Fruits rich in phytonutrients, including antioxidants, and associated with extraordinary potential health benefits, such as antiaging or cancer-fighting qualities, have been marketed as “superfruits” (a spin-off of “superfoods”) since about 2005. Many superfruits are also rich in other ingredients associated with good health, such as fiber and the letter vitamins.
The “superfruit” label has been applied to such domestically produced, widely available fruits as blueberries, cranberries, and cherries, as well as to more seemingly “exotic” fruits with international origins and histories, such as acai, pomegranate, maqui, goji, and baobab.
More than a decade since the “superfruit” moniker was introduced to the public, this category of edible plants still demonstrates remarkable market resilience, evolution, and popularity. While some fruits pegged as “superfruits” might enjoy their proverbial 15 minutes of fame before fading into relative obscurity, Nutritional Outlook observed in a story from 2015 that once a fruit is labeled “super,” it doesn’t seem to ever vanish completely from the market or from popular media’s memory.
The following slides examine the superfruits category more closely, paying particular attention to the handful of superfruits with the most staying power, the rapid growth of the superfruit-juice market, and newer superfruit additions to the U.S. market.
Pomegranate, blueberries, acai, and cranberries have remained popular and generally well regarded since earning their superfruit crowns several years ago. “There is still high demand for the original superfruits,” says Ramon Luna of ingredients supplier Ecuadorian Rainforest’s (Belleville, NJ) marketing department. “Marketers have done an excellent job communicating the benefits of these fruits with the public, offering honest and clear information on them and their possible health benefits,” he adds.
Lu Ann Williams of market researcher Innova Market Insights points to pomegranate in particular as being “the leading superfruit used in new product launches in the United States in 2016,” with its inclusion in 43% of superfruit-related product launches. And while the fruit’s total sales were actually down by 30% in all combined retail channels at the end of 2016 from one year prior, according to Paige Leyden, natural products researcher for market researcher SPINS, sales increased in the natural channel by 7%, and pomegranate “is growing in food-based supplements,” she explains. “Food-based supplements is also where we see the most brand presence for pomegranate.”
Supplier BI Nutraceuticals’ (Long Beach, CA) Alison Raban, certified food scientist, says her company sees steady demand for pomegranate “due to consumer familiarization” with the fruit. (That familiarization is likely due, in large part, to the robust health-focused marketing and research efforts of the company Pom Wonderful, founded in 2002 by owners of pomegranate orchards in California.)
Next most popular in superfruit-related product launches last year was acai (pictured), says Innova’s Williams, showing up in 17% of newly launched products. SPINS’ Leyden adds that acai sales through all combined retail channels are about $135.3 million and that the fruit is showing growth across all retail channels from a year ago, “with new and notable growth appearing in shelf-stable sports and performance beverages and ground coffee with superfood boosts.”
Blueberries are holding their own in the superfruits category, too. In March 2016, researchers from University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center shared their conclusion from two small human studies that blueberry consumption may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This announcement was widely reported in the press and helped to solidify blueberries’ standing in the original superfruit lineup. As far as sales numbers go, “the highest market share for blueberry falls under the food-supplements segment and, unlike overall sales, is seeing impressive growth [of 104%]” from the previous year, according to Leyden. She adds that blueberry is also an emerging trend in refrigerated functional juices.
And finally, cranberries, native to North America and harvested for food by Native Americans as far back as the 1500s, retain their positive correlations to health and wellness thanks to their proanthocyanidins, which are compounds acknowledged by the scientific community to interfere with bacteria’s ability to form infections, particularly of the urinary tract. Cranberry sales in 2016 were up 20% across all channels, according to SPINS, from about $85 million in 2015 to about $102 million last year. “This functional ingredient definitely has the highest market share in the Food Supplements segment, with most sales going to brands/products with a urinary tract health focus,” says SPINS’ Leyden.
Health in a Bottle? Superfruit Juice Sales Are Up…and Forecast for Further Growth
Data from Euromonitor shows superfruit-juice sales growing fast, with no end to that growth in sight for the next four years. (These juices are defined by Euromonitor as “naturally healthy beverages that combine fruit juice with exceptional nutrient richness, high antioxidant content, and potential health benefits, including acai, Aloe vera, blueberry, cranberry, coconut, goji, pomegranate, noni, mangosteen, and seabuckthorn.” They include frozen, not-from-concentrate, and reconstituted juice, as well as organic superfruit juice and mixes of superfruit juice with other fruit.)
According to data pulled by Euromonitor in mid-January 2017, total sales (retail value RSP) of all superfruit juice in the United States in 2016 were about $2.1 billion. This figure represents growth of about 9.5% over the previous year. Additionally, Euromonitor forecasts total domestic sales of all superfruit juice in 2021 to be $2.9 billion, with sales growing at an impressive compound annual growth rate of 5.7% between now and then.
Superfruits To Watch
While pomegranate, acai, blueberry, and cranberry dominate much of the superfruits market, additional fruits are claiming their share, too. Baobab, for instance, is showing notable growth, with “double-digit sales attributed to the natural channel” according to Leyden. Within that channel, sales of baobab in 2016 were up an eye-popping 81% over the prior year. Leyden says baobab is now found across supplement and food/beverage categories, including in cold cereals and, “more recently, as a functional ingredient in wellness bars.” Leyden also points to guanabana (also known as graviola), jackfruit, and dragonfruit (pictured) as emerging superfruits that are attracting the attention of U.S. consumers.
Supplier BI Nutraceuticals adds noni and tamarind to that list, and Ecuadorian Rainforest points to increasing interest in amla berry, also known as Indian Gooseberry.