Consumer thirst for beer is apparently insatiable in Asia Pacific, where sales growth shows no sign of a let-up. Looking back to 2006 and ahead to 2016, Euromonitor reports an annual volume growth rate that hovers around five percent. No surprising, then, that so many breweries are focusing attention on this interesting market.
The large number of players has made the market a highly competitive one, requiring brewers to go that extra mile to make their beers the natural consumer choice.
According to the market research agency, there are good conditions for brand strengthening innovation, as along with the rising volume of beer sales, many Asian Pacific countries are also experiencing strong growth in the value of the beer sold—the annual value growth forecast up to 2016 being 8.5 percent for China and 11.7 percent for India. This opens opportunities for brewers to secure and expand their market share through the launch of value-added products.
Getting Slimmer With Premium Beer Products
Hideyuki Kamon Hyogo, Tokyo, Japan
One of the ways to do that is through the development of premium quality, low-carb beer. While brewing enzyme technology has long been capable of reducing the carbs, an ongoing challenge for brewers is how to avoid compromising taste, body and foam stability. Experience suggests that the soluble dietary fibre polydextrose could be the answer.
Low-carb beer is of interest for several reasons, not least the profile of the new beer consumers in China and the newer emerging markets of India, Vietnam and Cambodia. Lai See Lee follows the market development from her base in Singapore, where she is regional business director for food enzymes at DuPont Industrial Biosciences.
“The growth of the urban middle class of these countries has increased consumer spending power, particularly among young adults. There are also more working women. These are the new beer drinkers. But while they want to drink pleasant beer, they do not want to put on weight. They are looking for a good taste minus the carbohydrates and calories,” she says.
Rising beer consumption reflects a general tendency of these emerging markets to adopt European consumption patterns. At the same time, the region’s consumers are discovering that beer is the perfect accompaniment to their often spicy food and a source of cooling refreshment in the hot climate.
Success With Enzymes
Because many of the region’s beers are either low in malt or based entirely on adjuncts, such as barley, rice and soya, which have no natural enzyme content of their own, a successful process is dependent on the addition of brewing enzymes.
When it comes to minimising the carbohydrates, the ability of enzymes to optimise the fermentability of carbohydrate sources is equally indispensable. The improved efficiency and increased yield that enzymes provide are additional key benefits that make low-carb beer an attractive proposition for brewers.
Among commercial brewing enzymes, glucoamylase is highly rated for its ability to achieve a real degree of attenuation (RDF) in excess of 80 percent. What this means in practice is that the enzyme breaks down otherwise non-fermentable carbohydrates into smaller molecules, promoting fermentation, reducing the content of calorie-containing sugars and increasing the level of alcohol. The alcohol level can then be adjusted as required.
Another way to increase brewing capacity without investing in additional equipment is to use enzyme complexes containing beta-glucanases, xylanases and amylases. Apart from optimising brewing efficiency by speeding up mash separation and reducing beer filtration cycles, such complexes reduce energy and water consumption and facilitate very high gravity brewing, giving further energy savings in the process.
Reducing Carbs Without Going Thinner
Reducing the carbohydrates in beer is relatively simple. However, with most of the sugars fermented, the impact on taste and body is significant with the beer becoming noticeably thinner.
It is this challenge that brewing experts have overcome with the dietary fibre polydextrose, which gained European Union approval last year for energy-reduced and low-alcohol beers.
Polydextrose is a randomly cross-linked polymer of glucose. Contributing just one calorie per g—four times less than sucrose—it offers multiple benefits as a low-calorie bulking agent and sugar replacer in low-sugar and sugar-free foods. As a fibre, it has recognised prebiotic properties and compared to other fibre sources, is well tolerated by consumers, even at a high dose.
In beer, the technical benefits of polydextrose are of most interest—the high solubility, stability and transparency in solution, delivery of mouthfeel and the amorphous quality, which prevents crystallisation.
Good Track Record
Japanese producers of the low malt beverage known as third generation beer are already using the dietary fibre with success. Made with very little malt in order to qualify for a lower tax bracket and enable lower pricing, third generation beer uses alternative carbohydrate sources such as pea protein, soy protein or soy peptide.
Polydextrose is added to improve body and mouthfeel, stabilize the foam and increase lacing. Third generation beer’s light and crisp taste, which is well-liked by consumers, is a key selling point.
These sensory benefits are strongly apparent in another popular application—non-alcoholic, low calorie flavoured beer containing flavourings or fruit juice. Here, polydextrose successfully enhances fruity notes and masks the unappealing after-taste of intense sweeteners.
Recent trials conducted at DuPont in Denmark and the brewing research institute VLB Berlin have investigated the ability of brewing enzymes and polydextrose to produce a highly attenuated beer (75-85 percent RDF) with improved foam and body.
For the purpose of the trials, the polydextrose was added prior to fermentation. In an optimised recipe, however, it is likely that the polydextrose would be added after the fermentation process—depending on individual brewery needs.
Through the activity of the natural enzymes present in malt and external brewing enzymes, the carbohydrates in the beer wort are converted into four sugar types: D1, DP2, DP3 and DP4+.
Of these, D1, DP2 and DP3 are then fermented by the yeast. Depending on the fermentation time, type of enzymes and enzyme concentration, it is possible to produce a highly attenuated beer with low levels of DP4+. The drawback is that beer low in DP4+ typically lacks body and mouthfeel, appearing thin.
Kat n Kim
One of the key findings of the trials is that the addition of one to three percent polydextrose raises the DP4+ level, resulting in a reduced attenuation level. The higher level of DP4+ adds more body, mouthfeel and improved foam to the final beer.
This ensures the sensory appeal, upgrading the quality of the finished beer. In the sensory evaluation, some of the beer formulations with polydextrose also scored higher on bitterness quality compared to the reference.
In the laboratory foam evaluation, stability was seen to increase considerably in the beer formulations made with polydextrose. This was supported in the appearance assessment, where polydextrose addition improved the ability of the foam to cling to the beer glass.
No impact on beer colour or clarity was observed. Foam stability and body were also noticeably improved in brewing trials with low-alcohol beer at the brewing research institute.
New Life For Markets?
One way or another, though, polydextrose has emerged as an effective ingredient in low-carb beers that target the premium segment of Asia Pacific’s growing beer markets. The chances are that innovative beers of this type could spark new life in the more mature markets of Australia, Japan, Korea and New Zealand.
At the annual Beerfest Asia, held in Singapore for the first time in 2009 and attended by beer enthusiasts from around the world, low-carb beer has both attracted interest and won awards.
What is most important as far as consumers are concerned is that they get delicious, full-bodied beer without having to worry too much about their waistline. Enzymes supplemented by an invisible dietary fibre are making it happen—and all with the greatest ease for brewers.
Low-carb beer is not only an opportunity to bring a new competitive edge to their brand. With that fast and efficient brewing process, keeping up with growing demand is no problem at all.