The Rocky Road to the Future of RTD Meal Replacements

As far as meal replacement drinks go, we’ve come a long way since Slim Fast. Since the introduction of the category in the 70’s the drinks have changed from a meal replacement that is synonymous with a specific weight loss diet to a wide-open category where there are a myriad of drinks meant to stand in for breakfast, lunch or dinner, each one supporting a specific diet.

Whether it is to lose weight, put on weight, build muscles, or something as specific as a Paleo Diet meal replacement beverage, there are seemingly limitless diet niches being explored, including things like vegan and soy-free high-protein drinks. But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For example, a ketogenic meal replacement drink could be used by people with epilepsy to reduce their symptoms, but is also becoming a more popular diet outside this treatment regime. This meal replacement drink, mind-bogglingly has 80% of its calories from fat. Really, the possibilities are endless. There could be a meal replacement drink designed specifically for any diet you could imagine.

The only limit for specialized meal replacement drinks, at the moment, is the science of nutrition. As people experiment more with different additives, proteins, etc., we should see more and more specialized formulas. Who knows? One day, everyone could have a drink formulated specifically for their body chemistry. As Beverage Architects that design all kinds of meal replacement drinks, we at Flavorman we recognize these challenges and are excited by the possibilities.

The Challenges

Aside from the quickly growing knowledgebase of nutritional science, there are some other challenges that need to be conquered in order for everyone to get their personalized formula. Top on our list, of course, is taste. It’s not always easy to get good flavor out of some of the more common sources of protein often used in meal replacement drinks.

For example, a lot of people (including our lab manager) just don’t like the taste of peas that are often used for their protein. They’re gritty and they taste like, well, like peas. So, we have to mask them with other flavors and sweetener systems.

Of course, one might ask, “why not just use another protein source?” Well, there are some available, but often they contain allergens as is the case with whey, soy, and egg protein. Others, like brown rice can be even grittier than peas, and hemp has a very earthy flavor that is a challenge to mask entirely or match with other flavors.

Luckily, we do have ways around the challenges each protein source poses.

The Acid Test

Each protein has its own properties that determine how whether it will be completely clear in a solution, or milky and cloudy. Special attention needs to be paid to the pH of the beverage so that the protein doesn’t become chunky, or fall out of solution all together.

Generally speaking, the high acid beverages often pair well with fruity flavors while more neutral beverages do better with more desserty flavors, like chocolate and vanilla.

Of course, dealing in flavors, we’re always experimenting and pushing the envelope, so don’t be surprised if you start seeing more savory flavors on the market to meet the need of people born without a sweet tooth and also to compliment the inherent flavors of the additives in the drink. Bloody Mary, perhaps?

If you’re looking to perfect your meal replacement drink formula, head on over to our site and let’s get started.