Looking back on 2017 and spotting trends for 2018.
As Nutritional Outlook has reported several times over the past couple of years, the superfruit category remains strong, featuring a consistent foundation of pomegranate, acai, blueberry, and other well-knowns, plus a rotating crop of newly “discovered” stars. As Kim Kawa, senior nutrition researcher for SPINS (Chicago) puts it, “recognized superfruits are already famous for their nutritional density and appeal as antioxidants,” but a “solid backstory,” such as that of pomegranate, baobab, jackfruit, and more, “is the extra factor brands can use to build consumer trust and increase awareness of these products.” She notes that the term superfood is more widely used, but that superfruit “doesn’t appear to be fading from the lexicon.”
What follows is a round-up of observations from market analysts and industry insiders regarding up-and-coming potential superfruits, updates on old favorites, and some details regarding the very current trend of blending superfruit ingredients with other botanicals associated with wellness.
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Newly Rediscovered Stars: Mango and Cantaloupe
Kawa has observed the emergence of mango as a potential “new” superfruit during the past 12 months. “A quick review of dried-fruit items added to our product library in the past year spotlights more than 20 new SKUs containing dried mango,” she notes. “Dried and freeze-dried mango ranked in the top two slots in this segment of the Natural Channel.”
She adds that while she’s not seeing these mango food products labeled specifically as “superfruit” (yet), she believes there is potential for consumers to view them as such. “Packaging for one of these products, for example, highlights vitamins A and C, as well as fiber content. There is a Paleo-centric brand highlighting no added sugar, a trend reflected in more than one new product.” Kawa says she’s also seeing mango paired with organic chili-pepper powder and organic hibiscus powder.
Ramon Luna, marketing coordinator for Ecuadorian Rainforest (Belleville, NJ), points to cantaloupe as another seemingly ordinary fruit that appears positioned for categorizing as a superfruit. Luna says cantaloupe “had a big impact in 2017,” adding, “It is no surprise to me that cantaloupe has become even more popular; I’m just surprised it took so long.”
The melon is “packed to the brim with nutrients that make it as versatile for formulation as it is for dishes,” Luna says. It contains vitamin C, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), potassium, B vitamins, and vitamin K.
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Pomegranate: Holding Its Own
“Pomegranate was the top superfruit” for 2017 food and beverage launches worldwide, capturing nearly a quarter (23%) of all new superfruit-product launches, according to research from Innova Market Insights (Arnhem,
Netherlands). Of those new pomegranate-based product releases, almost half were beverages, including juice and juice drinks, tea, iced tea, and fermented beverages.
“Pomegranate is a beloved ingredient that consumers now know has a reputable nutritional profile,” explains Luna. “Its familiarity and ‘exoticness,’ though seemingly juxtaposed, have kept pomegranate a decent seller.”
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Baobab and Goji Berry: Still Going Strong
Although its superfruit-market footprint is still quite small, the fruit from the baobab tree was the fastest-growing superfruit, in terms of new product launches, from 2012 to 2016, according to Innova Market Insights data. Babobab-based product launches demonstrated a nearly 80% (79.6%) compound annual growth rate over that date range, with cereal and energy bars, juices, and snacks accounting for most of those launches.
Market-analysis firm SPINS also points to baobab’s recent appearance in “superfood candies,” which is helping to keep baobab visible to consumers and exemplifies food manufacturers’ willingness to experiment with it.
Innova Market Insights calls goji berry “one of the top and fastest-growing superfruits” for new product launches from 2012 to 2016, pointing to its steady increase in indexed new product launches worldwide. Goji berry’s appearance in new products is not sudden or dramatic like baobab’s; rather, its growth is slow, but remarkably consistent.
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North America’s Darlings: Blueberry, Cranberry, Cherry
Some superfruit trends are hitting pretty close to home, so to speak. “Blueberries are still in very high demand, and not just for their nutritional value,” states Luna. “While blueberries do offer nutrients perfect for various formulations, they also offer a distinct natural coloring” used to change or enhance a food or beverage product’s hue, he explains. He also points to blueberry’s use as a natural-flavor ingredient, particularly for functional foods and beverages marketed as “clean label.” Finally, blueberries contain a significant amount of fiber, making them “a great addition in any digestive-support product. This versatility has kept the blueberry popular and very much in need,” Luna concludes.
Cranberry, too, is a superfruit valued not only for its phytonutrients and association with urinary-tract health, but also for its use as a natural-color ingredient, Luna says. One interesting cranberry food trend SPINS’ Kawa notes is whole dried cranberries enriched with beneficial fats. “At Expo East, [Massachusetts-based cranberry producer] Decas’ whole dried cranberries and omega-fatty-acid-enriched dried cranberries stood out to one of our trend trackers. Adding a beneficial fat into cranberry products may be a way for this superfruit to make a trendy comeback,” she says.
While overall cranberry sales have “taken a dip across the SPINS product library,” Kawa remarks, “Essential fatty acids may be more appealing to consumers in more of a whole-food form, with cranberries serving as a sweet vehicle to meet health goals.”
Cherry, a third superfruit grown domestically in the United States that is readily recognized among consumers, continues to appear in products ranging from juice to capsule supplements and was cited by Alison Raban, certified food scientist, BI Nutraceuticals (Rancho Dominguez, CA) as a common fruit “discovered” as a superfruit. American consumers associate tart cherry in particular with reduced inflammation, joint health, and gout reduction, and a small study appearing in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2016 may support the fruit’s relationship with reduced hypertension.1
Raban adds that other common grocery-store fruits recently “discovered” as superfruits include blackberry, strawberry, and pineapple.
1. Keane, KM et al., “Effects of Montmorency tart cherry (Prunus Cerasus L.) consumption on vascular function in men with early hypertension,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 103, no. 6 (June 2016): 1531–1539
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Blends: Combining Superfruits with Other Wellness Ingredients
An emerging superfruit trend among both food and beverage brands and supplement brands is combining known superfruits with other botanicals associated with wellness, such as herbs (e.g., ginger), greens, and other vegetables. “I think we’ll see more superfruits incorporated into products that already use superfood terminology,” Kawa predicts, “especially in the dietary supplement department. When combined with superfoods, superherbs, or greens, for example, products containing recognizable superfruits are more likely to catch consumers’ eyes and be marketed for a targeted health benefit, such as beauty, detoxification, focus, and wellness.”
Raban shares this view, adding, “As we see more interest in other fruits, super or not, we do notice that variety is becoming the bigger trend. There is movement away from everyone formulating a pomegranate or acai to match the competition toward developing one’s own special blend, and including not just fruits but vegetables and popular botanicals.”
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