Food Innovation Centre

Funki Drinks

Funki Drinks contacted the Food Innovation Centre (FIC) at pre-start-up stage, with a vision to create a functional carbonated soft drinks range. At an early stage they required support to research and evaluate/validate their own ideas for suitable functional areas to focus on, considering the latest research in functional drinks and technical, regulatory and market feasibility factors. This then allowed a New Product Development (NPD) brief to be created to be given to a formulator. They also wanted to learn about the technical and operational steps involved in the development of a drinks range, from concept to commercialisation, including advice for working with co-packers, some help formulating their first kitchen prototypes/samples in practice, including links to industry ingredient suppliers and to understand the types of manufacturing processes that would be most suited to their category of products.     

Funki Drinks_4

The Food Innovation Team has been an invaluable support in the growth of my functional drinks business. I came to the team with only an idea of the product that I wanted to create and a very limited understanding of the food & drink industry. Alice and team walked me through every step of the new product development process to bring a drinks product to the market with an incredible level of expertise. The team helped me to test and refine my idea, better understand the market, gain an awareness of the technical and regulatory challenges associated with my product, source industry suppliers, and develop a prototype which I can gather feedback from consumers and secure further funding from investors. Alice is very clearly an expert in her field and always made herself available to equip me with the knowledge and confidence to approach manufacturers and scale the business. I am now at a stage where I can seamlessly hand over my commercial recipe that the team developed to a manufacturer and produce a larger batch of my drink. Without the support from Alice & team, I would have been unable to commercialise my product in 12 months, have significantly less knowledge and network within the industry, and have spent £0,000s more (which I couldn't afford) on bringing my product to the market

Paul McCreery - Director, Funki Drinks

Project brief

  • Research functional drinks and ingredients that were feasible for using in an ambient-stable, carbonated soft drink formulation, in particular, within the area of gut health, to create a clear NPD brief for a developer.  

  • Outline the usual technical and operational steps in development and commercialisation of a soft drink and provide ingredient supplier and co-packer contacts.

  • Suggest ingredients and formulations to fit the initial brief and create some kitchen samples as part of a student project.

The response

  • A literature search about functional drinks formulations, especially in the field of gut health was carried out, including a search for permitted gut health ingredients and allowable claims according to regulations in this area. This was presented to the company alongside a critical review of functional drinks already on the market, both verbally and in report format.  

  • Through discussion with the company and as a result of the knowledge gained from the initial brief, a feasible NPD brief was drawn up, based on technical practicalities and the market and consumer research results into flavour trends and consumer expectations that the company had conducted themselves.  

  • A flow diagram outlining the steps in development of a soft drink from a technical and operational perspective was drawn up for the company. 

  • A paper explaining the common processes and ingredients and their functions was written for the company to understand the basics of soft drink formulation which included contact details for relevant ingredient suppliers and co-packers.  

  • A suggested base formulation for a functional drink to meet the company’s brief in terms of nutritional claims was worked out, in order to get them started with formulation. This included a search for and selection of a key functional ingredient available from a reputable industry supplier. 

  • A student summer project was set up for the key functional ingredient to be tested out in bench scale formulations for stability and impact on sensory properties. A base formulation for the drinks range was created in practice and pasteurised kitchen samples were produced of one flavour variant. Work was started on a number of other potential flavour variants.The FIC team attended meetings alongside the company, with key ingredient suppliers, to ensure adequate technical information was collated to ensure ingredients could be used accurately to substantiate desired nutrition claims.

Benefit to the business

The business gained new knowledge about the food and drink development process from a technical and operational perspective (having previously no knowledge or experience in drinks development or manufacture). This included practical advice on how to formulate a soft drink and how to process it to make a safe and stable product. They also gained clarity and direction with regards to which functional area and ingredients to focus on. They were given regulatory limitations surrounding health and nutrition claims and technical practicalities relating to the product chemistry, stability, sensory quality and operational feasibility, allowing them to translate an emerging concept of a drinks range into some early-stage prototypes. They received advice on, how to start working with a co-packer, what questions to ask based on previous industrial experience from the soft drinks sector and access to contact details for suitable co-packers and ingredient suppliers. They were also advised on how to create a base recipe and some prototype samples to demonstrate their concept. This prepared them with background knowledge and confidence to begin speaking to developers and bottlers to complete the development and commercialisation of the product. It also allowed them to demonstrate credibility of concept to win further funding to continue with the development of the product range. 


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