Elderberry expands in supplements, food, and beverages

Nutritional Outlook, Nutritional Outlook Vol. 23 No. 7, Volume 23, Issue 7

New product launches are keeping elderberry fresh and hip.

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) products are popping up everywhere, both in supplements and in functional foods. Mainstream consumer awareness of elderberry has grown significantly in recent years, buoyed by concerns around immune health and antioxidant support.

Data provided by Innova Market Insights show that elderberry food and beverage product launches grew by 12% per year from 2017 to 2019. More recently, though, Artemis International (Fort Wayne, IN) Vice President of Sales and Business Development Chris Tower told Nutritional Outlook that the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a 400% increase in consumer demand for elderberry products.1

A product that was once a "Monty Python" joke is now an emerging health trend on the cusp of becoming mainstream. As elderberry continues to become more popular, expect brands to push product innovation. Here are some of the trends emerging in elderberry products.

Supplements Diversify: Gummies, Powders, and Drops

Elderberry is a popular ingredient in immune health supplements, and for good reason: its anti-inflammatory and immune-supporting properties are well supported by clinical trials2 and in vitro studies3. Now, elderberry supplements are diversifying into various product formats that offer different advantages.

Surveying product launches tracked by Innova, November 2019 saw the release of elderberry powder stick packs by New Chapter. In January 2020, baby products brand Mommy’s Bliss added organic elderberry drops to its product line. Most recently, in February 2020, Nature’s Truth released black elderberry gummies. These supplements reflect the continued diversification of elderberry product formats, allowing consumers the flexibility to choose a supplement format that meets their lifestyle needs.

Elderberry a Hit in Yogurt and Tea

The functional food space is also seeing an influx of elderberry. Two of the emerging verticals in elderberry foods are hot tea and yogurt. Hot drinks accounted for 8% of new elderberry product launches in 2019, while dairy products accounted for 9% of launches, according to Innova. Yogurts and loose-leaf teas are ideal product formats for elderberry because consumers are already familiar with other berry-based varieties of these products; major consumer brands have been selling blueberry yogurt and raspberry tea in supermarkets for years. Consumers have had widespread exposure to these products, and adding elderberry to existing berry blends is an easy way to encourage consumer adoption.

Brands like Germany-based company Onken and Australia-based company T2 are already releasing products in these categories. In November 2019, Onken released a zero-fat blueberry-elderberry yogurt for the UK market. Meanwhile, in September 2019, T2 launched its Berry Boost loose-leaf tea featuring elderberry, raspberry, strawberry, grape, and echinacea. As elderberry enters the mainstream, expect tea and dairy to be profitable verticals.

Cold Drinks Marry Berries and Buzz

Elderberry is also showing up as a base ingredient in soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, which, together, accounted for 16% of all elderberry products launched in 2019, according to Innova. In January 2020, Canada-based brand Nuba Tisane debuted an organic hibiscus cold tea with elderberry at the Specialty Food Association Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. This beverage, an herbal tisane made from an infusion of Egyptian Hibiscus sabdariffa and elderberry,claims to reduce blood pressure and boost immune function.

For consumers who prefer their drinks on the hard side, alcoholic elderberry drinks are becoming more common. September 2019 saw the launch of a cider by China-based company Taste Room, a subsidiary of Hangzhou Qiandaohu Beer Co. This 3.8% ABV cider is brewed from lychee (Litchi chinensis) and elderberry, and is served in 245-ml glass bottles.

New Launches Keep Elderberry Fresh

Elderberry products are getting more creative, with more brands launching products in categories that haven’t traditionally included elderberry. Data and analysis provided to Nutritional Outlook by Innova Market Insights show that elderberry products are now springing up in confectionery aisles, hot and cold drinks, and even dairy products. Elderberry is increasingly used in natural products with an immune health focus, and the COVID-19 pandemic is only raising its profile. As consumers gain more awareness of elderberry’s functional benefits, opportunities will arise for more elderberry products in more diverse formats.

References

  1. Marrapodi A. “Immune-health roundtable: Ingredients backed by science.” Nutritional Outlook. Published online April 24, 2020. Accessed at: https://www.nutritionaloutlook.com/immune-support/immune-health-roundtable-ingredients-backed-science
  2. Tiralongo E et al. “Elderberry supplementation reduces cold duration and symptoms in air-travellers: A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Nutrients, vol. 8 no. 4 (April 2016): 182
  3. Torabian G et al. “Anti-influenza activity of elderberry (Sambucus nigra).” Journal of Functional Foods, vol. 54 (March 2019): 353-360