It is a rapidely expanding market that can reach across borders. It is not surprising that it attracts a lot of interest from producers. But beware, production of non-alcoholic beverages comes with financial, operational and safety challenges. To be supported by professionals is a must.
You have to know before starting non-alcoholic beverage production.
The law is the law
Unlike alcoholic products, non-alcoholic beverages must include a nutrition facts table. This implies additional costs in analyses and producers must comply with strict labeling rules. Low alcohol levels are difficult to measure as some methods can show up to 60% variability in low values. This is why it is important to work with a Laboratory which has shown competency through a certification like ISO 17025 for this method in order to obtain precise results.
Since there is no alcohol, additional costs for microbiological analyses are to be expected. It is important to ensure the absence of pathogenic bacteria such as Escherichia coli, total coliforms and Salmonella spp that may originate form water used for production, fruits and spices. A recent study by Cornell University has shown that pathogens can persist more than 60 days in an alcoholic beverage with a % alcohol of 3.2 and pH of 4.2.
However, pathogens are not the only concern. Presence of yeasts and bacteria may affect taste but more importantly, may lead to refermentation in cans or bottles, specially if sugars are still present.
Products must be stabilized
In order to prevent microbiological problems, products must be stabilized. There are several ways a beverage can be rendered more stable. Here are three:
- 1-Preservatives. Adding preservatives like potassium sorbate or sodium benzoate will restrict yeasts growth. However, they may not work efficiently against bacteria. Levels of these preservatives are regulated so testing for compliance is important.
- 2-Pasteurization. Beverages can be pasteurized by Flash pasteurization (quick and very hot) or tunnel pasteurization (less hot and longer). Both technique requires significant investments.
- 3-Filtration. The beverage is filtered roughly and then through a cartridge filter to perform sterile filtration.
Which ever process is used, stabilized products must always be controlled by microbiological testing to ensure safety.
Production of a non or low alcoholic beverage requires a thourough cost-benefits analysis. A sound risk management plan must be put in place because the consequences of poor quality could be devastating to the clients and the business. Fortunately, qualified professionals are there to help you manage those risks. The OENOSCIENCE laboratory offers you a selection of microbiological tests for non-alcoholic beverages. We also have a cost effective panel specially designed for these products. Contact us at 514-564-2050 for details.