Sugar and caffeine seen as key natural developments

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Coffee, Stevia, Soft drink, Caffeine

One of the key trends in product development for 2009 will be natural additives able to keep consumers active, leading to searches for alternatives to caffeine and sugar, according to market research.

In a review of the expected trends for product launches during the coming year, the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) says that conserving energy both environmentally and physically will be increasingly important to consumers.

Aside from a continued push for products that demonstrate environmental sustainability, consumers are themselves increasingly looking for stimulants offering consistent, sustained, energy boosts, claims the group.

“They are dissatisfied with the high and low spikes, but interested instead in healthier alternatives to caffeine and sugar,”​ stated NMI.

However, the development of stimulant and sweetener ingredients during 2008 was hardly plain sailing for the industry.

Stevia

Sugar alternatives, particularly with a growing focus by some drinks makers and ingredient firms in developing sweetener products extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana​ plant, have proved to be controversial for some.

Late last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it has no objection to Stevia-derived​ rebiana (Reb A) having GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status, clearing it for use in food and beverages.

This has led to a number of soft drink makers like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group all announcing imminent launches of branded drinks containing natural, zero calorie sweetener, despite some controversy over the ingredients development.

However, in response to the FDA outcome, Michael Jacobson, executive director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said: “It is far too soon to allow this substance in the diet sodas and juice drinks consumed by millions of people.

“If president-elect (Barack) Obama's transition team is making a list of last-minute Bush Administration regulatory actions that warrant reversal on January 20, this needs to be added to the list.”

The CSPI highlighted a review of safety data that was carried out by toxicologists at the University of California on behalf of the CSPI, which was made public this summer.

Caffeine kicks

Caffeinated beverages have also come under criticism from some quarters, particularly when the stimulant is added to alcoholic beverages.

MillerCoors last month became the latest brewer to bow to pressure from authorities after voluntarily agreeing to reformulate its caffeinated beer products amidst wider national crackdowns on stimulant beverages.

Health concerns continue to be raised over the consumption of added caffeine beer products in the US as well as other international markets.

Amidst these concerns, MillerCoors, a joint venture between the Miller Brewing Company and Molson Coors US and Puerto Rican operations, said it would cease production of caffeinated alcohol beverages by early into this year.

While caffeine appears naturally in products such as tea and coffee, the addition of the stimulant into products like energy drinks has led to criticisms from some health bodies.

Concern has particularly arisen over the stimulant affects related to heavy consumption of the caffeinated products, with Neil Harrison, professor of molecular neuropharmacology at Weill-Cornell Medical Center, calling for more research on such drinks.

"I think it would be a good idea for somebody to do some more detailed investigations of [the drinks] cardiovascular effects," ​he stated last year.

Related topics: Commodities, Cocoa & Sugar

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