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3 Reasons Why Juice Is A Challenging Drink Ingredient

Published on:

September 1, 2021

When we take an orange and squeeze it into a glass, we call that juice. Of course, what you buy off the shelf in your local grocery store is also considered juice. But making a fresh-squeezed orange juice at home and manufacturing a commercially viable juice drink for consumers involve vastly different processes, considerations, and challenges. It should come as no surprise that the latter tends to be a lot more complicated–here are three reasons why:

1. Formulating With Juice Can Be Tricky.

Successfully formulating a beverage is about more than just creating a great tasting product. For one, there are a variety of juice drinks on the market–where will yours fit? PepsiCo offers a helpful summary of common classifications, each of which come with their own formulation considerations:

  • 100% Juice — 100% juice is squeezed from the fruit or vegetable and then packaged or concentrated for reconstitution with water and other ingredients at a later time.
  • Juice Beverage — These products comprise single strength, 100% juice with excess water added so that the juice percentage is below 100% juice to provide an alternative taste. Other terms with the same meaning are “juice cocktail” and “juice drink.” Under US law, manufacturers are required to list the total juice content percentage just above the Nutrition Facts panel of juices and diluted juice beverages.
  • Pasteurized Juice — This is juice that has been heated through pasteurization to increase its shelf life, ensure its safety, and minimize nutrient loss.
  • Chilled, Ready-to-Serve — These products are made from frozen concentrate or pasteurized juice, and then packaged in paper cartons, plastic, or glass.
  • From Concentrate — Juice that is manufactured by reconstituting juice concentrate.
  • Not-from-Concentrate — Juice that is squeezed from a fruit or vegetable and has never been concentrated.
  • Canned Juice — Fruit or vegetable juice that has been heated and sealed in cans to provide shelf life for an extended period.
citrus fruits

And let’s not forget the range of drink products on the market that include juice as an ingredient (think sparkling water brand Spindrift, for example). While fruit and vegetable blends can be great for introducing nutritional benefits or enhancing the sweetness of a product, they can also present shelf-life challenges.

Regardless of how much juice is used, how it is processed, as well as where and how the finished product is stored, beverages with this ingredient eventually tend to brown, drop components out of solution, and oxidize over time–some faster than others.

Berry-derived juices, for example, are particularly volatile to browning, a process that gives an unpleasant aesthetic to the drink. Meanwhile, citrus juices are prone to oxidation which affects a beverage’s organoleptic qualities (think sensory characteristics). Ever had a rotten piece of fruit? Yeah, not something you want to see, smell, or taste in your juice!

Products formulated with large volumes of juice and those that add juice to certain combinations of ingredients are generally more susceptible to these quality issues; as a consequence, juice drinks tend to have a relatively short shelf life. This is why some beverage brands choose to combine juice (or substitute it altogether) with added flavors.

Using natural and artificial flavors in your beverage ensures a more consistent product, eliminates many of the potential quality and shelf-life challenges that come with using juice alone, and significantly reduces your Cost of Goods Sold. In fact, formulation affects more than just quality and shelf life–it also impacts production and packaging decisions.

2. Juice Drinks Require Specific Manufacturing And Packaging Considerations.

Fruit and vegetable juices can provide a rich source of nutrients, including key vitamins and minerals; that’s also why they invite a variety of microorganisms. To ensure beverage quality in commercial products using juice, special consideration must be given to manufacturing and packaging.

blue print bottles

First of all, you should know that not all contract packers (or co-packers) offer the same capabilities. Once you know what type of process and packaging your juice drink requires, you will need to find a co-packer equipped to accommodate those needs and produce your beverage.

When selecting a co-packer, you should consider the following:

  • What are their processing capabilities?
  • What is their minimum production volume?
  • Do they have the proper licenses or certifications you require?
  • Do they follow current Good Manufacturing Practices?
  • Does the facility participate in an annual third-party audit? What do they score?
  • Where are they located in relation to your distribution area?

It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of working with any co-packer and be aware of all the fees involved to make sure you are getting the most for your money. Finding a co-packer within close proximity is great, but only if other considerations ensuring the quality of your juice drink are met.

For example, your juice needs to be stored properly until you are ready to produce. This requires refrigerated or frozen storage, which is not something all co-packers offer. Those that do charge for it, which is going to add to your costs–and don’t forget that you also have to account for cold shipping the ingredient to your co-packing facility.

Juices that require refrigerated distribution are often High Temperature Short Time (HTST) pasteurized. Gentler than a hot-fill process, HTST pasteurization allows for shelf stability; however, it still offers a relatively shorter shelf life than non-juice beverages. You should also note that refrigerated distribution is expensive, so you may need to account for that additional cost.

And let’s not forget packaging: what types of packaging are your co-packer’s lines able to fill? Not only will your co-packer need to have the capabilities required to manufacture your juice drink, but they also need to be equipped to package it accordingly.

Our Beverage Architects recommend keeping juice products away from light and heat which can lead to quality issues. Your packaging should be able to sustain the processing your drink requires, and effectively protect the liquid inside.

3. Labeling Guidelines Are Difficult To Navigate.

The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is the governing body that regulates beverage products in the United States. All commercial beverages–including your juice drink!–will need to adhere to the parameters stipulated by the FDA’s Code of Federal Regulations.

Title 21, Parts 101 and 102 of the CFR provide guidelines specific to beverages containing fruit or vegetable juice, including how their percentage juice declaration should appear on the label. Here are a few examples of labeling requirements you may need to consider based on your product’s unique composition:

  • For Less Than 1% Juice — If the beverage contains less than 1 percent juice, the total percentage juice shall be declared as “less than 1 percent juice” or “less than 1 percent ___ juice” with the blank filled in with the name of the particular fruit or vegetable.
  • For 100% Juice Plus Non-Juice Ingredients — If the beverage contains 100 percent juice and also contains non-juice ingredients that do not result in a diminution of the juice soluble solids or, in the case of expressed juice, in a change in the volume, when the 100 percent juice declaration appears on a panel of the label that does not also bear the ingredient statement, it must be accompanied by the phrase “with added ___,” the blank filled in with a term such as “ingredient(s),” “preservative,” or “sweetener,” as appropriate (e.g., “100% juice with added sweetener”), except that when the presence of the non-juice ingredient(s) is declared as a part of the statement of identity of the product, this phrase need not accompany the 100 percent juice declaration.
  • For Minor Amounts of Juice For Flavoring — If a beverage contains minor amounts of juice for flavoring and is labeled with a flavor description using terms such as “flavor,” “flavored,” or “flavoring” with a fruit or vegetable name and does not bear: (1) The term “juice” on the label other than in the ingredient statement; or (2) An explicit vignette depicting the fruit or vegetable from which the flavor derives, such as juice exuding from a fruit or vegetable; or (3) Specific physical resemblance to a juice or distinctive juice characteristic such as pulp then total percentage juice declaration is not required.
  • For Major Modifications — If the product is a beverage that contains a juice whose color, taste, or other organoleptic properties have been modified to the extent that the original juice is no longer recognizable at the time processing is complete, or if its nutrient profile has been diminished to a level below the normal nutrient range for the juice, then that juice to which such a major modification has been made shall not be included in the total percentage juice declaration.

As you can see, these guidelines can be tricky to navigate. That’s why it is always a good idea to find a partner with the expertise to advise on label compliance, like Flavorman.

pressed juice ingredients

Opportunities For Juice Innovation

When enjoyed alongside whole fruits and vegetables, juice products can offer a convenient way for consumers to introduce key vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients into their diets, so it is no wonder why juice (and juice-containing) products continue to benefit from a “healthy halo” effect.

Over the last decade, consumer interest in low-calorie juices, organic alternatives, and exotic or novel combinations of flavors has increased, providing beverage brands with an avenue for development and innovation.

Premium juice drinks offer the novelty of new flavors, features, and functionality (think carbonation or probiotics). Meanwhile, beverage brands can also enjoy the simple option of using juice to sweeten a product and achieve a “no added sugar” claim.

Despite the hurdles involved with this ingredient, it does present some great opportunities for creative beverage builders. The possibilities are endless–but the most successful brands will be those that can effectively plan for challenges and partner with the right team of experts.

Flavorman can set you and your product up for success. With nearly 30 years in the business, Flavorman has created almost every kind of drink imaginable–and we’re confident that we can perfect your dream beverage, too.

“Other development companies or flavor houses will give you a formula and flavor and send you on your way,” says Kristen Wemer, Flavorman’s Director Beverage Architect. “They don’t provide any technical or regulatory support. Flavorman is different. Even after your formulation has been finalized, we continue to be an extension of your team. That’s what makes us so unique and that’s what makes our clients–and their beverages–so successful.”

When you’re ready to learn how Flavorman can bring your dream drink to life, fill out this web form or give us a call at (502) 273-5214.

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