Here’s a look at some innovative beverages that feature fruits and vegetables. © monticelllo/iStock/Thinkstock
Kayco Foods makes five varieties of Beetology cold-pressed juice. The refrigerated juices are made with beets and other clean label ingredients.
Veggemo from Global Gardens Group is a nondairy beverage made from peas for protein and flavor and potatoes for a smooth, creamy texture.
Vita Mansi makes its not-from-concentrate Original Mansi juice drink using calamansi fruit grown, squeezed, and directly sourced from farmers in the Philippines.
A line of booster shots from Jùs by Julie feature some made with healthy and refreshing juices like lemon, orange, and apple.
Naked Juice expanded its lineup with Naked Pressed Botanical Juices. The beverages blend several kinds of fruit and vegetable juices with trendy botanicals.
Trendy tropical fruits and real aloe vera pulp and juice combine in a refreshing juice drink from ALO Drink.
Remember Tang? The orange-flavored/orange-colored instant powdered beverage was a breakfast staple for generations of Americans. A vintage 1959 television commercial promoted the beverage as “the happy new breakfast drink you don’t squeeze, unfreeze, or refrigerate” with “more vitamin C than the finest orange juice—fresh or frozen.” The popularity of the beverage skyrocketed after NASA astronauts consumed it during space missions in the 1960s and novel, easy-to-prepare processed food products became increasingly popular with consumers. Simply mix a spoonful or two of the powder into a glass of cold water, and voilà—an orange drink the whole family will enjoy, or so the decades-old commercials imply.
As the appeal of this fruit-flavored instant powdered beverage has waned in the United States (though by some accounts it is still quite popular in areas around the world), new fruit and vegetable beverages have taken its place during breakfast time and throughout the day, giving consumers a wide choice of flavors, textures, health benefits, and beverage styles. “In the U.S., cold-pressed juices are driving innovation, and vegetables are extensively used to boost the health appeal of these products,” says Leslie Lannebere, category manager at Naturex, Avignon, France (naturex.com). “This has spread to the European market as well. Cucumber, kale, and beet are amongst the most popular vegetables in the beverage segment.” Thanks in part to ingredient innovations and creative product development efforts, today’s fruit and vegetable beverages are more varied than ever and offer something for everyone.
Demand for Healthful Beverages Grows
As an innovator that focuses on formulating and commercializing beverage products, Imbibe, Niles, Ill. (imbibeinc.com), has a finger on the pulse of what’s driving the beverage market, including fruit and vegetable beverages. Both health and wellness and clean label ingredients and products are top of mind. “Consumer demand for ingredients that deliver benefits naturally has increased in conjunction with the growth of the functional food and beverage segment. Both for the nutrients they provide and for the lack of additives (colors, preservatives, etc.) fruit and vegetable beverages that are 100% juice are gaining popularity,” says Ilana Orlofsky, marketing coordinator at Imbibe. Manufacturers of fruit and vegetable beverages as well as the suppliers that produce ingredients for these beverages are paying closer attention to the demands of label-conscious consumers. “The clean label craze plays a big role in what’s currently popular in all categories, including fruit and vegetable beverages; ingredient statements on 100% juice products may be complete with juice(s) listed as the only ingredient(s), giving these beverages the short, pronounceable ingredient lists that consumers seek,” she adds.
In her tenure working for Imbibe, Orlofsky has found that some products and formulation approaches are more popular than others. “We have seen an increase in the number of clients asking for sparkling fruit juices because of the positive associations with the term ‘sparkling’ and the shift away from traditional CSDs [carbonated soft drinks], along with an uptick in the use of fruit and vegetable juices as ingredients.” There are also clients who want to make claims based on the fruits and vegetables inherent to the product. “Sometimes this may require additional fortification, but the vitamins and minerals associated with an ingredient like vitamin C in oranges will be reinforced, rather than other nutrients added just to deliver more benefits,” she says. “While crop variety often requires additional flavor to standardize a product so that it has wider appeal and acceptance, incorporating fewer additives, or more seemingly natural additives remains a priority for our clients.” Finally, she says that an increasing number of clients are developing products that are certified organic, so the Imbibe research and development experts work with ingredients derived from organic produce.
Fruit and vegetable beverages come in varieties that include smoothies and juices and in forms ranging from refrigerated to shelf stable. Some can be more difficult to develop than others, but there are ways to overcome the problems. “Developing shelf-stable juices can be quite challenging because certain juices, like citrus juices in particular, have highly volatile flavor compounds, many of which are lost during processing,” says Orlofsky. “Other juices, like apple and cranberry, can withstand the harsher heat conditions without losing critical flavor compounds or developing unpleasant off-notes, so shelf-stable varieties are much more commonplace.”
Smoothies are also challenging because there’s potential for so much variability, says Orlofsky. “And they’re also incredibly trendy right now because there’s an inherent health halo surrounding them, even though we know that they can also be platforms for high-sugar and high-fat ingredients.” Texture is a key quality of smoothies and it varies greatly—thin, thick, creamy, smooth, gritty, and even chunky thanks to bits of fruit—to suit whatever consumers prefer. “We have seen that some younger consumers actually prefer something less smooth, because they associate imperfection with being more authentic, and that resonates with Millennials, especially,” says Orlofsky. “Depending on the desired consistency of the finished product, though, there may need to be other ingredients in smoothies, like gums to give it a texture with widespread appeal. Incorporating gums may detract from being able to make a higher juice claim, which could be a challenge if a brand values having as clean a label as possible.”
Sometimes it’s more than just the type of beverage that poses challenges to the formulation of products. Cost considerations, of course, play a big role. Orlofsky points out that berries and exotic fruits, which are in high demand and widely accepted by consumers, will add to the cost of the product. A strategy to keep the cost in line is to blend juices together, which addresses other aspects of beverage development as well, she says. It can help create a more appealing, desired color in the finished product, mask earthy and bitter notes that come from using certain vegetables, and lower sugar and calories. “Vegetable juices that are less caloric and have less sugar are commonly blended with fruit juices, because finished products can still deliver the 100% juice claim.”
Finally, Orlofsky says that developers at the company are working on beverages that consist mainly of a combination of milk and fruit and vegetable juices. They have to take into consideration the fact that in general juices have a lower pH and milks are neutral. “It was pretty difficult to find the right combination of juice level and pH that would allow the fruit flavors to pop yet not destabilize the proteins in the milk. After a lot of work we were able to deliver a stable product that still delivered the nice, true-to-fruit flavors that our customer needed.”