Superfruits: More Than Just a Buzzword (Brand Viewpoint)

December 1, 2010

In the middle of a recession, when consumer focus on value has been at its height, demand for premium-priced acai beverages has exploded, with more than 40% annual growth.

Even if you were judging by beverage sales alone, you might consider the açai berry a “superfruit.” In the middle of a recession, when consumer focus on value has been at its height, demand for premium-priced açai beverages has exploded, with more than 40% annual growth. And that’s not due to flashing pop-up ads on the Internet. Thanks to clinical testing and broader exposure in the media, açai has moved out of the realm of novelty and is making its way to a more mainstream audience.

Is this a sign that superfruits are here to stay, or is açai literally a flavor of the month-or year? Mintel’s 2009 report, “America’s Changing Drinking Habits,” revealed that consumers felt overexposed to pomegranate. That observation played out over the last year with softening pomegranate beverage sales. Superfruit has also become something of a buzzword: superfruits were voted the number-two top trend in produce in the 2010 “What’s Hot” survey in Nation’s Restaurant News.

But there’s more to the buzz than a trendy interest in health and wellness. Consumers are increasingly savvy about the benefits superfruits may impart. Media specialist Response Source reports on recent survey results that show a growing understanding of antioxidants. Two-thirds of those surveyed understand that antioxidants fight free radicals; 65% know that they defend cells against oxidative stress.

That’s not to say that consumer education is complete. The long-term prospects for superfruits rely largely on the ability of companies to educate consumers on the often complex studies supporting superfruit benefits. Until consumer education catches up to emerging science, superfruits with more-familiar benefits, such as acerola’s high vitamin C content, may gain traction.

The good news is that educated consumers are eager to incorporate superfruits into their diets. Along with the trend toward natural and nutrient-rich foods comes a growing desire for new, exotic flavors. The same Mintel report that predicted the plateau of pomegranate’s appeal also predicts that consumers are more likely to try products with açaì, goji, and noni berry from now until 2013.

That said, in the face of a recession, new shopping trends have emerged in the superfruit beverage space. Rather than trading down to lower-antioxidant alternatives, consumers are actually trading up to larger, multiserve products to improve the value equation. There has also been significant channel shifting to mass and club outlets as consumers trade off larger pack sizes for lower per-ounce costs.

According to a recent report by The Hartman Group, “Reimagining Health + Wellness 2010,” shoppers are more inclined to spend money on products aimed at wellness. They want more-flexible, simple ways of incorporating wellness into everyday life. What’s more, consumers view indulgence and pleasure as essential to well-being. With findings like that, it seems that superfruits will not only weather the current recession, but become an increasingly important part of the beverage landscape.