Consumers can have it all when it comes to food and beverages that blend fruit with dairy: The familiarity of their favorite fruit flavors, the tantalizing taste of exotic or ethnic flavors and fruit’s nutrients in a more concentrated form than ever before.

Two ingredient suppliers and a researcher share their insights about new dairy/fruit formulations.

Fruit that fits with dairy

Strawberry, blueberry and peach remain the most popular fruits and fruit flavors used in dairy products, said Azeem Mateen, marketing manager with Sensient Flavors LLC, Hoffman Estates, Ill. Emerging trends include pairing these familiar fruits with vegetables or ancient grains and incorporating ethnic and exotic flavors.

“With consumers willing to be more adventurous in their food selections and with the growing demand for ethnic authenticity, there is a growing trend to ‘spice up’ product portfolios,” said Mateen.

For example, Sensient is launching Elote ice cream this year. This is a Hispanic ethnic-inspired concept made of grilled sweet corn ice cream with sweet corn kernel pieces swirled with a blend of Parmesan, cilantro, chili powder and lime “for an authentic Mexican taste.”

Breaking down fruit and dairy pairings by product, the fruit prep designers at Mexico’s Del Carmen Foods noted these ingredient trends:

  • Yogurt: Tropical fruits such as mango, guava and Key lime.
  • Smoothies: “Super fruits” are popular each summer. Berries, mango, passion fruit and papaya are growing trends.
  • Ice cream: Chunks and fruit purees of mango, mamey, guava and passion fruit.

Fruit preps with more power

As consumers seek products with healthful ingredients that taste great, adding whole fruit to dairy foods is another emerging trend.

“It’s important for dairy [processors] to remain close to their ‘all natural’ roots,” said Mateen. “Anything perceived as less processed or more natural will be well received in the current marketplace.”

Whole fruit ingredients fit the bill. “Fruit is a perfect little package: It’s designed to be a durable structure that keeps all the phytochemicals in perfect condition,” said Amy Howell, a research scientist in the Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research at Rutgers University. “But anytime we chop or mess with fruit, the phytochemicals degrade.”

It’s important to deliver phytochemicals in top form. Those in fruit (anthocyanins, flavonols, catechins and proanthocyanidins) promote human health by working together in ways that produce antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and increase neurogenesis.

Whole fruit has the best phytochemical integrity, followed by freeze-dried fruit, and fruit picked and frozen immediately, explained Howell. Whole fruit powders and fruit juice powders also are quite good in terms of phytochemical activity; however, the effectiveness of fruit skin powders is difficult to measure and, at best, has a weak prebiotic effect. Extracts may not contain the desired phytochemicals — and if phytochemicals are present, they are prone to degradation. 

Some fruits have more phytochemical prowess than others. Howell said she believes blueberries and cranberries are the cream of the crop because they contain a wide array of phytochemicals in many different forms that translate to human health. Research indicates that cranberry’s antibacterial and anti-adhesion effects may help prevent urinary tract infections and blueberry’s prebiotic effect may improve gut health and immunity. In addition, cranberries contain natural preservatives, which may be an asset for product formulations.

“Combining two foods that have positive effects on gut health — such as berries and dairy — could be very beneficial for human health,” said Howell.  


On the shelf 

Here is a sampling of dairy products available at retail with a significant amount of real fruit ingredients:

  • Yoplait Smoothie. In freezer section. Add milk and blend. Makes two servings; each serving contains one serving (1/2 cup) of fruit.
  • Dole Shakers Fruit Smoothie (fruit and yogurt). In freezer section. The kit contains real fruit as the first ingredient. Add 6.5 -ounces fruit juice and shake.
  • Yoplait Fruitful (yogurt with fruit). In refrigerated section. Contains 1/3 cup real fruit in 6–ounce container.

 Photo courtesy of Thomas J. Payne Market Development for U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council