ON THE BUBBLE: Soft Drinks Forced to Innovate

Recent studies appear to show that drinking soft drinks regularly—even sugar-free and diet varieties—increases one’s risk of premature death. Soft drinks were defined as carbonated sodas such as colas, diet or low-calorie carbonated drinks, isotonic or energy drinks, and diluted syrups. Consumption was measured by glass, defined as 250 milliliters or approximately 8.5 fluid ounces. Researchers found that participants who consumed two or more glasses of soft drinks each day were 17% more likely to die early than those who drank less than a single serving of soft drinks per month.

They also looked at how sugar-sweetened beverages and beverages with artificial sweeteners related to early death and discovered that consuming two or more glasses of sugar-sweetened soft drinks per day were 8% more likely to die early than those who drank less than one glass of a soft drink a month. More surprising were findings that showed that those who drank at least two glasses of artificially sweetened soft drinks a day—often marketed as healthy alternatives to traditional soft drinks—were still 26% more likely to die early than those who drank less than one glass of a soft drink a month.

Universally, scientists support replacing soft drinks with healthier beverages like juice or water. However, they’re also hesitant to categorize soft drinks as a definite contributing factor of premature death because other factors may also contribute to a person’s health and that high soft drink consumption may actually indicate an overall unhealthy diet. Still, soft drink manufacturers find themselves up against a prevailing wind of warning. Some may double-down on their formulas and resist. Others may decide to go with the tide and evolve.

One such company is Emeryville, Calif.-based REBBL. They launched a line of Sparkling Prebiotic Tonics which are plant-based beverages with 6 grams of prebiotic fiber aimed at promoting digestive health. The drinks come in edgy flavors such as cold-brew cola and ginger turmeric, and there are only 6 to 8 grams of sugar in each bottle. REBBL believes their tonics “fill a void in the market” for low-sugar soft drink options that aid in digestion.  REBBL’s ingredients are organic and ethically-sourced and a portion of the proceeds support their non-profit partner, Not for Sale, who work around the world to stop human trafficking and slavery. Putting a new, meaningful face on a maligned product group is no easy task but it reverses the stigma in many ways and pushes back against the concept of pure consumption.

Commercial activism aside, soft drink producers of all stripes share a need for high-quality filtration. In the case of health-conscious beverages, the need is magnified. Processes such as the clarification of incoming streams, microbial stabilization, and protection of delicate flavor components holds much greater weight.  Graver has a wealth of experience in everything from concentrate lines to bottling lines. In particular, our expertise covers particulate removal from incoming water streams, cyst reduction from incoming water, sugar syrup clarification, and the prevention of microorganisms entering storage tanks.

Also integral to the production of healthy beverages is the removal of particulate and microbes from the bottle rinse process, along with the microbial stabilization of make-up water and the deionization of incoming water streams. For a soft drink company to be able to boast its products as healthy choice alternatives increasingly requires careful and clarifying production processes.

The American Beverage Association has stated that soft drinks are safe to consume as part of a balanced diet and that no study has effectively concluded that the opposite is true. There exists, however, an opportunity to push the boundaries of how American consumers think about soft drinks. Those beverage companies that are committed to innovation and work to reduce sugar in their beverages are able to offer more options than ever before. In fact, more than half of all beverages purchased in America today contain no sugar, and it remains a universal truth that over consumption of any ingredient is discouraged. In the final analysis, moderation, innovation and proper filtration are all key to healthy consumers, and a healthy soft drink market.