By Vikrant Lal, Senior Manager of Formulations Services, BevSource
We've come to think about beverages primarily in liquid form, but creating a ready-to-drink beverage is not the only way to get your product into the hands of consumers. While powdered drinks are not novel, a recent wave of innovation in formulation and packaging is sparking the imaginations of both new and established beverage brands.
Exploring Better-for-You Powdered Beverages
Popular powdered beverages of the past, like Tang and Kool-Aid, contained mostly sugar and/or maltodextrin as fillers. Today's powdered beverage consumer is more likely to seek a higher level of nutritional value and health claims. Beverage formulators are creating more efficient and nutrient-dense powders by subbing in natural ingredients, such as gum acacia that can be used as a prebiotic fiber in place of sugar. Clean, functional powdered beverages are emerging for every segment of the population.
Multi-level marketing (MLM) companies and sports nutrition brands have been pushing powdered drinks and supplements into the mainstream for the past several years. Fueled by developments in powdered protein, amino acids, digestive enzymes, and other ingredients, the global dietary supplement market continued to expand. By 2019, the global dietary supplements market was estimated at $167.8 Billion.
In response to the increased acceptance of powdered supplements, the beverage industry is embracing powdered formats to deliver dry functional beverages with wellness benefits similar to those contained in ready-to-drink products. One company that has found success entering the beverage market with a powdered product is True Citrus. The company launched with True Lemon, a shelf-stable lemon wedge replacement for use in beverages or recipes in 2003. Since then, True Citrus has grown and now offers sweetened and unsweetened powdered juices and infusions, sweetened stick packs with caffeine, and most recently, a line of powdered beverages for kids. True Lemon Kids is a low-sugar, clean-label powdered drink mix that contains no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or preservatives while offering 25 percent of the daily servings of Vitamins A, C, and E. The 10-calorie-per-serving product is sweetened with stevia and 2g of sugar and is Non-GMO, gluten-free, and sodium-free.
Companies with successful ready-to-drink beverages are also adding powdered formulations to their product portfolios. This past summer, Neuro Brands unveiled powdered versions of their already popular neruoSLEEP and neuroIMMUNE beverages. The drinks contain the same functional ingredients of the bottled neuroSLEEP and neuroIMMUNE beverages and are vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free, and certified O.U. Kosher.
In addition to enhanced sleep, more energy, and increased immunity, powdered beverages are bringing new levels of functionality to the beverage space. In September of 2020, Liquid I.V. released Energy Multiplier. This non-GMO, vegan electrolyte drink mix is infused with cellular transport technology (CTT) and provides two to three times more hydration than water alone. BevCanna Enterprises Inc. recently introduced Jase, a new brand of cannabis-infused beverage mixes in a ready-to-mix single-serve powder, infused with 10 mg of THC, and available in a 10-pouch box.
More Perks of Powders
In addition to the convenience for consumers, dry mixes offer benefits for beverage brands and the environment.
Less Packaging Waste. With the increased pressure to reduce plastic single-use bottles, powdered beverages provide an advantage over bottled ready-to-drink beverages.
Longer Shelf Life. Beverage mixes also tend to have longer shelf lives. Nutrients in a powdered form degrade more slowly than those within a liquid.
Easier to Ship and Store. Powdered beverages typically take up less shelf space than RTD beverages. With the uptick in e-commerce, the relative simplicity and low cost of shipping powdered beverages also weigh in their favor.
Convenient and Portable. Sachets and other light and moisture-resistant packaging options make it easier than ever to transport and protect powdered drinks throughout their journey to the customer.
One of the challenges that comes with developing a powdered beverage is the limited space in the formula. You only have a certain number of grams of real estate to work within. If you want to sell a sachet that is a total of five grams, you need to stay within that while delivering the desired end product. It's helpful to work backward from the end format (stick pack, sachet, multi-serve, etc.) to your desired label and claims (organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, etc.) then to formulation. Another consideration for powdered formulations is how the ingredients of different particle sizes and weights mix to allow for the consistent delivery of colors, flavors, and nutrients in each serving. Dry beverage formulations must also dissolve quickly and uniformly. It's challenging to get a powdered product to taste exactly like an existing ready-to-drink beverage, but you can get pretty close.
Even with the challenges, developing or purchasing a dry beverage formulation can be a smart way to launch or extend a beverage brand. As with any new product development initiative, the most critical question to ask is what type of experience do you need to create to appeal to your ideal consumer demographic.
Following a proven path for beverage innovation and consulting with industry experts can help set your next product - dry or liquid - up for success.