Liquid breakfasts

The number of on-the-go breakfast drinks is growing, but is convenience trumping nutrition?
 
Learn more
 
 
 
 
 

01 .Fibre furphies

breakfast-drinks-lead

Research by Roy Morgan indicates almost a quarter of Australians say they rarely have time for breakfast. Skipping the first meal of the day has been linked to reduced intake of calcium and dietary fibre.

Tapping into consumers’ increasing demand for meals on the go, liquid breakfasts touting health claims such as "high in fibre" are a growing category in the shopping aisles.

While Sanitarium’s Up&Go has ruled the market since its launch 15 years ago, selling 34 million litres through supermarkets in the past 12 months alone, other manufacturers have since entered the battle for shelf space.

CHOICE reviewed 23 products across six brands, looking at their ingredients, nutrients and sometimes unfounded assertions. 

How do the claims stack up? 

Fibre With claims such as “high in fibre”, “fibre for digestive health”, the “goodness of three grains” – you’d be forgiven for thinking the products are, well, high in fibre.

But the industry’s own voluntary Nutrient Claims Code of Practice allows products with as little as 1.5g of fibre per serve to claim they are a “source of fibre”. 

In January, a new food standard to regulate nutrition content claims on food labels was introduced, with manufacturers given three years to comply. Under the new standard, a product will be required to contain at least four grams of fibre per serve before it can claim to be a good source of fibre.

Sanitarium - whose Up&Go products claim to be high in fibre yet have under four grams per serve - is one of several manufacturers that have much to change before the 2016 deadline.

CHOICE considers breakfast products with at least 20% fibre as being very high in that nutrient, those more than 10% as high, and those with less than five per cent as low.

Of the products we analysed, all fell far short of the five per cent mark, with Aldi’s Goldenvale Quick Start coming in at just 2.3% fibre. Dairy Farmers’ Oat Express products were the lowest ranked, with just 1.2%.

Accredited practising dietitian Melanie McGrice says these numbers are very disappointing given breakfast is traditionally the meal with the highest fibre content.

Protein Similarly misleading claims can be found around protein. Come 2016, a product must offer at least 10g per serve before it can claim to be a good source of protein. Kellogg’s Nutrigrain and Coco Pops breakfast drinks both make this claim, but their protein levels come in at 9.5g and 9.8g per serve respectively. Vitasoy’s VitaGo banana and honey, chocolate, and vanilla drinks also spruik their protein levels, yet fall below what will be required.

Soluble vs insoluble fibre

Found in fruits, vegetables, oats, dried beans and lentils, soluble fibre dissolves in water and works to lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Insoluble fibre – the type found in wholegrains, the outer skins of fruit and vegetables, as well as nuts and seeds – promotes digestion and a healthy bowel. 

The fibre listing on the nutritional panel doesn’t distinguish between soluble and insoluble, but it’s important to note they have different roles. To receive the greatest health benefit, the Dietitians Association of Australia recommends we eat at least 30g of a wide variety of fibres each day.

Inulin, a starchy carbohydrate commonly derived from chicory root, is a favoured choice of soluble fibre in liquid breakfasts, known for its ability to add a smooth mouthfeel without unwanted taste or texture. Devondale, Kellogg’s, Sanitarium and Vitasoy all use it in their products.

McGrice says the growth of inulin as a dietary fibre in processed food places dietitians in a difficult situation. “If you’re going to skip meals, a drink is better than nothing,” she concedes. “However, I certainly don’t want to advocate that it’s fine to drink these products every day.”

Nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton is even less convinced. “I really believe the jury is still out as to whether inulin has the same benefits,” she says. “It is a form of soluble fibre, but whether or not it is equivalent to wholegrain fibre I think is very much in doubt.” 

 
 

Sign up to our free
e-Newsletter

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.

 
breakfast-blender

All the drinks we reviewed include added sugars, with 21 of 23 containing levels per 100g that we classify as being moderate in sugars for a food product.

While lactose, a type of sugar, occurs naturally in milk, it’s the added sugars at the top of the ingredient lists that are of concern.

Ten drinks have more than 23g of sugars per serve, roughly the same as a regular chocolate bar. Naturally occurring sugars in a cup of full-cream milk are around 12g.

Corn syrup solids, which are present in Sanitarium Up&Go and Up&Go Energize, are a sweet sugar substitute made by treating cornflour with acids or enzymes. They offer little nutritional value – just empty kilojoules – and may even have a negative impact for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. 

average-fibre-statistic

Breakfast is traditionally the most fibre-dense meal of the day - a good reason to ensure you set aside time for it.

Of the dozens of breakfast cereals we reviewed last year, we found 65 considered to be high or very high in fibre, while a further 71 products had moderate fibre levels - placing them well ahead of the liquid products in the fibre stakes.

A serving of oats with a handful of almonds and a sliced apple will give you about 11g of fibre (both soluble and insoluble), a third of your daily recommended intake. This is double – and in some cases, more than triple – the amount of fibre available in the liquid breakfasts we analysed.

Just a snack

Stanton says that manufacturers encouraging the “snackification” of breakfast by marketing these products as if they were complete meals is of tremendous concern. “More and more we’re moving people away from the idea of planning meals, which is not a good thing. These drinks aren’t the equivalent [of a bowl of cereal] – they’re cashing in on a healthy image to make people buy, when really what manufacturers are selling is snack drinks.” 

The energy content of the drinks we reviewed ranges between 700kJ and 912kJ, despite a regular meal being about 2000kJ. So with the energy content more like a snack than a meal, those who consume liquid breakfasts may be prone to mid-morning snacking.

Stanton also believes there is no excuse for kids who don’t “like” breakfast. “If kids won’t eat their breakfast, they need to learn better eating habits – it’s just something they should be taught to do,” she says. 

Processed convenience

McGrice says while the convenience factor appeals to many people – the average Australian dedicates just eight minutes a day to preparing and eating breakfast – grabbing a tub of yoghurt and an apple instead of one of these products is a convenient and less processed alternative.

Still, for those who do decide to drink their breakfast, the news isn’t all bad. Of the products we reviewed, most offer added vitamins and minerals – particularly vitamins B6 and B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, folate and niacin. Calcium levels are also impressive; most will provide you with 30-40% of your calcium RDI. 

Devondale Fast Start Devondale-fast-start
  • Its claim to contain the equivalent protein and fibre of a tub of unsweetened yoghurt and a banana is accurate.
  • Sugar is the second ingredient in all three flavours.
  • Claims to be “high in fibre” and contain “goodness of three grains” despite having just 1.6% fibre.

 

 Kellogg’s breakfast drinks Kelloggs-breakfast-drinks

  • Claim to be high in protein but falls short of what the new 2016 standard will require (10g per serve).
  • Fibre levels are very low – less than two per cent – despite the “high in fibre” claim.

 

 

Vitasoy VitaGo Vitasoy-VitaGo

  • Claims to use oats and barley for “high” fibre, but the oats and barley content makes up as little as 1.6% of total ingredients.
  • Claims to be “high in protein” but fails to meet the required 10g per serve for the 2016 standard.

 

Aldi Goldenvale Quick Start Aldi-Goldenvale-Quick-Start

  • Banana-flavoured product has no real banana.
  • Sugar is the third ingredient in all three flavours.
  • “High in fibre” claim, but has just over two per cent fibre.

 

 

 

Dairy Farmers Oats Express Dairy-Farmers-Oats-Express

  • Banana-honey flavour uses image of fresh banana, yet contains no real banana - just banana “extract”.
  • Has a particularly flimsy fibre content of just 1.2%.

 

 

Sanitarium Up&Go Sanitarium-Up-and-Go

  • Biggest range: choice of regular Up&Go, protein-enhanced Energize and “naturally” sweetened Vive.
  • Fibre content low (maximum of 1.6%), but makes “high in fibre” claim.
  • Strawberry drink contains no strawberries and is coloured with fermented red rice.
Your say - Choice voice

Make a Comment

Members – Sign in on the top right to contribute to comments