Performance beer: a trending sports drink category?

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Performance beer: a trending sports drink category?

By Jennifer Grebow

Kicking back with a beer to relax after the end of a long day is a time-honored tradition. For athletes and sports enthusiasts, however, there may be another good reason to drink up: because beer—specifically nonalcoholic beer and the malt it contains—may help to enhance exercise-related performance, energy, and recovery.

It’s true, in fact, that Olympic athletes in Germany often drink beer after training or after their competitive events, as reported by The New York Times last year. And while drinking nonalcoholic beer isn’t a new practice, more recently purveyors of nonalcoholic beer are marketing these drinks “to health-conscious consumers,” the Times reports.

Nonalcoholic beer is said to provide a high load of antioxidants and polyphenols, which help to combat inflammation—key for athletic recovery—as well as other key nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. It also contains a plant-based nootropic compound called hordenine that can help increase focus and energy.

But is there any evidence that nonalcoholic beer can actually benefit athletic performance? In 2012, a group of researchers from Germany, led by the doctor for Germany’s Olympic ski team, published a randomized, double-blind study conducted on 277 healthy male runners. These runners were assigned to drink 1.0-1.5 L of nonalcoholic beer, or a placebo, three weeks before and two weeks after competing in a marathon. Based on analysis of blood samples, the researchers determined that nonalcoholic-beer subjects experienced reduced inflammation and reduced incidence of respiratory tract illness—both of which can otherwise increase following strenuous exercise.

Malt Products Corp. (Saddle Brook, NJ), a manufacturer of malted barley extract and other natural sweeteners, says this evidence and growing interest in nonalcoholic beer’s support of athletes is why companies like the Athletic Brewing Co. are appealing to consumers looking to live a healthier lifestyle.

Amy Targan, president of Malt Products Corp., explained to Nutritional Outlook that traditional methods of brewing nonalcoholic beer are not the most desirable if your goal is to preserve the best of the nutrients within—including malt. (Malt comes from barley or cereal grains—produced through the malting process—and are used for various purposes, including beer making.) The best way, Targan said, may be to start with a malt extract like the ones her company provides.

“A key factor here is the way the nonalcoholic beer is produced,” Targan said. “When making a nonalcoholic beer by removing the alcohol, you lose a certain amount of proteins, minerals, antioxidants, and soluble fiber during processing, first during fermentation and then during the de-alcohol process. So, traditionally made nonalcoholic beer is actually not the most efficient way to make a nonalcoholic malt-based drink. Breweries use this method not because it is the best way to preserve the malted barley but because they are set up as a brewery, making it easier for them to produce it this way. By using malt extract as the base of the beverage, the nutritional properties of malted barley are better preserved because you can skip processes that otherwise would decrease the beverage’s nutritional value.” Flavor-wise, malt extract enhances the taste of both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beer.

According to Targan, the level of malt extract in a nonalcoholic beer is plenty enough to offer real antioxidant benefits to consumers. She said: “A beverage that adds one teaspoon of malt extract has five times the antioxidants of one cup of broccoli and twice that of blueberries. I am not aware of a study which shows precisely the amount of malt that is the right dose for athletes. But athletes are clearly better served by rehydrating with a malt-based beverage than a sugary drink like Gatorade.”

Aside from the aforementioned 2012 study, there isn’t a lot of formal research looking into the specific athletic effects of malt and nonalcoholic beer. But curiosity about the possibilities is growing, and this is one reason Targan said that her company is seeing increased interest from makers of energy and sports recovery drinks.

“I can only point to anecdotal information that we are personally seeing a demand from flavor houses and beverage manufacturers for samples of our malt extract to be used in development of energy and sports recovery drinks,” she said. “We also are seeing an increase from craft breweries requesting our in-house formulators to support them in developing malt-based teas and other nonalcoholic malt-based drinks, to supplement their offerings as the craft brew market starts to flatten.”

Interest also continues to grow in the taste benefits such ingredients offer. “Typically, I would say that the addition of flavors is to make their product more original and differentiated from competitors rather than a means of masking undesirable flavors,” Targan said.

Secret ingredient: You may not know Malt Products’ extract, but if you’re on vegan burger bandwagon, you’ve eaten it

By Brett Johnson

Plant-based burgers … meatless patties … beef substitutes.

Amy Targan, president of Malt Products Corp., admits herself she doesn’t know what they’re usually referred to as.

But she knows better than anyone what’s in them.

Products such as the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger have hit mainstream appeal, and many big food businesses are hastening to introduce their own version of these vegan sandwich patties.

And, whatever they’re called, almost all of them use malted barley extract, which Malt Products manufactures.

“For fake beef, it’s often an ingredient because there’s a browning effect it helps to provide,” Targan said. “Our product is used also to mask any of the off flavors from the pea or soy protein, aside from it making it look more like a burger by giving it a richer color as it cooks.”

Saddle Brook-based Malt Products is one of the many New Jersey companies in the food and beverage manufacturing space, which occupies a share of the state’s manufacturing sector that’s second only to pharmaceuticals.

Amid all that competition, the company is proving there’s no substitute for a successful niche.

Even with a product that few people have heard of, the company is now at the forefront of the so-called “clean labels” movement in the food and beverage sector with its extracts and other natural sweeteners.

“There has been a big move not to use high fructose corn syrup and not to use GMOs, so we have substitutes,” Targan said. “When companies are working to develop a new product in which they want to take out corn syrup, they can use our product.”

The company’s namesake malted barley product is made through a germination process that turns the starches in grains into a sweetener, similarly to how beer is made, but without the fermentation.

“We’ve been doing that since the business was started in (1957) by my father, who still comes to work every day at 92,” Targan said. “Originally, he sold the product to all the local bagel shops, Italian bakers and other small stores.”

Today, the company sells its ingredients globally. There’s a surge of demand for it in a wide range of food and beverage products — everything from organic ice cream to the now-popular fermented drink kombucha. One of its fastest-growing segments is an extract that’s being used in oat milk.

When the company started to scale up its production, it outgrew its original New Jersey manufacturing facility. The company kept its main hub in Saddle Brook, but Targan said much of its production has been moved from Maywood to Dayton, Ohio.

“Besides it becoming difficult to expand in Maywood as the area become more residential, we were also moving to be closer to the grain in Ohio,” Targan said. “With development taking away farmland, grain stopped being on the East Coast and moved farther west.”

The manufacturer still supplies a number of New Jersey food and beverage companies with its ingredients, and Targan said most the company’s executives remain in the Garden State. The manufacturer has about 200 employees total, with around 30 high-ranked staff in New Jersey.

Even if the company manufactures ingredients that don’t always have name recognition, their uses are broad enough that they have some sizable competitors.

“But, I think what sets us apart is that we’re very flexible,” Targan said. “It doesn’t take us long to notice a trend and move toward it. I think that versatility means we’ll always do well.”

A vacuum belt dryer helps a manufacturer take control of the production of its malted barley extracts

Published by ProFood World; authored by Maya Norris.

Malt Products Corporation (MPC) recently invested $15 million in a state-of-the-art vacuum belt dryer to produce its dry malted barley extracts — and the company is already reaping the benefits. The new vacuum belt dryer has delivered efficiency and flexibility to MPC’s production process and improved product quality. 

MPC installed the 58-foot-long Bucher Dryband vacuum belt dryer from Bucher Unipektin last year. It was the culmination of MPC’s five-year, $50 million expansion of its Dayton, Ohio, manufacturing facility, expanding to 114,000 sq ft from 60,000 sq ft. The plant produces and distributes a variety of natural sweeteners, including oat extract and agave nectar, for a global market. It manufactures about 100 million lb of liquid sweeteners and 30 million lb of dry extract sweeteners annually. 

MPC uses its new vacuum belt dryer to create dry malted barley extracts. After it converts malted barley into syrup, the liquid is transferred to the vacuum belt dryer. Swiveling nozzles uniformly distribute the liquid onto the belts that convey the liquid through six chambers or zones with heating and cooling plates. The liquid enters the first four zones, where the product is heated, before the last two zones cool down the liquid — a process that pulls the moisture out of the product. The vacuum system quickly removes the evaporated moisture. The resulting dried product, known as a cake, is then taken to a mill for grinding. After the product is ground, the malted barley extract is inspected by metal detectors and packaged.

Parting ways

Using the vacuum belt dryer has allowed MPC to optimize and streamline the production process for its malted barley extract by cutting ties with spray drying tollers. Previously, the company used toll spray drying services out of state to process its syrup into malted barley extract. The burdensome procedure required a lot of advance planning for MPC, which had to schedule and reserve the vendors’ spray dryers and services at least three months in advance. And even then, the spray drying vendors sometimes couldn’t meet MPC’s deadlines if they fell behind schedule with another customer. In addition, when MPC received unexpected orders for malted barley extracts, the tollers often didn’t have the capacity to accommodate MPC’s last-minute requests. 

“We were at their mercy,” says Jim Hochberg, vice president of Malt Products Corporation. “Anytime you outsource something, you are going to end up waiting an indiscriminate amount of time to get your product back depending on how busy the service provider is at that moment.

“The reason why Malt Products decided to get a dryer was [to] have more control of the process and be much more fluid,” he says. “Now that we have the process in-house, it’s much more efficient time-wise, and it gives us more flexibility.”

On its own terms

MPC can now produce malted barley extract much more efficiently and cost effectively with the vacuum belt dryer at the plant. Because it no longer has to wait three or more months for tolling services, MPC can produce dry malted barley extract at any time and at its own pace. In addition, it can fulfill unanticipated orders easily, especially because changeover time is minimal. 

“With the toll process drying, when we send a load of product out, we can’t change it midrun,” says Troy Smedley, maintenance superintendent. “So if we get a bunch of orders for a dark malt versus our lighter malt products, now we can stop production, make the dark malt out of our light malt products and switch right into dark malt and start producing it in a day or two.” 

In addition, MPC has significantly reduced its transportation costs by using its in-house vacuum belt dryer. The company previously drove eight to 10 trucks to deliver its malted barley syrup to various out-of-state toll dryers, costing MPC between $15,000 and $30,000 that month, depending on how far the trucks traveled.

The vacuum belt dryer also produces a better product than a spray dryer, according to MPC. Because the vacuum belt dryer operates by reducing the pressure in its chambers, moisture is evaporated from the product at far lower temperatures than spray drying. This eliminates oxidation and prevents damage to critical functionalities of the original syrup, including antioxidants, essential amino acids, minerals and vitamins. This gentle process also helps retain flavor, aroma and color of the malted barley extract. And it better controls the maillard reaction for a more consistent final product color.

“Any time you expose something to higher heat, you are changing it. You’re altering it,” Hochberg says. “We’re able to retain the integrity of the flavor and characteristics of the liquid as it changes into the powder by drying under vacuum at lower temperatures.”