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Functional Energy Drinks: Future Perspectives and Opportunities
Monday, 04 March, 2019, 13 : 00 PM [IST]
M K Tripathi and R S Jadam
For manufacturers, the ability to deliver the right quality and proper amount of product to suit different consumer needs will provide an edge in present competitive market.

The bustling lifestyles of modern consumers have encouraged great response for products that boost energy. There is enormous potential for the natural and organic energy drinks category; Grandview Market Research expects natural and organic energy drinks sales will reach $32 billion by 2025, which accounts for nearly 40% of the market.

Energy drinks have become popular beverages among young individuals and marketed to college students, athletes, and active individuals between the ages of 21 and 35 years. Several reports have suggested that 30% of young adults regularly consume energy drinks and more than 40% of athletes use energy drinks to improve their exercises. They are categorised as functional beverages by Heckman and others and their commercial label (energy drinks) refers to the main goal: to provide sustenance and improve performance, concentration, and strength.

Common ingredients
Some of the most common ingredients in natural and organic energy drinks are green coffee, green tea, guarana and ginseng. Depending on the goal of one’s product, one might want to consider one or a combination of these ingredients.

Recently some serious concerns have arisen about the safety of these drinks or some of their major components (caffeine, guarana, and ginseng). Namely, caffeine has been shown to enhance physical performance in adults by increasing aerobic stamina and strength, improving reaction time, and delaying fatigue. However, these effects are particularly variable, dose-dependent, and their effects have not been studied in children and adolescents.

One of the biggest concerns is that little research study and attentiveness about the effect of the combination of ingredients in present form of energy drinks. It is believed that many ingredients work synergistically with caffeine to boost its energising power. Energy drinks contain sugar (although sugar-free energy drinks are now available) because it is a quick source of energy.

Sometimes B vitamins are also added in small amounts and they make energy drinks appear healthy, although they probably contribute little. B vitamins are needed to convert food into energy. Some energy drinks contain guarana, a South American herb that is an additional source of caffeine. Ingredients vary from brand to brand, but some of the ingredients to be concerned about are caffeine, sugar, and the added vitamins and herbs.

Potential risks
As the energy drink market continues to rapidly expand, consumers should be aware of the potential risks of their various ingredients. Healthy energy drinks include nutrient-rich, energy boosting ingredients. There are numerous examples and some of them are maca, spirulina, and hemp seeds. These ingredients can be used as healthy functional components in truly healthy energy drinks.

Superfoods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, phytonutrients, and fibre can help to nourish one’s body and give the energy one needs for physical and mental stamina. Consumer habits are rapidly evolving as people become more health-conscious and seek healthier lifestyles.

Meanwhile, the soft drinks industry levy looms large and will bring further change to the industry. These factors are upsetting energy drinks producers and opening up new opportunities and challenges to redefine, reformulate and innovate.

The different approaches could be grouped as follows: Optimisation of the production and formulation of novel functional beverages, Use of prebiotics and synbiotics, Use and processing of natural ingredients, Use of byproducts of fruit and food industries as functional ingredients.

Fruit juices could be ideal ingredients due to high content of essential nutrients; some fruits now already used in commercial preparations include cranberry, blueberry, pomegranate, apple, blackcurrant, acai, acerola, guarana, mango, bilberries, grapes, cherries, kiwifruits, strawberries, feijoa, peach, and plums.

In addition, juices soybeans are an interesting alternative due to some key elements like the quality of the protein and amino acids, the low cost of production, the contents of fibre, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin K, riboflavin, thiamine, folic acid, isoflavones, and other flavonoids, compounds with strong antioxidant activity.

Unfortunately, the addition of botanical extracts to functional beverages could pose certain problems. First, herbal supplements may have harmful side- effects in some cases. Moreover, it is important to examine the impact of natural ingredients on sensory properties and consumer acceptance, as well as whether daily intake of such functional ingredients with high polyphenol content will influence the desired balance of intestinal microorganisms.

Meanwhile, many botanical extracts have antioxidant properties, making them sensitive to the presence of oxygen during storage or during manufacturing process; in this case, nonthermal processing techniques and reverse osmosis can show new ways of producing shelf-stable fruit and vegetable products while preserving their antioxidant properties. Based on consumer demand and the potential of innovation and aforementioned health benefits, we believe that new functional energy drink will be launched.

The keys to point for formulation: Identification and quantification of encouraging bioactive compounds, standardisation of bioactive compounds, use of natural bio-preservatives to improve organoleptic properties, development and validation of standard methods to make sure the levels of selected phytochemicals and other biologically active compounds, establishment of proper dosage and delivery systems, the investigation of bioavailability and metabolism of functional ingredients, safety aspects related to functional energy drink consumption, regulatory issues, study on the effects of processing on the functional ingredients, stability of the products, and  potential interactions of the functional ingredients with other classes of ingredients.

The future of functional energy drinks depends on the clear demonstration of their effectiveness in promoting health. Thus, a joint endeavour between food industries and researchers is desirable, as a tool to provide scientific evidence of many health claims, as well as a way to find successful strategies to improve the appeal of functional energy drink.

(The authors are principal scientists at Agro Produce Processing Division, Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering. They can contacted at tripathimanoj007@gmail.com)
 
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