Foods with added stimulants are stealing a march on energy drinks as companies are developing new ways to energize consumers seeking alternatives to sugary beverages, according to a global consumer trends analyst.
Manufacturers are looking to attract customers with foods that provide all the stimulation of energy drinks, therefore offering the potential to cut out high levels of sugar, unpleasant tastes and unnatural chemicals, the analyst CScout claimed.
The trend monitor and strategic consultancy gave the example of Engobi’s caffeine-infused Energy Go Bites, with 70 percent higher caffeine content compared to conventional energy drinks.
And Dakota Valley Products uses a patented process to manufacture natural, healthy seeds infused with caffeine, taurine, lysine, and ginseng. This is said to give twice the amount of energy as an energy drink without the added sugar.
A CScout spokesperson said: “This trend shows that consumers may be distinguishing between somewhat unhealthy stimulants, which they desire, and high sugar content in drinks, which they do not.
“Stimulants could be infused into many other foods – breakfast foods may be a particularly good candidate, including energy-giving cereals, breads and spreads.”
The potential is indicated by figures for the US market for energy beverages, which alone was valued at $5.5bn in 2006 by Packaged Facts. The market researcher predicts it will grow to $9.3bn by 2011.
Other products already on the market include the NRG Phoenix Fury Potato Chips from Golden Flake Snack Foods. These contain the same amount of caffeine as in three and a half cups of coffee, according to its manufacturer which said it was attracting the same customers who buy energy drinks.
Also in the US, global confectionery company Mars launched Snickers Charged this year, an alternative to the traditional Snickers brand in the US but with 60mg of caffeine, taurine and B-vitamins for an extra energy boost.
Small amounts of caffeine have the potential to make people feel more alert, according to research, which makes it an appealing ingredient for the energy products sector.
Traditionally the main delivery format has been beverages such as coffee, which have a strong bitter taste that some consumers do not like. However, new technologies have been developed that make it applicable for different foodstuffs, presenting new opportunities to manufacturers.
Last year Maxx Performance announced the development of a proprietary way to encapsulate caffeine for foods using vegetable-derived lipids.
The company has worked in collaboration with bakery experts on prototypes to demonstrate its potential in bakery products and recently showcased brownies, donuts and cinnamon raison bread. The products are aimed at improving memory and performance but without impacting taste or flavor.
Also, in early 2007 a Colorado-based firm called Encaff Products also announced the development of caffeine-based donuts.
Founder Dr Robert Bohannon said at the time that early experiments yielded a bad-tasting product, but in collaboration with food industry experts he eventually came up with a patent-pending microencapsulation process that allows the inclusion of very small caffeine particles.
Encapsulation allows for a precise amount of caffeine to be included in a product.
Calls for regulation
However some products high in caffeine - such as Enviga, the beverage launched by Coca Cola and Nestle with calorie-burning claims and 100mg of caffeine per 12 ounce can - have been held up by pressure grounds as examples of why caffeine regulations require tightening.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has been requesting, as a starting point, mandatory caffeine labelling and more responsible marketing of such products.
The FDA has brought the caffeine issue to the discussion table but as yet no regulatory commitment has been made.