Vitamalt Light targets the health-conscious consumer
Guardian Lifestyles Editor
Published: May 07, 2013
The classic taste of rich malt has made Vitamalt, a non-alcoholic malt beverage, one of the most-loved energy drinks by Bahamians. Made of 100 percent malt and zero fat, alcohol and preservatives, it is packed with naturally occurring vitamins and minerals and deemed suitable for vegetarians. Touted as delicious, nutritious and non-alcoholic, it still packs a whopping 210 calories per bottle — which is quite a hefty number, especially for those people counting calories and trying to lose weight.
With an ever-growing health-conscious market place, Commonwealth Brewery, manufacturers of Vitamalt, took this into account and have rolled out a 50 percent lighter calorie version of the popular malt beverage with a calorie count of 105 per bottle. Vitamalt Light, which is distributed by Burns House hit the market on Saturday, May 4.
The manufacturers have taken out the sugar and replaced it with artificial sweeteners (acesulfame-k, saccharin-Na and steviol glycoside) in an effort to cater to the health-conscious market that likes their product.
“The only thing we have done is added sweeteners to our Light instead of just sugar,” said Tanya Sweeting, the quality assurance manager at Commonwealth Brewery. “The vitamin complex remains the same, so it’s very strong and high in vitamin B. The only difference between the Classic and the Light is the sugars,” she said.
Acesulfame potassium is a non-caloric sweetener with a clean, quickly perceptible sweet taste. In the United States, acesulfame K was granted general purpose approval in December, 2003. It is approved for use in numerous products including carbonated beverages and alcoholic beverages.
Saccharin has been used to sweeten foods and beverages without calories or carbohydrates for over a century. Its use was considerable during the sugar shortages of the two world wars, particularly in Europe. Research also has shown that health professionals believe saccharin is especially beneficial to persons with diabetes and the obese, and helps reduce dental cavities.
Stevia is the new “thing” within sweeteners and is highly popular due to its natural origin from the stevia plant. As a sweetener and sugar substitute, stevia’s taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar. It has a negligible effect on blood glucose and due to this it is an attractive natural sweetener for people on carbohydrate-controlled diets.
The three sweeteners, according to the manufacturers, give a positive contribution to taste and mouth-feel for the Vitamalt Light.
Sweeting describes the new Vitamalt offering as a smooth, refreshing drink. She said the switches from sugar to artificial sweeteners did not make for a really noticeable difference in flavor in the light malt when compared to the classic version.
“A classic is very robust and strong in terms of that malty flavor, but you also get the malty flavor also with the Vitamalt Light, so when this was introduced and we tasted it originally, we were very impressed that there was not much of a big difference,” she said.
Dietitian Julia Lee was provided with samples to review the Vitamalt Classic and the Vitamalt Light nutrition labels. She said from the label, the light product could help a person reduce their calorie intake by half.
“[Vitamalt Light] has lower calories because it has
artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. They actually have what we call non-nutritive sweeteners — that means they have no calories. The third one [steviol glycoside] does have some calories, but the Vitamalt Light has fewer total calories, because it does not have added sucrose to the bottle,” she said. “It is sweetened, but it’s using mostly sweetening from sweeteners that are artificial and do not provide too many calories.”
Lee, a registered dietitian who has worked at Doctors Hospital for over 20 years, said as a result, the light malt beverage could help people who normally drink one bottle of Vitamalt Classic per day.
“They could reduce their calories by 100 calories a day and that could translate into a pound per month if they switched from regular Vitamalt to light Vitamalt,” she said.
The dietitian said currently the medical world considers the artificial sweeteners used in the new malt beverage offering as safe, but she said medical science is always coming out with new information. But she said health professionals always try to get people to consume natural foods instead of artificial chemicals. For that reason she said it would benefit people to stick with the Vitamalt Classic, if they’re concerned about taking in artificial chemicals.
“A lot of health professionals would try to get somebody to reduce their sugar, not switch to an artificial sweetener which is what I try to promote as well, still using sugar, [but] using less sugar. The person who drinks one Vitamalt [Classic] a day might then consider one Vitamalt [Classic] every other day and reduce their consumption by half. But if they have to have it everyday then they should consider the light one. If they’re overweight especially it could help them,” she said.
Lee also noted that Vitamalt is promoted as a big source of vitamins, but she said she would not consider it a main source of Vitamin B complex, but in the context of a healthy diet she said it could fit.
Vitamalt Light hit the market with less than 5,000 cases to test the market.
The planning for Vitamalt Light began early in January and the process was completed within three months in time for the product’s May release.
Sweeting said because Vitamalt Light offers less calories, but still has the taste and flavor of a Vitamalt Classic she said at Commonwealth Brewery they believe it will definitely take off, and that they will definitely have to increase their production numbers.
“It is still a high-vitamin drink [that is] very refreshing and still gives you a lot of energy and it’s less calories,” she said.
The shelf life of Vitamalt — whether it’s the Classic or the Light is one year. The best before date is imprinted on the shoulder of each bottle.