At one time or another, all consumers probably feel the need for something to help boost or manage their energy needs. From hardcore athletes to weekend warriors, those on weight-management diets and the elderly seeking a mental-energy boost, there is a drink mix with their need in it. Ram Chaudhari, PhD, explores the range of ingredient options for new-product developers
Six broad segments of the market are particularly concerned with energy enhancement in one form or another. Consumers report a strong desire to find products that can help them strategically manage their energy needs. These groups are:
- People on weight-loss or calorie-restricted diets
- Athletes and physically active people
- Ordinary people looking for a daily boost of mental alertness
- People who are trying to combat age-associated declines in mental acuity
- People who suffer from a chronic sense of fatigue
- Patient populations with disease-associated fatigue
From sports to weight-loss drinks
The choice of specific ingredients in energy-enhancement products should be appropriate to the needs of the target population and the purpose of the product. For example, sport drinks were originally directed at extreme athletes who expend considerable amounts of energy and who lose significant amounts of water and electrolytes in sweat. Water and electrolytes lost during prolonged exercise need to be replaced to maintain optimal continued performance, so the main ingredients in sport drinks focus on providing water, as well as optimal levels of highly available sources of carbohydrate, such as sucrose or glucose-fructose syrups, for quick energy, as well as replacement of sodium and potassium electrolytes to promote rehydration.
Certain target groups have specific micronutrient needs that can be addressed in the strategic design of products for energy enhancement. So, in contrast to the sports crowd, the design of an energy-boosting drink for the weight-loss market would need to be mindful of the desire in this target population to avoid extra calorie intake. The core feature of any successful weight-loss programme is a significant restriction of energy intake. Reduced calorie intake, often coupled with increased energy expenditure, creates a significant drain on available energy reserves, triggering a normal physiological drive to replace the lost energy.
However, for the dieter, this homeostatic response sets up a vicious cycle that reduces the will to exercise and, at the same time, increases the desire for high-caloric eating episodes, thereby sabotaging attempts to successfully reduce body weight. Strategic use of fortified energy-boosting products may be useful to counteract the energy drag of weight loss, and play a key role in a successful weight-loss programme.
So, in this case, sucralose, a low-calorie sweetener, is a better ingredient choice than glucose or other simple carbohydrates. In addition, emphasis needs to be placed on key energy-promoting ingredients, such as caffeine, guarana, ginseng or tyrosine, to help address the 'energy drag' caused by weight-loss diets.
In addition, people on weight-loss diets have a significant dilemma in trying to support optimal micronutrient status because the reduction in caloric intake during dieting usually also restricts intake of important micronutrients. In addition, the nutrient density of the foods that they do consume is not sufficient to provide optimal nutrition. Use of a well-designed and balanced micronutrient-fortified product can directly fulfil the need of this group to maintain optimal nutrition, as well as provide a low-calorie energy boost.
Don't forget mental energy
Similar energy-boosting ingredients may also be used in products designed for greater mental energy. The rising wave of elderly persons in the population has increased public awareness of the tragic personal and family aftermath of declining mental alertness and cognitive performance in the aged. Both patient and caregiver are interested in 'brain-food' products that might stem the loss of mental energy associated with growing older.
These products may include additional antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E or coenzyme Q10, and deliver additional brain-food ingredients such as choline, marine fatty acids like DHA and EPA, zinc, folate, or other potentially beneficial brain-food herbs or spices.
Regardless of the potential virtues of any ingredients in a product, the ultimate determinant of consumer satisfaction and continued product allegiance will be product taste, texture and the consumer's all-around organoleptic experience with that product.
Combinations of various fortified energy-boosting ingredients have the potential of interacting negatively in the final product, which ultimately could compromise long-term product stability, acceptance or efficacy.
Increasing popularity of energy-enhancement products has created strong market interest in finding and promoting new, safe and effective product ingredients. For example, Table 1 lists some of the commonly found ingredients currently in sports and energy drinks.
Sports, energy and fortified drinks
Energy enhancement is an important concern for all athletes, as well as people with active lifestyles. Athletes want products that will give them a performance edge. People leading active lives want more energy so they can maintain their on-the-go lifestyle. Many people look for the traditional morning or mid-day boost of mental alertness and energy offered in a cup of tea or coffee or energy drink.
A fortified sports drink is one loaded with nutrients that can help increase or boost energy levels. One concept could contain thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6, potassium and taurine to stimulate energy and increase metabolism. Another could contain a blend of vitamins B6 and B12, panthothenic acid, niacin, D-glucoronolactone, taurine, and meso-inositol. A third could be a soy-based drink containing vitamins A and C, and iron. This could be combined into a low-calorie drink with eye, bone and immune-health benefits from the added vitamin A; antioxidant benefits from vitamin C; and an energy boost from the added iron.
Consumer interest in the use of sports and energy drinks continues to grow as new markets and novel applications are developed. For example, energy drinks are used as mixers for alcoholic beverages in 'Jäger Bomb'-type applications, and vitamin-fortified bottled waters are used to mix 'vitamin cocktails.'
Along the same lines, naturally flavoured hangover remedies have sprung up — carbohydrate and electrolyte drink mixes fortified with a custom blend of vitamins, minerals, phospholipids, amino acids and sweeteners to help take away that morning-after fuzziness and to increase overall awareness.
Finally, continued development has been seen in developing specific market niches, such as 'pink' energy drinks specifically marketed to women, and the increasing interest of children using sports drinks continues to spur demand in this product category.