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Ingredient Definitions

Carbon dioxide (CO2

Carbon dioxide is used to put the fizziness in soft drinks.

It is a non-toxic, inert, virtually tasteless gas.

The amount of carbon dioxide added is dependent upon the type of soft drink.

Lightly-carbonated drinks are usually fruity; lemonade and colas have medium carbonation; and mixers, like tonic water, are highly carbonated.

Carbon dioxide can occur naturally, and some bottled waters are naturally sparkling.


Water is the main ingredient in all drinks; for carbonates it is around 90% of a regular product and 98% of a low-calorie product.

The majority of the water used in soft drinks production comes from mains water. However, spring water or natural mineral water may be used and this is indicated on the product label.

If mains water is used it must undergo further treatment before it can be used for production. This is because the water in a soft drink acts as the solvent for all the other ingredients. Therefore, its quality is of prime importance. Each soft drink company will have its own treated water requirements covering physical, chemical, microbiological and taste characteristics.

Fruit/Fruit Juice

Information about fruit juice can be found on the fruit juice page of the website.

Other fruit products used in soft drinks include:

Fruit comminute
Citrus products made from the whole fruit, including the skin and pith.

Fruit puree
Fruit puree can be called fruit juice. It is obtained from the whole or peeled fruit using a physical process such as sieving, grinding or milling without removing the juice.

Cells, juicy bits
For citrus products, this is the juice sacs.

Water-extracted fruit juice
This is the product obtained by diffusion with water of dehydrated whole fruit (e.g. prunes); or pulpy whole fruit that cannot be extracted by any physical means (e.g. açai).

For more information visit the website of the European Fruit Juice Association (AIJN)

Sugars (sucrose, glucose and fructose)

Sweetness in soft drinks has traditionally been provided by sugar (sucrose) extracted from beet or cane.

In the presence of acid, as in soft drinks, sucrose (a disaccharide of glucose and fructose) will hydrolyse to form an equal mixture of the mono-saccharides glucose and fructose. Therefore in soft drinks, you will find a mixture of the three sugars. This also happens to the sucrose in fruit juices.

Glucose and fructose syrups may also be used to give sweetness.

All sugars have the same calorific content approx. 4kcals/g but have different levels of sweetness, e.g. fructose is slightly more sweet than sucrose, and glucose is less sweet than sucrose.

For more information see Sugar Nutrition UK


Maltodextrin is a complex carbohydrate made up of glucose units in chains of various lengths. Maltodextrin is often used in sports drinks because it provides a high concentration of carbohydrate with little sweetness.

Intense sweeteners

Intense sweeteners are non-sugar substances that can be added to food and drink products instead of sugar. They are many times sweeter than sugar which means that much lower quantities are needed to give a product the desired sweet taste.

The development in use of intense sweeteners dates back to the First World War when the supply of sugar was limited. Manufacturers have found that blending different intense sweeteners, sometimes with sugar, can lead to better product taste profiles. For this reason, many manufacturers use blends of sweeteners rather than one single intense sweetener in their drinks.

The most commonly used intense sweeteners in UK soft drinks are:
Acesulfame-K (E950)
Aspartame (E951)
Saccharin (E954)
Steviol Glycosides (E960)
Sucralose (E955)

For more information see International Sweeteners Association


Acids are used in soft drinks for two main reasons:

  • To slow the growth of micro-organisms (yeasts, moulds and bacteria);
  • And to improve the taste of a drink by balancing the sweetness.

The three most commonly-used acids are:

Citric Acid (E330) - the natural acid in citrus fruits
Malic Acid (E296) - the natural acid in apple
Phosphoric acid (E338) – traditionally used in colas

For more information see Food Additives Association


Preservatives allow products to have a longer shelf life by slowing or stopping the growth of micro-organisms (yeasts, moulds and bacteria).

Not all soft drinks contain preservatives: the need for a preservative depends on the type of product and the processing used.

Soft drinks containing fruit juice and sugar typically need preservatives to prevent microbiological spoilage.

There are four permitted preservatives for soft drinks:
Benzoates (E210-E213)
Sorbates (E200-E203)
Suphites (E220-228)
Dimethyldicarbonate (E242)

For more information see Food Additives Association


Colours are used in soft drinks to:

  • Make the product more aesthetically appealing;
  • And help preserve the identity or character by which drinks are recognised.

There are three basic categories of colourings: natural colours, artificial colours, and caramels

Natural colours
These can be extracted from plants, fruits and vegetables and can also be manufactured synthetically. There are two main categories:
            Carotenoids – which give a range of yellow to orange colours
            Anthocyanins – which give a range of bright red to purple colours

Artificial colours
A full range of colours can be obtained, such as blue, green, red, and yellow, etc. All permitted artificial colours used in soft drinks have been thoroughly tested and approved as safe. However, due to increasing consumer preference for natural colours, the trend in the UK market in recent years has been for manufacturers and retailers to reduce the use of artificial colours in their products.

Caramels are one of the oldest and most widely-used colours. They are used in cola and ginger ale drinks and can also be used in beer and shandies.

For more information see Natural Colours Association and FSA Food Colours


Flavours are present in virtually every soft drink. They may be obtained from natural or artificial sources and are used to respond to increasing consumer demands for a wide spectrum of different tasting foods and drinks.

Natural flavours are derived from a wide range of fruits, vegetables, nuts, bark, leaves, herbs, spices and oils.

Artificial flavours are manufactured synthetically.

For more information see UK Flavours Association


Caffeine is a stimulant, increasing alertness. It occurs naturally in at least 63 plant species worldwide, the most well-known being coffee, tea, cocoa and guarana.

Caffeine is rapidly metabolised by the body.  The medical effects of caffeine have been studied extensively and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently published its scientific opinion on the safety of caffeine. This opinion concluded that for healthy adults, with the exception of pregnant and breastfeeding women, single doses of caffeine up to 200mg and total daily caffeine consumption of up to 400mg are safe.

According to regulation, added caffeine must be included in the ingredients list. Levels in excess of 150mg/l must be declared quantitatively with the following warning statement: ‘High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breastfeeding women’.

For more information, visit FSA Caffeine 


Taurine is one of the most abundant amino acids in the body.  It is a non-essential amino acid, i.e. it can be synthesised by the body from cysteine and methionine. It is not found in plants, and vegetarians or vegans with an unbalanced diet—i.e. deficient in cysteine or methionine—could be deficient in taurine. There is no evidence that taurine has any beneficial effect to a healthy person but it has been used in the treatment of people with heart problems. It has been linked to cell membrane stability and to brain cell activity, and is also a component of bile acids which help fat metabolism.


L-Carnitine is a member of the group of food factors known as vitamin-like nutrients.  It is involved in fat metabolism, i.e. the burning of fat for energy in the mitochondria.  When discovered it was given B vitamin status but is not a vitamin because it can be metabolised by the body from lysine. Carnitine is plentiful in meat, but found rarely in vegetables.

It is believed that carnitine provides energy from fat metabolism separately from the use of glycogen thereby providing extra energy.  The heart derives up to 80% of its energy from lipids (fat) which is why high levels of carnitine are found in heart muscle.


Inositol occurs in cell membranes throughout the body and is often associated with B vitamins. Its role in the body is still the subject of debate but it has been associated with carbohydrate metabolism. It occurs in a very wide range of foods including meat, fruit, cereals and vegetables.

Glucuronolactone (D-Glucuronic-gamma-lactone)

Glucuronolactone occurs naturally in the body in connective tissue (tendons and ligaments) as well as in the gums of plants. There is evidence to suggest it can improve physical performance, and can help to increase mental performance.

B Vitamins

B vitamins are commonly added to energy drinks and other functional drinks, with B1, B2, B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic Acid), B6 and B12 being most frequently used.

Thiamin (vitamin B1) has several important functions including working with other B-group vitamins to help break down and release energy from food and keeping nerves and muscle tissue healthy.

Riboflavin (vitamin B2) has several functions including keeping skin, eyes and the nervous system healthy and helping the body release energy from carbohydrate

Niacin (vitamin B3) has several important functions including helping produce energy from food when eaten and helping keep the nervous and digestive systems healthy

Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) has several functions, such as helping release energy from food when eaten.

Vitamin B6 has several important functions including allowing the body to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates in food and helping form haemoglobin, the substance that carries oxygen around the body

Vitamin B12 has several important functions and is involved in making red blood cells and keeping the nervous system healthy, releasing energy from food eaten and processing folic acid.

For more information, visit NHS Choices

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is found in citrus fruit juices and at varying levels in other fruit juices, and can also be added to soft drinks. It is an important contributor to maintaining healthy cellular activity. It is also essential for the structure of bones, cartilage, muscle and blood vessels, and maintenance of capillaries and gums and the absorption of iron.


Electrolyte is a term for salts such as sodium (Na+), chloride (Cl-), potassium (K+) and calcium (Ca2+) that have an electrical charge.
Body fluids such as blood and plasma have a high concentration of electrolytes, these electrolytes are important for nerve, heart and muscle cells for carrying electrical impulses e.g. nerve impulses and muscle contractions. The kidneys work to keep the blood electrolyte concentrations constant. During exercise, electrolytes are lost by sweating, particularly sodium and potassium. These electrolytes need to be replaced, so are often found in sports drinks.