Jules Birch on the functional benefits of beauty water

Shaun Weston18 Aug 2011

For many, the first time the phrase ‘beauty water’ was heard was when Works with Water launched ready to drink Beauty Water in 2006.

Bill Bruce talks to Works with Water Nutraceuticals’ Jules Birch.

?Works with Water and ready to drink Beauty Water were a cover story for Beverage Innovation, and in the 2008 Water Innovation Awards. What made you move away from RTD and opt for soluble supplements?

Jules Birch: As we required aseptic production (and there are limited contract manufacturers in the UK with aseptic production facilities), we either had to source a partner in mainland Europe or look for a solution where we had greater control over production and quality.

Customer feedback indicated people were buying our products for their health benefits. For example, consumers who were not necessarily bottled water purchasers were buying our blood pressure spring water specifically for the blood pressure maintenance benefit. So, allowing them to add our soluble formulations to their beverage was a logical solution.

The Help range works in three areas: helping to manage blood pressure, cholesterol and improve the skin. Please explain the science and target audience behind them.

Birch: Help: Blood Pressure’s target audience is for those diagnosed with elevated blood pressure or with a history of hypertension or heart problems in the family. The key ingredient, lactotripeptides, reduces the chemical that causes blood vessels to narrow and constrict.

Help: Cholesterol is again for anyone with an elevated cholesterol count and/or have a history within the family. This formulation contains barley beta glucan, which interferes with the absorption of cholesterol from the gut and reduces re-absorption of cholesterol made in the liver.

Help: Clear Skin can do exactly that if you suffer from acne. Unlike blood pressure or cholesterol, that are essentially ‘invisible’ problems unless diagnosed, acne and spots are all too visible and our target customers range from teens to 30+ sufferers who are seeking natural alternatives to topical treatments and prescription medication. The key ingredient is rich in lactoferrin and helps limit the growth of acne bacteria due to its antimicrobial effect.

You’ve achieved some impressive listings and strong online presence, but do consumers understand and trust the claims made by functional products?

Birch: Unfortunately, there is definitely a suspicion that many claims are ‘too good to be true’. And yet, many are looking to maintain health naturally and seeking alternatives to prescription medication. So, it’s important that the consumer understands the science behind the claims, has confidence in claims approval, and that the health benefit is worth the purchase.

Health and functional claims are under the regulatory and media microscope more than ever. Are there challenges ahead in proving or justifying claims? Could the industry and its suppliers do more to make health, beauty and anti-ageing drinks better accepted?

Birch: Well, this is where EFSA opinions are supposed to cut through the confusion across claims. The remit and aims are laudable, but the confusion remains. We’re just hoping that sanity and clear thinking prevail for the good of our industry and the consumer.

Niche categories always attract ‘me-too’ products. Are you surprised how few functional waters with beauty and anti-ageing claims have hit the shelves?

Birch: Not really, given our experience of finding the right contract manufacturer to handle complex ingredients in such an unforgiving vehicle as water. That’s probably the reason for the plethora of vitamin waters we've seen during the past few years.

In our experience, consumers seeking beauty/anti-ageing benefits in a bottled water are looking for a clear, clean presentation and mouthfeel. They definitely don’t want a beverage with strong flavours and a high sweetness level.

Which innovations in packaged water have interested you and do you see any trends emerging?

Birch: I’m interested in those delivering benefits in a user-friendly format such as the quick-release caps. However, there are limitations with regards to fill-capacity to enable sufficient dose delivery, so development work on these is ongoing.

What's next for Works with Water?

Birch: We’re still exploring the opportunities in RTD. However, our latest new product development is in the area of water-based gels in a form-fill-seal delivery. Launching in Boots and Waitrose in the UK this month, they're causing a stir with buyers, and we hope consumers embrace them with the same fervour.

Interview by Bill Bruce. Bill is group editorial director of FoodBev Media. You can contact him here.

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