Going exotic with antioxidants

by Allison Sebolt
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The terms acai, goji, blackcurrant and uchuva increasingly are becoming a part of consumers’ vocabulary, and blueberries, cranberries and pomegranates are as popular as ever.

Known as "superfruits," these foods, some featuring exotic-sounding names, are becoming an important part of the health and wellness trend. Mintel International, Chicago, defines superfruits as varieties rich in nutrients with high levels of antioxidants, which results in the potential to lower the risk of disease and illness.

Companies are introducing these flavors and varieties in beverages. Mintel said cranberry, pomegranate and superfruit blends are providing much of the recent growth in the juice and juice drinks markets in the United States and the United Kingdom.

"So-called ‘superfruits’ are becoming increasingly popular as consumers recognize the health benefits of their antioxidant content," Euromonitor International, Chicago, said in a report on world flavor. "While superfruits are popular for their health benefits, their taste is often less appealing to consumers who are used to the sweet flavors of traditional fruits. This has created an opportunity for flavor firms to develop flavors to improve the taste profile of drinks containing such superfruits. Some flavor companies now also offer ‘superfruit’ flavors combining taste with antioxidants, including açai, pomegranate, cranberry, blueberry, acerola, mangosteen and goji berry flavors."

In the beverage market, Sambazon, San Clemente, Calif., has a variety of acai-based products. Another company, San Francisco-based Zola, makes similar juices with acai. Frutzzo, Alpine, Utah, has various pomegranate drinks that mix superfruits with pomegranate, including acai and blueberry. In addition, all the Sambazon, Zola and Frutzzo products are organic.

"While beverages remain the leading area of superfruit use and the sector where sales are best developed, fruits such as cranberry, blueberry and pomegranate are expected to move further into the mainstream array of many other categories," Mintel said in a report on superfruits.

Superfruits are gaining favor in breakfast cereals that are marketed on a broad health platform. In this market, blueberry and cranberry are the two being featured the most. Specifically, General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, has introduced Cranberry Crunch Total cereal.

Fruitaceuticals, a product of Wareham, Mass.-based Decas Botanical Synergies, is a line of superfruits in the dried fruit format. With products such as PomaCrans, a combination of cranberries and pomegranates, and OmegaCrans, a combination of cranberries and cranberry seed oil that has Omega 3-6-9, these products are premium and all-natural.

"Consumers demand healthy food that gives them the super-charged nutrients they need without having to sacrifice the taste," said Dan Souza, director of sales and marketing for Decas Botanical Synergies. "Plus, they want options that fit easily into the consumer resource for health, convenience and taste."

Fruitaceuticals is even promoted as a product that may help children develop healthy eating habits and teach them to eat fruits regularly.

Mintel said a key trend in superfruits is use in conjunction with other functional ingredients. To this end, Wells’ Dairy, Le Mars, Iowa, has introduced a Light Superfruit variety of its Blue Bunny bifidus bacteria yogurt.

"Individual functional ingredients pose unique challenges, and flavors are increasingly being developed to complement specific functional ingredients in order to achieve the best results," Euromonitor said. "For instance, citrus blends and mixed fruits, such as fruit punch, can mellow vitamins. Products featuring calcium can be improved through the addition of a flavor enhancer to improve the mouthfeel of the product. Individual herbs have different profiles, and flavors can therefore be created for specific herbs to achieve a taste that improves yet complements rather than masks the flavor of the herb."

Euromonitor said as more functional ingredients are included in foods and beverages, there will be increased opportunity for flavor development.

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Food Business News, July 8, 2008, starting on Page 48. Click here to search that archive.

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