Last Bite: Smoothie Fruits

Robby Gardner

Robby Gardner is a freelance journalist in Los Angeles, specializing in fresh produce and health food ingredients.

Since the term superfruit was first coined, U.S. marketers have struggled to familiarize Western consumers with foreign-based superfruits. Some of these fruits have been marketed for a wealth of potential health benefits; yet American consumers, for the most part, still remain unacquainted with them.

 

Since the term superfruit was first coined, U.S. marketers have struggled to familiarize Western consumers with foreign-based superfruits. Some of these fruits have been marketed for a wealth of potential health benefits; yet American consumers, for the most part, still remain unacquainted with them.

So how might you energize American consumers towards the benefits of exotic superfruits? Robeks (Manhattan Beach, CA) says the taste is key. In June, the company added caja and cupuaçu flavors to its smoothie menu, alongside its pre-existing acai, as its new lineup of Brazilian Superfruit Smoothies.

“At times, we’ve made some health claims about traditional American fruits, but taste has always been paramount for us and for our customers,” says Robeks CEO Steve Davidson, noting that acai’s taste made it an immediate consumer favorite. The acai flavor, available in smoothie and bowl form (with granola and banana), has become a stronghold at Robeks. Last summer, the company inked a partnership deal with Zola (San Francisco) to exclusively supply Robeks’s acai.

While Davidson stresses that taste is paramount for these superfruits, the wealth of potential health benefits does make for a good fallback and another way to engage new consumers-especially health-conscious ones. “We have seen a shift in consumer preferences, and nutritional benefits are moving up the hierarchy of importance,” says Davidson. “In turn, we recently made superfruits a permanent category on our menu board. Superfruit tastes are new to our customers, so we’ve elected to feature nutritional elements with greater emphasis in our marketing messages to introduce these less-familiar varieties.”

Now, Robeks promotes the health side of its superfruits in stores through promotional materials, educational kiosks, and the company’s website. The company notes that acai may maintain healthy weight and increase energy, while caja may help heart health and immune function.

While Davidson admits that general superfruit awareness is still low, the company’s intention is to be first in line when Americans are ready. “As awareness increases, the knowledge gap will widen,” says Davidson. “We intend to close the knowledge gap and fill the availability gap by showing and telling our customers what they are missing in terms of taste and nutrition.”

Davidson’s point is that the market for superfruits does not have to be perceived as foreign and unknown. For instance, “Concord grapes are abundant and native to the new world and among the top-ten superfruits, worldwide,” says Davidson. “They are all too often taken for granted and overlooked.”

 

Sidebar: Superfruit Shots
Today’s energy drink market has retained a stigma of formulas that some consider unhealthy. Now, one company is trying to improve the appeal. Last month, Bazi International Inc. (Denver) introduced BAZI, a 2-oz energy shot containing eight superfruit extracts: jujube, blueberry, goji berry, pomegranate, mangosteen, raspberry, acai juice, and seabuckthorn fruit. The product also provides 12 vitamins and 80 mg of caffeine.

BAZI is being marketed towards a consumer audience of 18- to 34-year-old adults. “We know that there are a lot of adults out there who are attracted to and aware of the benefits of energy drinks/shots,” says Aaron Lowe, Bazi’s director of nutritionals and sports marketing. “BAZI took eight different phytonutrient-rich superfruits, plus an optimal blend of vitamins and trace minerals, to fuel the body with what it needs to operate optimally, and thus energize naturally. No risks, no side effects, and it’s scientifically valid.”