The term superfruit originated from the minds of clever marketers about 10 years ago and is generally applied by manufacturers to fruits containing high concentrations of phytochemicals and phytonutrients. Many fruits marketed as superfruits are also rich in other ingredients associated with good health, such as fiber and the letter vitamins.
The superfruits market has been ever-present from 2005, with “new” (to North American consumers) superfruits being introduced fairly steadily, and historically popular North American staple fruits being rebranded as “super” based on favorable published studies.
SPINS (Schaumburg, IL) market researcher Kimberly Kawa has found that the relatively new superfruits category evolves rapidly and is subject to “industry hype” and endorsements by both celebrities (Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Mehmet Oz) and popular integrative and alternative medicine professionals. Consequently, a given superfruit may spike in popularity one year and crash and burn the next; however, a review of superfruits’ media coverage and commercial availability indicates that once a fruit is labeled “super,” it doesn’t seem to ever vanish completely from the market or from popular media’s memory.
In 2015, the superfruits with the greatest market share, and those displaying the most explosive growth during the previous 12 months, comprise an interesting mix of well-known, native-grown standbys, such as cherries and blueberries; fruits for whom some solid science has been expertly exploited, such as pomegranates; and lesser-known imported fruits, such as baobab, maqui, and golden berry.
The following are a handful of today’s “hottest” superfruits based on current sales data and growth over the past year (provided by SPINS), as well as each fruit’s nutritional highlights and uses in functional foods (e.g., snack bars and functional beverages) and supplements.
Photo © iStockphoto.com/Anna Quaglia
Sales of the fruit of the African baobab tree increased a remarkable 208% from all natural sales channels, including grocery and specialty/gourmet, from June 2014 to July 2015. “I have noticed the inclusion of baobab in superfruit-positioned fruit chews, supplement powders, and functional beverages,” SPINS’ Kawa says.
Baobab is thriving in the supplements segment as well, increasing a full 267% over the past year. Baobab is not yet a household name in the United States, but it has garnered some respectable media attention for its high concentrations of vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants, and its ease of processing thanks to the fruit’s low moisture content.
Pictured: Launched in September, Baobest's Baobab BaoBites are "flavor-packed, deliciously addictive bite-size fruit morsels made with only organic baobab fruit powder, real fruit concentrates, and pectin. BaoBites are a fun-to-eat nutritional powerhouse and contain no fat, cholesterol, or preservatives, and are perfect for adding some zing to snacking, baking, trail mixes, mixing into cookies and muffins, sprinkling on oatmeal or cereal, and more. BaoBites Superfruit Snacks have twice the antioxidants of dried blueberries, 3 grams of fiber, and are only 128 calories per 40 gram serving."
A popular, well-known, native North American staple, the cherry (particularly the tart cherry) has been experiencing a renaissance thanks to its recent rebranding as a superfruit. Where it is marketed as a functional ingredient in the combined natural sales channels (including grocery, specialty/gourmet, and others), cherry is up a whopping 332% over last year. The Cheribundi tart cherry juice product (pictured) is one of many functional beverages being marketed in this space.
As an ingredient for supplements, growth is much, much more modest at about 4% for all combined sales channels. Tart cherry is “commonly used for ridding the body of uric acid that accumulates in joint tissues, and has been touted as an alternative to using NSAID painkillers,” says SPINS’ Kawa.
Pictured: Cheribundi launched a new black cherry juice this summer. The drink now joins the company's bestselling original Cheribundi tart cherry juice. The company says, "Our Black Cherry Juice has a sweeter flavor profile than our tart cherry juice as it contains 50% tart cherries and 50% black cherries. The black cherries in the juice sweeten it up and give it a rich, smooth flavor." In addition to black cherry and tart cherry juice, drink contains apple juice from concentrate.
A relative newcomer to the U.S. superfruits scene, maqui berry saw growth of 58% from all combined natural grocery sales channels, including specialty/gourmet, during the past year.
Native to Chilean rainforests and adjacent regions of Argentina, the darkly pigmented fruit is marketed for its high anthocyanin content by such companies as Navitas Naturals, which sells it in powder form. As a dietary supplement ingredient, however, maqui berry was down about 12% from the prior 12 months.
Photo © iStockphoto.com/Anna Quaglia
Another beloved staple of North American food culture, the already popular blueberry’s “superfruit” status continues to evolve. Sales from all combined natural grocery channels, including gourmet/specialty channels, increased 95% over the past year, and many of those individual channels increased by 100% or more. Its sales as a dietary supplement ingredient declined; perhaps the blueberry’s long history and abundant availability as an actual food (rather than a supplement ingredient) keeps it from seeing a lot of success in this category in the United States.
Blueberry contains fiber; vitamins C and K; and manganese. It is rich in anthocyanins and is the subject of scientific study for its potential role in cardiovascular health, brain health, insulin response, and other wellness areas.
Photo © iStockphoto.com/Kativ