November 17, 2009
by Keith Nunes
With superfruit new product introductions continuing to expand, the future for the category appears bright.
The trend of incorporating superfruit flavors into food and beverage products is driven by two issues — the perceived health benefits of the fruits and consumer desire for new, different products featuring unusual or exotic flavors. The trend initially emerged in the beverage category and has extended into numerous product applications.
The Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Plano, Texas, for example, has a range of juice drinks, many of which feature superfruits. They include a goji punch drink marketed as helping to boost the immune system, a noni berry drink to help boost metabolism, a peach mangosteen beverage touted for immunity benefits and a kiwi pear drink designed to boost a person’s metabolism. In addition, there is an acai blackberry juice drink.
Tropicana, a brand owned by PepsiCo, Inc., Purchase, N.Y., features products such as Tropicana Pure Raspberry Acai juice, which the company describes as 100% juice. Tropicana Pure also is available in Peach Papaya & Mango Juice and Pomegranate & Blueberry Juice.
Through its Fuze brand, The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, has fruit-flavored beverage options that include superfruit flavors such as pomegranate acai berry and blueberry raspberry.
“A lot of times we see superfruit flavors in juice beverages and paired to an already known or popular flavor,” said Kim Carson, director of beverage solutions for Sensient Flavors L.L.C., Milwaukee.
Ms. Carson said pairing a lesser known flavor with a more common flavor is how the superfruit trend has developed.
“There is more consumer appeal when you pair a lesser known superfruit flavor with a more popular flavor,” she said. “There are consumers who want to try the new flavors, but not necessarily the superfruit flavor by itself. Consumers like to try new flavors, but prefer them with flavors they already know.”
To get a sense of how far the trend has extended beyond beverages, Crofter’s Organic, Parry Sound, Ont., recently introduced Superfruit Spreads in varieties representing different continents. The Superfruit Spreads come in an Asian variety featuring yumberry and raspberry, a European variety featuring pomegranate and black currant, a North American variety featuring cranberry and blueberry, and a South American variety with maqui berry and passionfruit.
“If superfruits are the hot new trend, then Mother Nature is a trendsetter whose time has finally arrived,” said Gerhard Latka, co-founder and president of Crofter’s Organic. “She’s been packing antioxidants into dark red, blue and purple fruits for thousands of years; we’re just packing them into the jar.”
Food service operators also are responding to the trend. Superfruits such as cranberry and goji berry play feature roles in the fall menu for the Uno Chicago Grill chain, which is based in Boston. The food service chain makes a point of highlighting the superfruit’s health attributes by calling goji berries the “anti-aging berry” and promoting the antioxidant content of cranberries.
The definition of a superfruit is vague, used primarily as a marketing vehicle. It is basically a fruit that offers perceived health benefits beyond those of a nutritious diet. Falling into the category are well-known fruits such as blueberries and cranberries as well as lesser known, emerging fruits such as acai, yazu and camu camu.
Companies also are trying to associate their products and ingredients to the superfruit category. This past June, during the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting and Food Expo, Mars Botanical, a division of McLean, Va.-based Mars, Inc., introduced Cirku, an ingredient derived from cocoa, and the company made sure to reference cocoa as the “unknown superfruit.”
Between 2005 and 2008, new food or beverage product launches in North America featuring blueberry, cranberry, pomegranate, acai, goji or mangosteen have increased 59%, rising to 2,955 in 2008 from 1,754 introductions in 2005, according to Mintel International Ltd., Chicago. During the months of January through October 2009, there have been 1,637 product introductions.
Joanna Gueller, a public relations executive with Mintel, said the decline in 2009 new product introductions has less to do with the superfruit trend than the overall new food and beverage product development slowdown that has occurred during the economic downturn.
Ms. Carson said there are a variety of flavor development challenges based on the beverage application.
“Some flavors come through some beverage applications better than others,” she said. “A flavored water application, for example, means there is less to overcome in terms of taste. With a tea application there may be more astringency or an increase in the flavor level that may need to be rounded off.”
As companies develop applications that have a functional claim, such as selling a beverage featuring superfruit ingredients that boost immunity, the flavor challenges become greater.
“Then you start working with the stability in the beverage,” she said. “You also have to consider the ingredients to be added to cover up any off tastes.”
Looking ahead, Ms. Carson sees a resurgence occurring in the number of products featuring blueberry and cranberry.
“The attributes of those superfruits are more well known,” she said.
She added that she sees acai and dragon fruit as two up and coming superfruit flavors.
Beyond 2010, Ms. Carson said camu camu and cupuacu are two superfruits to watch.
“Camu camu has slight cream and buttery notes, and cupuacu is a tropical flavor that is more green than astringent,” she said. “I think these flavors will emerge as younger consumers seek newer experiences and want to try new products.”
Superfruit flavor profiles
Fruity profile with flavor notes of berry and grape.
Pairings: Pomegranate, yumberry
Sweet and fruity flavor with notes of cherry, apple and almond
Pairings: Apple, berry, cherry
Fruity and floral flavor
Pairings: Pomegranate, acai, tea
Fruity, tropical flavor with slight cream and butter notes
Pairings: Cherimoya, grapefruit
Tropical fruit flavor with slight cream and green notes
Pairings: Pineapple, orange
Astringent red berry flavor
Astringent red berry flavor
Pairings: Lime, grape, mixed berries
Aromatic, green and astringent tropical flavor with notes of wild fruit
Pairings: Citrus, tea
Tropical flavor with some astringency, fleshy notes and a grape, citrus taste
Pairings: Peach, pineapple
Fruity berry flavor with notes of cherry and chocolate
Pairings: Melon, strawberry, citrus
Ripe, tropical flavor with slight cherry notes
Pairings: Strawberry, citrus
Slightly sweet flavor with herbal notes
Pairings: Orange, acai, tea
Fruity flavor with green and peach notes
Pairings: Mango, peach, passion fruit
Mildly tropical flavor with green and juicy notes
Pairings: Melon, pineapple, strawberry
Aromatic and sweet tropical flavor
Pairings: Pineapple, tropical fruits
Ripe and sweet tropical flavor
Pairings: Peach, passion fruit, tropical fruits
Fresh and juicy tropical flavor with green notes
Pairings: Citrus, tropical fruits
Green, fruity flavor with notes of peach and apple
Pairings: Tropical fruits, strawberry
Ripe, sweet tropical flavor with slight citrus notes
Pairings: Peach, guava, mango
Fruity and tart berry flavor
Pairings: Blueberry, cherry
Crisp and tart citrus flavor with notes of orange, lemon and lime
Source: Sensient L.L.C.