Speaking to DairyReporter.com at the recent Anuga Taste the Future trade show in Cologne, German ingredients specialist Dohler admitted that the bubble tea craze in Germany had fallen flat.
The Taiwanese trend started with solid tapioca balls immersed a variety of flavored teas, then moved on to popping ‘boba’ balls made of alginate film surrounding a liquid fruit core.
The trend caught on in Europe around two years ago, and was taken up by McDonalds in Germany for summer 2013 as it sought to attract a new clientele to its cafes, and appeal to 14-16 year olds in particular.
Then the bubble burst…
Then the bubble burst. University Hospital Aachen researchers reported that some other bubbles taken from a café chain in Monchengladbach and made in Taiwain – not those used by McDonalds – contained polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) such as styrene, acetophenone and brominated substances.
“During the course of one year, around 50 bubble stores sprang up in each year. But this study pretty much killed the industry. Then McDonalds saw their launch through the summer of 2013, but that was the end of bubble tea for them in Europe,” the Dohler spokesman said.
This led Dohler to explore other applications where its bubbles – which contain no artificial colors or ingredients, and are produced in Europe under EU standards – might fit, and the company said had particular promise in the dairy industry, where Dohler has already partnered Muller and Arla.
A Dohler spokesman said that everybody thinks in terms of bubble tea, but that the company now sees far more potential in the dairy space.
“There even some interest from some companies wanting to put things like fish oil inside the bubbles, seeing it as a fun way to ingest nutrients, etc.,” he said. “But perhaps this is one step too far too quickly, at the moment.”
Syrup in bubbles sweetens milk
Dohler worked with Arla to design a top cap filled with fruit bubbles with a liquid core, which won an innovation prize at DrinkTec 2013, and was used atop its chilled Bubble Latte drink (pictured).
This was sold in 7-Eleven C-stores across Denmark this year, Dohler said.
“It’s a top cap for a milk-based product – so the syrup in the bubbles sweetens the milk – you then drink it through the straw for a flavour change in your mouth,” the spokesman said.
Looking at other possible applications for bubbles, the spokesman gave the example of a strawberry fruit preparation with strawberry bubbles inside – which the consumer could not distinguish from the fruit itself – that could be a way of getting extra sugar or flavour into a product.
“Now we’re developing it slightly further as a topping for ice cream, and exploring further applications, taking it to a completely different level,” the Dohler spokesman said.
As for whether bubbles still have a future in the beverage arena, he said it was a challenge, “because you need to add bubbles at the point of consumption, whether it is through a dual-chamber package of some type or an addition to your drink at the very end”.
“Now we can stabilize the color – so when you put the bubble in, it will always be red, it will always keep its shape and it will not leak color. But it does leak flavour, due to osmosis,” he said.
Child-friendly alginate pieces
One summer 2013 launch in this space, the first ever, COOBO (pictured) gets around the osmosis issues by using bubbles with a strawberry flavored core in a Rooibos tea & Strawberry flavored beverage.
This variety of COOBO – another earlier variety used solid balls – recently gained a UK listing Harrod’s, and Christopher Wehner, COOBO spokesman, told our sister site BeverageDaily.com on July 11 that the firm now focused on the UK and Southern Europe after the bubble tea market stalled in Germany and Austria.
Explaining Dohler’s work with fruit pieces for beverages, another company representative told us that the firm offered juice pieces – cubed alginate pieces with juice inside, a fruit preparation, concentrate or color.
“This could be an option if you want to have a product for children that’s easy to consume that they’re not going to choke on that contains 50% fruit, including vitamins,” he said.