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Forget chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla! Sports nutrition products are exploring advanced, dessert-style flavors.
Move over, chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla! Today’s sports marketers are seeking sweet flavors that go above and beyond the old standards, said firms at July’s Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting & Food Expo (IFT). During IFT, Nutritional Outlook talked to flavor firms about how dessert-style flavors continue to evolve for the sports customer.
“They’re getting a little more innovative rather than just chocolate, strawberry-and 20 different types of chocolate and strawberry,” said Nina Hughes-Likins, senior marketing manager, Synergy Flavors (Wauconda, IL). “They’re really branching out quite a bit.”
Indulgence, Pre- or Post-Workout
After a grueling workout, there’s nothing some athletes like better than indulging in a recovery drink that tastes like a treat. These days, however, standard sweets are no longer the name of the game.
More-interesting alternatives like oatmeal cookie, salted caramel, French toast, cinnamon bun, banana, strawberry shortcake, Rocky Road, and S’mores are broadening the flavor palate, said Hughes-Likins.
“We’re seeing a lot of bakery and confectionery-type flavors in sports drinks, whether it’s glazed donut or chocolate cake,” agreed Claire Meier, marketing communications manager for Prinova (Carol Stream, IL). “Things that are a little more complex than just the typical chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla.” Her company has seen success with flavors mimicking Girl Scout cookies, or even the continually trending flavor “birthday cake.”
“A lot of flavors associated with holiday trends, like pumpkin spice, are always really big,” added Synergy account manager Tamara Johnson. Anything cookie-flavored is also hot, she said-think snickerdoodle, chocolate mint, and cookies-and-cream. Basically, she said, sports customers want “anything that can help them feel like they’re indulging.”
Protein products are also looking to desserts for inspiration, Hughes-Likins said. “It can go anywhere from blueberry pie to strawberry shortcake. It’s getting innovative.”
Just as sweet dessert flavors are in, so are superfruits, especially for branched-chain amino acids (BCAA). Hughes-Likins said blackcurrant-flavored BCAA products in particular have been very successful for Synergy Flavors.
“We’re seeing a lot demand in superfruits, especially for preworkout and BCAA products,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of innovation going on with different berry profiles, combinations of fruits with non-fruit items. To be able to mask a BCAA is pretty phenomenal.”
Layering profiles is also helping to take fruity flavors a step further in general, said Robert Verdi, PhD, business director, health and wellness, for flavor firm Virginia Dare (Brooklyn, NY). “Combining something that’s very familiar to the consumer in a somewhat innovative way-so things like lemonade paired with a number of different fruits: raspberry lemonade, blueberry lemonade, strawberry lemonade, and watermelon lemonade.”
Finally, apple is a trending flavor, Verdi said. “If you had asked me six months ago, I wouldn’t have said that. But apple is trending pretty well.”
Coffee is “huge” now, not just in sports nutrition but in many product categories, Hughes-Likins said. “Coffee is massive,” she said. “Coffee is in everything, whether it’s protein or just drinks in general.”
At IFT, Synergy rolled out what Hughes-Likins called “the first fully 100% cold-brew coffee concentrate.” Cold-brewing is the process of soaking coarse, ground coffee beans in cold or room-temperature water to create a taste that is often smoother and less acidic than traditional coffee. Often, this process is done on a small scale and is resource intensive, requiring a lot of equipment, time, money, and energy to produce small batches of cold-brew coffee.
Synergy Flavors, however, introduced a 100% cold-brew coffee concentrate that yields higher quantities of cold-brew coffee flavor. Thanks to a proprietary concentration process, Synergy’s concentrate can yield up to 22.5 cold-brew cups to 1 cup produced via traditional methods. Also important, the process does not involve the addition of coffee powder, as some manufacturers might do. As a result, the firm says, “Synergy Flavors’ unique process not only meets the emerging standards of strict cold-brew coffee purists, but also allows for large-scale manufacturing.”
Finally, coconut flavors are still trending-a “halo effect” from the coconut water trend, said Verdi.
“I’m still seeing a lot of coconut used in healthy applications, whether it be a coconut-flavored protein beverage or a coconut-flavored nutrition bar,” he said. “Even if it may not contain coconut water or other coconut ingredients, it’s still coconut flavored.”
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