CHICAGO – People are exhausted. While one would have thought that a slower paced pandemic work week would have revitalized those who led hectic lives with long commutes, lack of sleep, and in-dash meals, this is not the way to go. case. Excessive screen time, 24-hour work, increased anxiety and stress have created an energy-deprived population that wants to refuel for both body and soul, preferably in a natural way.
More than 4 in 10 consumers have increased their purchases of functional foods, beverages and supplements since the start of the pandemic, according to a global survey of 13,000 people in 16 countries conducted by Kerry, Beloit, Wisconsin. Respondents were given a list of areas of health and asked why they buy wellness products. Thirty-nine percent chose improved energy.
Calories versus stimulant
While high-sugar, caffeinated energy drinks have long been the go-to source for a quick fix, consumers are looking for healthier options, not in a drinkable format. To develop such products, formulators seek to respond to the two types of energy sought by consumers and to the ingredients that provide these fuels.
Del Monte Foods Inc., Walnut Creek, Calif., Is launching Del Monte Fruit Infusions, a refrigerated snack concept featuring fruit with functional ingredients. The Boost Me variety contains mango and pineapple chunks in mango and dragon fruit flavored juice, natural sources of sugar that are digested for physical energy. Boost Me also contains coffee extract, a natural source of caffeine for mental energy, and vitamin C, an antioxidant involved in the synthesis of carnitine, a molecule associated with metabolic energy.
Physical energy, also known as metabolic energy, comes from calories. It is produced via the Krebs cycle, a complex pathway that converts ingested carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into a slow, steady flow of energy – adenosine triphosphate – during the process of aerobic respiration. This energy feeds the cells of the body to keep the body functioning, with the unit of energy measured in calories. In general, simple carbohydrates, i.e. refined sugars, tend to be quickly absorbed into the bloodstream after ingestion. They are responsible for a real boost in rapid metabolic energy.
Many B vitamins are known to participate in this energy production process, although they are not themselves metabolized. They do not contain calories and therefore are not energetic. Yet, because they are essential components of the Krebs cycle, they are often included in energy foods and drinks.
When it comes to metabolic energy, not all carbohydrates, fats and proteins are metabolized in the same way. Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oils, for example, are said to fuel the body with clean, sustained energy that satiates appetite and reduces cravings. MCT Oil has also been shown to provide a cognitive boost, support fat burning, and balance mood and hormone levels.
Specialty carbohydrates such as isomaltulose are known to provide sustained energy. Derived from sugar beets, isomaltulose is a fully digested carbohydrate, but it is digested more slowly than other sweeteners, resulting in full energy supply from glucose over a longer period.
Ribose, a natural sugar made in the body from glucose, also supplements the body’s natural energy synthesis process. Ribose helps reduce energy loss during stress and accelerates energy and tissue recovery. By this action, ribose helps the muscles to regenerate the lost energy and potentially minimizes the physiological consequences of this situation of energy depletion.
Proteins also vary. In the dairy sector, whey protein is rapidly digested, providing rapid refueling to the body. Casein, on the other hand, is a slowly digestible protein, providing sustained energy. That’s why athletes often turn to everyday chocolate milk for a practical dose of energy. Milk contains both proteins, so it energizes immediately and later. Protein also works with sugars to help replenish energy stores in muscle. The caffeine in chocolate provides an additional benefit in the form of mental energy.
Mental energy comes from a stimulant, like caffeine, which is not metabolized and therefore calorie-free. It works by attaching to receptors in brain cells, stimulating the brain and thereby increasing mental alertness. Consumers perceive this as a boost of energy.
Caffeine is inherent in the leaves and fruits of a variety of plants, which consumers tend to perceive as natural energy. Synthetic caffeine is also available as a white powder. Caffeine easily passes from the bloodstream to brain tissue, with synthetic forms known to be absorbed much faster.
Beast Cookie Co., based in Los Angeles, has developed a line of energy cookies, with a cookie containing 180 mg of caffeine from green tea extract and 10 grams of metabolic energy from a blend of pea protein and rice. One cookie also contains 22-26 grams of sugar from rapidly metabolized granulated sugar and cane syrup for an almost instant physical energy boost.
Coffee, tea, and chocolate are familiar forms of natural caffeine; however, an increasing number of medicinal plants are also recognized as sources. In early 2021, Kerry surveyed more than 6,500 consumers in 12 countries for her Botanical State of Mind study.
“Our research revealed the emotions associated with 55 herbal remedies (including coffee, tea, and cocoa) and their corresponding perceived health benefits,” said Soumya Nair, director of marketing analytics for North America. “We also discovered key opportunities to help (formulators) leverage plants and their unique personalities to create winning concepts for consumers.”
A key opportunity is to use plants to provide a healthy and healthier perception of functional products, as plants are seen to be “from nature”. Forty-four percent of respondents identified energy support as a perceived benefit of consuming plants. In particular, consumers associate guarana and ginseng with energy.
Guarana extract is obtained from the seeds of the fruit of the guarana plant and is a concentrated source of caffeine. Ginseng is a caffeine-free stimulant obtained from over a dozen species of ginseng plants. Korean ginseng, the most common source, is often referred to as the original ginseng. The roots contain a wide array of nutrients, including antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and intriguing compounds called ginsenosides. It is these ginsenosides that are believed to have a metabolic stimulating effect on the central nervous system and provide a powerful boost in energy and stamina.
Guayusa extract is a promising source of caffeine. Obtained from the leaves of the guayusa plant, the extract contains caffeine and theobromine, another natural stimulant. When the two stimulants are taken together, the consumer experiences a balanced energy boost without any fright, crash or shaken buzz.
Another trending source of caffeine is the coffee fruit, also known as the coffee berry. It is the fruit that surrounds the coffee bean and was traditionally discarded as a by-product of coffee production. Suppliers are now turning coffee fruits into a standardized ingredient. Scientific studies have shown it to be an antioxidant powerhouse with strong feel-good qualities including healthy energy, immune support, weight management, joint support, and cognitive function.
The most common caffeine-containing plants – coffee, tea, and chocolate – continue to gain traction in the energy realm. A February survey of 600 top grocery shoppers in the United States by Cargill North American Cocoa & Chocolate, Minneapolis, found 59% of consumers turn to chocolate for an energy boost and 52% say chocolate gets them through a tough day.
When it comes to coffee, roasting has an impact on the caffeine content. Along with tea, fermentation reduces the caffeine content.
All “real” teas are made from the leaves of the same evergreen plant: Camellia sinensis. The leaves are simply processed differently to achieve different flavor dimensions. Traditional black tea undergoes a complete fermentation step after picking the leaves. It is not a microbial fermentation but rather a series of reactions caused by the natural enzymes in the tea leaf which produce thousands of natural compounds. Oolong tea undergoes partial fermentation while green and white tea has almost no fermentation. Green tea is recognized as a dense source of natural caffeine and is further concentrated into an extract for food and drink.
“Light roast coffee is made from coffee beans that have been lightly roasted and have given them just enough time to cook, but not enough time to be completely depleted of moisture,” said Nora Tobin, General Manager of Nora’s Naturals Coffee, Santa Barbara, California. “This results in a coffee with a more fruity and herbaceous taste; However, the biggest thing to remember is the caffeine content.
“Light roast has the highest caffeine content of all coffees and higher antioxidant properties due to the fact that the bean is not broken down as much by the intense heat of the roasting. It also tends to be more acidic, which despite its high antioxidant properties can be difficult for some people. “
Dark roast coffee, on the other hand, is produced from coffee beans that are cooked for as long as possible, without burning or transforming the flavor into something resembling charcoal. It is much less acidic than light roasting, but also less rich in caffeine.
Recognizing that both roasts energize in their own way, Ms. Tobin sources organic single-origin coffee harvested from a multigenerational farm in the Nicaraguan Finca La Isabela mountain range and roasts it to specification in California. Coffee is grown in volcanic soil rich in silica, essential for collagen production, and rich in antioxidants for added benefits.