Bai Antioxidant Infusion is one of those “energy drinks in disguise” I love reviewing because it breaks the norm AND withstands a food scientist’s ingredient scrutiny. Bai Antioxidant Infusion (HENCEFORTH ‘B.A.I.’) is an “energy drink in disguise’ with only 35 mg caffeine, and a novel blend of white tea, polyphenols, and coffeefruit extract. Coffeefruit is not an ingredient many people have heard of, but its story of discovery is a shining example to those concerned about food waste. After reviewing the food science of B.A.I.’s most interesting ingredients, we’ll compare the “healthiness” of this product to other tea-based beverages and similar energy drinks.
If your New Year’s Resolution is to consume fewer energy drinks, you may be looking for some healthy swaps. How healthy is fruit juice, really? Obviously, it’s not as healthy as whole fruit, but usually healthier than soda. This energy drink (alternative) of the month is a healthy alternative to the stereotypical energy drink, but it is also an example of how “healthy” and “good for you” is a matter of context and perspective.
The Energy Drink of the Month is Cran-Energy Cranberry Energy Juice Drink.
On their own page, Ocean Spray’s clever distinction, “energy JUICE drink” highlights the ambiguity of how to classify this product. Since this product walks the line between the JUICE category and the ENERGY DRINK category, we’ll compare how healthy this product is relative to other products in each category.
Is it Juice or an Energy Drink? Product Category Confusion
If it was your job to tally the annual sales of different types of beverages, would you put this in the “energy drink” category or the “juice” category? In their article “Juice Gone Wild”, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has effectively put this in the juice category. However, on their own site, Ocean Spray compares this product to “other energy drinks”. Furthermore, BevNet’s product assessment definitively puts this drink in the energy drink category as this product was specifically designed to give people energy.
Cran-Energy versus the stereotypical ENERGY DRINK
Since Red Bull is the number one selling brand in the ENERGY DRINK product category, we’ll compare Cran-Energy to Red Bull.
Against a stereotypical energy drink, Cran-Energy IS a healthy swap. The 2015-2016 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommends sodium intake not exceed 2300 mg per day. With such a low limit, the lower sodium of Cran-Energy is a healthier option than Red Bull.
Furthermore, the 2015-2016 DGA recommendation is to limit intake of added sugars (like those in the Red Bull) to less than 10% of total calories per day [Source – FoodInsight.org]. It’s also important to note that since the sugars in the Cran-Energy come from grape and cranberry juice, they’re not TECHNICALLY “added sugars” because they’re natural in grape juice. (Though grape juice isn’t naturally added to cranberry juice, is it? Hello, loophole!)
But what about the Sucralose in Cran-Energy? The 2015-2016 DGA agrees with leading global authorities including the European Food Safety Authority that sweeteners like sucralose are safe to consume, though the DGA does note that “replacing added sugars with high-intensity sweeteners may reduce calorie intake in the short-term, yet, questions remain about their effectiveness as a long-term weight management strategy.” [Source – FoodInsight.org].
Cran-Energy versus Cranberry JUICE
To the rushed shopper, Cran-Energy might pass as fancy cranberry juice. Comparing Ocean Spray’s Cran-Energy to Ocean Spray’s Cranberry 100% Juice, Cran-Energy IS NOT a healthy swap.
While the Cran-Energy offers a cluster of B-vitamins, it also contains artificial colors and sweeteners that aren’t in the Cranberry 100% juice. Furthermore, consider the juice content itself! Looking at the front of the label, you might think Ocean Spray Cranberry 100% juice is 100% cranberry juice when in fact other fruits like grape, apple, and pear are also used to make this 100% juice. (When you can’t add plain sugar, grape juice is a very sweet natural source) Cran-Energy is only 23% juice and is mostly filtered water. If you wanted to reap the benefits of cranberry juice, Cran-Energy is not going to help you.
It’s short-sighted to call anything (even 100% juice) healthy because a term like this deserves context. With proper context, we can see that Cran-Energy IS NOT a healthy swap for 100% juice (let alone whole fruit), but it IS a healthy swap for the stereotypical energy drink.
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I’ve been reviewing the Energy Drink of the Month for over two years now and each month I’ve appointed a product that beats the stereotype. For the first time, I am compelled by nerdy fascination to nominate something non-liquid for this award.
Thus far, only Fierce Arctic Mint flavored strips are available, but this product is brand-new! As of this review, the product is available online, in South Florida, and is scheduled to launch nationally in October 2015.
To truly appreciate this product, let’s review (1) The Brand and Its Values; (2) Who and what this is for and (3) What’s in it.
It’s not even fair to call this an energy drink, because it’s the purest, simplest, cleanest energy drink possible. It’s not fair because all the worry and legislation over the dangers of energy drinks can’t possibly apply to a product like this. This really shouldn’t be called an energy drink , and yet, this “energy drink in disguise” is exactly that.
With a nod to Earth Day (and the growing concern regarding California’s water crisis), the Energy Drink of the Month is flavored, caffeinated water by Avitae.
Pronounced “ah-vee-tay”, Avitae’s line of caffeinated waters is perfect for consumers who want their caffeine without added sugars or artificial colors/flavors.
Last year, Avitae’s President and CEO was gracious enough to answer some quality and food science questions I had about the non-flavored products (read that Q&A here). This year, Mr Norman Snyder was gracious enough to again grant me an interview to discuss the new flavors.
5 MORE Questions with Norman E. Snyder, President & CEO of Avitae USA, LLC
GEG-1: Last time we talked, you said that the plan was to introduce new flavors before looking at a carbonated product. Can tell me what inspired the new flavors? How did you determine which flavors to pursue, and were there any that were close but didn’t make the cut?
NS: The inspiration came directly from consumers. We do many sampling events at retail locations, festivals and other events that we believe attract our consumers. The first comment made by the majority was “it does taste like water.” The second comment/question was “do you have flavors?” It was pretty easy from that point. We did research on flavors that are currently popular and tasted several. We initially narrowed the field down to six that we thought were great recognizing that we could only introduce three or four. We selected the four best internally then conducted third party taste panels. Ironically the four that we selected were also selected by the taste panels. The two that did not make the cut maybe used in future products.
GEG-2: How long did it take to bring these new flavors from concept to market, and what was the biggest challenge?
NS: Approximately six months. The biggest challenge was, as perfectionists, getting exactly what we wanted. That usually requires several iterations as we were not willing to compromise on any point.
[GEG Note – Avitae has several part-time employees but only 16 full-time employees, so launching four new flavors in six months is pretty impressive, in my opinion]
GEG-3: The unflavored Avitae comes in three caffeine amounts: Energy Kick – 45mg, Energy Boost – 90mg, and Energy Blast – 125mg. I love this variability because there’s something for those more sensitive to caffeine, and something for those who need something a little stronger. How was it determined how much caffeine the new flavored versions should contain?
NS: We are basically going after three consumptions occasions/products: diet soda, coffee and energy drinks. Each different strength is targeted at the people that use those products. As 90 mg is presently the best selling product, we believed that strength to be the best choice. Again, we listened to our consumers.
GEG-4: As Avitae’s President and CEO, what are you most proud of and what keeps you up at night?
NS: I am most proud of our overall corporate philosophy and product positioning, in that we provide the healthiest solution for people that want a boost but also seek an alternative to the artificial, high sugar, and otherwise less than healthy products that exist today. Many things keep me up at night but right now it is keeping up with demand of our products and growth.
GEG-5: What is Avitae’s next big hurdle/goal?
NS: Expansion. We are moving into several new markets and adding additional production facilities. I admit, it is a great problem to have to face. We are also considering several new products.
[GEG Note – to find the nearest location selling Avitae, try their store locator: http://goavitae.com/find-now/ ]
Huge thanks to Mr. Snyder and the whole Avitae team — keep up the good work!
Learn more about Avitae!
Bottom Line and Points to Remember
Great for those seeking a simple delivery of caffeine that’s portable, resealable, and not as likely to go flat in a hot car, Avitae’s line of caffeinated waters are healthy and effective alternatives to the typical energy drink.
Remember, according to the 5 Levels of Fatigue, Level 1 is dehydration. To limit caffeine dependency and overuse, make sure to try plain water before relying on caffeine to perk you up. Healthy adults should not exceed 400 mg caffeine per day but minors, pregnant/nursing women and those sensitive to caffeine all have different recommendations for caffeine intake maximums. [See caffeine intake guidelines in previous post]
Read more about the 5 Levels of Fatigue and learn how Biological Sensitivity and Consumption Specifics impact the effects of caffeine – Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely (available through iTunes, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and more)
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If someone asked you to draw a Venn diagram showing energy drink consumers and loyal Jamba Juice customers, how much would those two groups overlap? If you are familiar with my Energy Drink of the Month blog posts, you know by now that all energy drinks are not created equal. Some don’t fit the mold, and there are many “energy-drinks-in-disguise” at your local grocery store and/or gas station. This month’s pick is another energy-drink-in-disguise.
The Energy Drink of the Month for September 2014 is Jamba Blueberry Pomegranate.
7 Thoughts on Jamba Energy
1-There’s pictures of blueberries and pomegranates on the label…alert the press!
Since this is the first image I have of the product, we’ll start here. Whether or not you’re in the food industry, you might’ve heard the news story about Pom Wonderful suing Coca Cola over a pomegranate blueberry juice blend. The excerpt below from a Nutritional Outlook article explains the problem (click here for full article):POM Wonderful is suing Coke, alleging that the company deceptively uses the words pomegranate and blueberry on its Minute Maid Pomegranate Blueberry 100% Fruit Juice Blend label, when in fact the drink contains very little pomegranate and blueberry juice… On his show, Oliver joked that “one of Coke’s actual arguments this week in the Supreme Court is that they’re allowed to give their product a name that refers to juices that provide the characterizing flavor—an argument that has the characterizing flavor of bullsh*t.”
Full (hilarious and informative) John Oliver video here
With the can now in hand, we move from these prominent images to the next point.
2-Look at where pomegranate and blueberry are located on the ingredient line.
Surprise, surprise, neither pomegranates nor blueberries are the first ingredient in the ingredient list. Water is the first ingredient, followed by apple juice concentrate (and that’s significant when we get to point 4). The good news is pomegranates and blueberries are not last on the ingredient list, so they are not added in “fairy dust amounts” in order to make it onto the label.
3-Even fruit puree/juice drinks need natural flavors.
Since I have had the pleasure of working closely with flavor houses as a product developer, I never panic when I see the phrase “natural flavors”. I’m not sure where the food blog activists got their ammunition to freak out over natural flavors, especially since “natural” used to be the magic word of acceptability to many other consumers. With a product like this, natural flavors are necessary. Caffeine is bitter, and fruit purees are not potent enough by themselves to convey the intended flavor. The biggest concern with natural flavors is not their safety, it’s finding the right flavor for the intended consumer. Many people don’t realize what a challenge this can be.
For example, when a food scientist says to a flavor chemist, “I want the product to taste like strawberries”, the flavor chemist has to navigate through a wide spectrum to find the right flavor profile. Should it be a jammy strawberry? Artificial or candy-like strawberry? Creamy like strawberry yogurt? Juicy like fresh-picked strawberries? The possibilities are more numerous anyone could imagine, and it requires thinking outside the box.
4-There’s a lot of sugar but consider the source.
A glance through the ingredient line shows no sugars are added. The sweetness of this drink comes from the naturally occurring sugars in the juices and purees, topped off by the natural sweetener Stevia. I like seeing Stevia on the label as opposed to artificial sugars. I don’t believe artificial sweeteners are bad for you (they are in moderation — see Panera Project KNOW-No List), but I’d rather consume natural sweeteners than artificial. For me, it is a preference, not a fear.
Moving our eyes up the label from the ingredients line to the Nutrition Facts Panel we see there are 20 grams of sugar per serving, and it’s all coming from the fruit juices. This discovery is the make-or-break moment for me. I try to limit excess sugars wherever possible, so this amount of sugar is almost enough to make me put the drink back on the shelf. It’s not like raw blueberries are sugar-free, but eating raw blueberries is different than consuming a blueberry juice-flavored product. Since my objective today is to get an energy boost, not fight free radicals, I’ll look past the sugar content.
5-The caffeine content makes this Fatigue Level 2.
I am consuming Jamba’s energy drink for an energy boost, not to boost my freggie count for the day. Thankfully the caffeine content is prominently displayed on the can, 80 mg per container. This is the same amount of caffeine that’s in an 8 oz Red Bull. At the time of the evaluation, this amount of caffeine PERFECT for my Level of Fatigue. Level 2= 2 Tired to Go It Alone.. I know my fatigue is not due to dehydration/boredom, which is Fatigue Level 1, but I only need a little boost of caffeine.
6-Want to avoid caffeine toxicity and dependency? Look for energy drinks that come with juice.
Carbonation is added to this product but energy drinks with juice are not as carbonated as their juice-less counterparts. The ways juice and carbonation affect the perceived energy boost is something I discuss in detail in the Energy Drink Guide. In this case, I just need a little boost, not a big energy kick, so the juice is a good indication this product will suit my Level of Fatigue.
According to Caffeine Informer, the natural caffeine in this product comes from green tea extract.
7-Raw isn’t always better (food safety nerd alert).
Raw juices make me nervous. I know too much food micro to be comfortable with the risk, especially since the product is 70% juice. I’m relieved to see that this juice is pasteurized. For more info on raw juices and the Juicing trend: click here
I can tell by the marketing blurb on the side of the can that the intended consumer is one who is trying to avoid the stereotypical energy drink. “Pure and simple”, this energy drink has a clean label and is a good alternative to many other energy products. There is no added sugar; it’s coming all from the fruit juices. If the sugar content is a deal-breaker, consider this: sugar-free Red Bull has the same amount of caffeine — 80 mg. Personally, I would rather drink a Jamba energy drink than a sugar-free Red Bull (though only if the line at Jamba was short).
Review the entire ENERGY DRINK OF THE MONTH SERIES
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- Need help with quitting caffeine? I HIGHLY recommend this guide: Awake: How to Quit from Caffeine for Good