Developed by Germany-based firm Palatinit, the ingredient is a pure, white, crystalline, sweet carbohydrate that is exclusively derived from beet sugar. The company claims that it has a very low glycemic index of 32, is kind to teeth and is released into the body more slowly and evenly than sucrose.
The European Commission's recent decision to approve Palatinit has therefore opened up a range of new opportunities.
"Palatinose contains the same number of calories as sucrose and is just as digestible; this means it is a 'better' energy," said Palatinit head of marketing Claudia Meissner.
And because it is also very similar to sugar, Palatinose can easily be incorporated into beverage formulations.
Low-glycaemic foods are set to become increasingly popular as a mounting body of evidence suggests that they can help in the management and prevention of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Food makers under pressure from government and media to tackle such health concerns are already investigating the function of the glycaemic index, which ranks the impact of a food on blood sugar levels.
High GI foods are heavy in rapidly digested carbohydrates that raise blood sugar and insulin to high levels. Low GI-foods contain carbohydrates that release sugar more slowly.
In fact the buoyant sports drink market broke the €1 billion barrier in western Europe in 2003, with volumes up 27 per cent to 477 million litres.
And although growth has been slightly slower than previous years, energy drinks still saw a 6.5 per cent sales increase in 2003 to 311 million litres, translating into a market value of €2.3 billion in western Europe alone, according to market analysts Zenith International.
The DöhlerGroup is therefore confident that the incorporation of palatinose will enables manufacturers and bottlers to profit from the growing consumer trend towards drinks with a low glycemic index.
"As well as the new ingredient Palatinose, there are also new flavours that are attracting consumer interest,'' said Peter Drewes, business development manager at DöhlerGroup.
"Isotonic sports drinks can be orange- mango, orange-lime or apple-lemon, for example. Any new product launch is always driven by what consumers want, and that can be reduced to a single common denominator: the product has to taste good and, depending on the motive, offer a specific added benefit too."
Product ideas which the DöhlerGroup has created for drinks containing Palatinose are, for example, an isotonic whey-based premium sports drink in lemon, grapefruit and orange flavour or energy drinks with lemon and rum flavour. This rather interesting combination is clearly designed to appeal to an older target audience.
Palatinose could also be used in aqua-plus drinks or smoothies.
The DöhlerGroup, based in Darmstadt, Germany, is an international supplier of fruit juice concentrates, fruit preparations, blends, ingredients, ingredients systems, emulsions, flavours and colours for the beverage, dairy and ice cream industries.
Palatinit is a 100 per cent subsidiary of Südzucker, Europe's largest sugar producer. Within the framework of a co-operation, Palatinit supplies the Darmstadt-based DöhlerGroup with Palatinose for beverages.