For consumers, just like the perceived interchangeability of best before and best dates, quality and shelf life are synonymous with safety. The industry has always been challenged to protect beverage quality and extend shelf life without using preservatives and high-energy processes that slow down the supply chain. After opening some cold-filled and heat-treated beverages, there can sometimes be a gap in the food safety barriers to protect the beverage and its consumer from problems in the event of contamination or natural deterioration.
Beverage safety has been a concern of consumers for many years. In fact, according to recent exclusive research from ingredient solutions provider Kerry, fruit juices are the second menu item (behind meat) reported by the public as a food safety concern. The reality is that keeping a drink protected during its shelf life has never been a simple task. And now, given the availability of new plant-based protein drinks, against a backdrop of growing consumer demand for familiar sounding preservative ingredients in foods and beverages without compromising flavor, the challenge can be particularly complex.
Given the situation, when thinking about the “preservation” of food and beverage processing, it might be useful to use the term “protection” instead, as the latter also encompasses the maintenance of taste. , texture and color while meeting consumer health requirements. Today, the task requires a broader view, as well as a high degree of reliability, in short, a multi-technological systems approach to beverage preservation / protection and safety. In addition to this beverage storage challenge, there is a strong desire among consumers to reduce their sugar consumption: while positive for public health, eliminating sugar can have a negative impact on shelf life and taste. a drink, because the sugar acts as a natural preservative by reducing the activity of the water in the drink. .
The following discussion identifies some of the key barriers facing plant-based beverage processors looking to improve their current products (or develop new options) to meet emerging consumer demands for healthier beverages with more labeling. clean.
Additional functionality and security
In the functional drinks category, the process stability of key ingredients (for example protein) is vital. Heat treatment, the most common method used to ensure optimal shelf life of pH neutral beverages, is necessary to ensure the microbial safety of ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages. Unfortunately, by inducing protein denaturation, heat can negatively impact the stability of proteins in the finished drink and, in turn, negatively impact taste.
Some strategies are now available to alleviate the problem of protein denaturation during heat-based preservation treatments.
One, using hydrolyzed proteins (dairy and vegetable), gives proteins which are generally more thermostable than their “intact” counterparts.
Second, protein ingredients that remain intact can overcome instability issues through careful adjustment of processing parameters (temperature, time, and processing technologies) to ensure minimal denaturation.
Progress in preserving clean labels
According to Innova research data from 2020, 23% of new beverage launches worldwide have a “no additives / preservatives” claim on their labels, a trend largely due to wholesale consumer rejection of the ingredients ” chemically good ”. In reality, however, maintaining a user-friendly label can be daunting: if no preservatives are used, a product will likely have a shorter shelf life.
Fortunately, natural solutions to this problem are already available. The key is to use user-friendly “pantry” solutions that will keep drinks fresh, safe and appealing while protecting quality throughout the shelf life. Lemon juice and vinegar, to name just two, are part of a line of natural ingredients that have a long history of home use for preserving fruits and vegetables. Today, similar solutions are widely applied in the commercial manufacture of beverages and other consumer products.
The use of these and other preservative ingredients brings together the best of two worlds: preservation expertise and innovation in protecting the taste of food. The great taste can then be retained in drinks while unlocking lasting shelf life benefits – all without adding processing steps or using the preservatives that consumers reject.
These types of proven solutions, which already exist in the market, can help beverage processors meet and exceed the goals adopted by a growing number of consumers.
Moreover, since there is already a demand for natural ingredients on drink labels – real juices, natural flavors, colors from natural sources, etc. – along with recognizable ingredient sources, these user-friendly preservative and protective ingredients translate perfectly for labeling purposes. In the search for better, more natural ways to formulate beverages, studying these clean advancements can reveal surprising benefits.
John Menton is the North American Applied Health and Nutrition Manager for ingredient solutions provider Kerry. He can be contacted by email at [email protected]
This article originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of Food in Canada.