Today’s Superfruit Stars

October 10, 2012

Which superfruits are on the rise?

Which superfruits are on the rise?

Since the mid 2000s, consumer awareness surrounding superfruits and their health benefits has given rise to a wave of new product activity. Despite the fact that the term superfruit has no legal definition, “superfruit” marketing is still widespread and has helped bring many little-known fruits to the mainstream market (as well as breathe life into the market for some already-favorite fruits). In the year ending May 2012, Innova Market Insights recorded over 3,700 product launches marketed on a superfruit platform-a continuation of the double-digit annual growth of recent years.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the soft drinks category saw the greatest number of superfruit launches, accounting for nearly 40% of total launches. Fruit juices and drinks accounted for over 18% of launch activity-ahead of concentrates and mixers, with 7%; flavored waters, with 4%; and tea drinks, sports and energy drinks, and carbonated drinks, with about 2.5% each.

Products with superfruit content also launched across many other areas of the food and beverage market, including fruit and vegetable products, confectionery, dairy products, and desserts and ice cream.

 

The Players

In terms of types of fruit, pomegranate is emerging as a leader. In the 12 months ending May 2012, Innova Market Insights recorded nearly 1,500 product launches featuring pomegranate-a number up 15% over the previous year. Other established superfruits include acai and goji berries, while newer entrants include jujube, jackfruit, aroniaberry, and quince.

Superfruit stars also differ by region. Japan tends to lead in terms of food and drink innovation, and superfruits are no exception. Pomegranate first emerged as a more mainstream ingredient in Japan and is now relatively standard there. New product activity has tended to focus on other fruit. A review of recent launches shows interest in lychee, acerola, kumquat, and yuzu.

In the United States, on the other hand, launches have focused on domestic crop. Blueberries have been most prominent in new launches-pushing pomegranate into second place-while there is ongoing interest in other berries, such as goji and acai.

Across the Atlantic, UK launches are still focusing strongly on pomegranate and berries, particularly cranberries, blueberries, and acai. Germany has seen rising levels of interest in sea buckthorn berry.

 

Cherries

Another fruit to hop on the superfruit bandwagon is the cherry-particularly sour or tart variants. Cherries are being promoted for their high antioxidant content, as well as newer research indicating benefits relating to inflammation reduction, painkilling, and improving sleep quality.

Although cherries are still nowhere near being a leader in juice drinks (orange and apple still dominate juices globally, ahead of mango and grape), cherry flavors did feature in about 7% of the juice and juice drink launches Innova Market Insights recorded in 2011. This percentage grew from 4% five years previously. A significant number of cherry launches are taking place in the form of blends with other juices, particularly apple, but also berries and other red fruits. There has also been an increase in the number of pure cherry juice products. And, more products are specifying the type of cherry used-not just sour or tart, but also varieties such as Montmorency.

In the United States, where tart cherries are often marketed as “America’s superfruit,” there has been increasing launch activity in specialized cherry juice lines, generally with a strong health image attached. In Europe, cherry is becoming a more popular flavor, with relatively high levels of activity in the UK and Germany. The UK saw the arrival of its first chilled cherry juice range in 2011. Rising interest is also reflected in the number of cherry juice drinks appearing under retailer own-brands.

 

Fruits Forward

Cherries are a familiar fruit with new health positioning, but less-familiar fruits are moving to the mainstream, often following a period of activity in capsule and liquid supplements. The maqui berry from Chile (Aristotelia chilensis), also known as the Chilean Wineberry, is an example of this trend. Maqui berry supplements started appearing in the United States, and then Europe, from about 2009-initially in the form of capsules and sometimes in combination with other ingredients. Then it made its way into supplement-style drinks or bars, and finally into more mainstream soft drinks, as exemplified by maqui berry’s use in Honest Tea drinks in the United States in 2010.

With so many different types of tropical and exotic fruits, many of which are grown in relatively small quantities, it is difficult to predict where the next superfruit success stories will come from. The ability to secure supply and to market the benefits of superfruits successfully will be key to their future.