Purple corn cereal
Purple corn has recently popped up in breakfast cereals.

CHICAGO — Consumers are increasingly ditching diet products in favor of a more holistic approach to health, paving the way for ingredients with functional benefits and free-from claims. Take purple corn, for example.

Lynn Dornblaser, Mintel
Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight at Mintel

“Purple corn is a good one to be thinking about just because of the nutritional value and for the most part it’s something people will understand easily enough — it’s corn, it’s purple,” said Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight at Mintel, a Chicago-based market research firm. “We’ve seen blue corn tortilla chips on the market for a while, so it’s not like it’s something that is completely unheard of by consumers. But it really hasn’t expanded into other categories, and it feels like there’s a real opportunity.”

Purple corn is certainly not new to the market — in fact, it was first cultivated centuries ago — but the colorful crop has popped up in snacks and breakfast cereals recently. The Peruvian staple historically has been used as a colorant for food and beverage products, but research suggests the vegetable’s high concentration of anthocyanins may yield health benefits, too.

Despite purple corn’s association with health benefits, however, the ingredient’s vivid hue and earthy flavor may turn off mainstream consumers, Ms. Dornblaser said.

“It’s positive because it’s different, but it’s negative because it’s different,” Ms. Dornblaser said. “There could be some pushback just because of what it is, and it looks a little different and tastes a little different, which is always the issue.”

Purple corn chips
Purple corn has been popular in tortilla chips.

During an interview with Food Business News at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition, held July 16-19 in Chicago, Ms. Dornblaser discussed the potential for five emerging ingredients.

“For any ingredient that has functional benefits, that’s always something to watch,” she noted. “Because I think you’ll get those forward-thinking consumers who will be interested in it but eventually even they will start to question the efficacy.”

Read on for the perks or pitfalls of four more trending ingredients.