloudy beverages, without a premium price.

Added value dairy drinks

Dairy drinks, as well as yoghurts, are also growing in popularity. Seen as a healthy snack or breakfast item, they are being positioned for indulgence, for which a smooth and luxurious texture is crucial. In this crowded market, it is essential for manufacturers to be able to differentiate their products. Added health benefits, such as reduced fat claims, can add value to dairy drinks, helping manufacturers’ products stand out and increasing consumer appeal. Despite the healthy eating trend becoming more popular, consumers are unwilling to compromise on indulgent thick and creamy textures, so manufacturers face the challenge of replacing fats without impacting the texture of dairy drinks.

N-Dulge C1 and C2 co-texturising starches from Ingredion can replace fats in dairy drinks, as well as stirred yoghurts and yoghurt products, while helping retain mouth-feel and texture, to maintain the same sensory attributes as full-fat versions.

Exotic fruit juices without the exotic price tag

Fruit juices remain a consumer favourite. The exotic flavours of juices such as peach, apricot, guava, pear and mango are increasingly favoured in Europe and the Middle East. These beverages are perceived as healthy with a local, home-grown appeal, and a freshly-squeezed texture is proving particularly popular with consumers.

A key component in achieving this texture - fruit pulp - is highly vulnerable to price fluctuations, and can lead to expensive formulations for manufacturers.

Precisa Pulp 02 is a starch-based solution from Ingredion that allows manufacturers the opportunity to create cost-optimised beverages that appeal to consumer demand for exotic juice drinks. Precisa Pulp 02 is a texturiser that can offer the all-important pulpiness and stability for a longer shelf life.