Dispatches from Hi Europe

‘Artificial’ caffeine is becoming a blacklisted ingredient: Mintel

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

Caffeine level remains the key concern for consumers - but a 'natural' source claim can take a product to a different positioning, according to Mintel
Caffeine level remains the key concern for consumers - but a 'natural' source claim can take a product to a different positioning, according to Mintel

Related tags Caffeine functional beverage beverage

With changes to labelling laws and a ban on sales to under 18s in Lithuania, ‘artificial’ caffeine is fast becoming one of the top ingredients in the health firing line, according to one analyst.

According to Mintel research, new energy drink labelling requirements meaning high content drinks must carry an on-pack warning, would deter nearly half of consumers from some European countries from purchasing.

Under the new labelling legislation Food Information Regulation (FIC) set to come into play on the 13th​ of this month, energy drinks containing more than 150mg per litre must state 'high caffeine content' in the same field of vision as the name as well as the warning: “Not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women.”

Asked about the impact of this mandatory notice on their decision to buy, 41% of consumers in France, 33% in Germany, 46% in Italy, 34% in Poland and 45% in Spain said they would be put off.

Speaking with NutraIngredients after delivering a talk on the topic at last week’s HiE in Amsterdam, Chris Brockman, EMEA food and drink research manager for Mintel, said pressure around caffeine was nothing new, but with recent European developments like a Lithuanian ban​ on sale of energy drinks to under 18s in November this had intensified.

Not new, but intensifying

“Lithuania is a small country and it’s not going to suddenly cause ripples in major European countries but it is an indication that there are countries in Europe clamping down on that a bit further.

“I’m not saying it’s going to happen overnight in other countries, but certainly there’s indications that there’s a bit more movement against this type of fast-acting energy solution.”

Consumer stamp of approval

The FIC labelling requirements excludesproducts based on coffee, tea or coffee or tea extract where the name of the food includes the term ‘coffee’ or ‘tea’.

Brockman said this and other developments had meant a shift towards new product launches with ‘natural’ sources of caffeine like green tea, coffee berries and guarana​.

However, he said ultimately the level of caffeine content was still more of a concern for consumers than where it came from.

“It’s more about levels of caffeine, I would say. Consumers are less aware of where things come from in terms of sourcing. But the whole natural positioning does take it to a different place. It takes it away from a very artificial taste too, potentially.”

In his presentation, Brockman also said that transparency about what was in the product, expert information available so consumers did not feel the need to go elsewhere and a demonstration of strict internal quality and safety standards was vital in ensuring consumer approval. 

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