In my humble opinion, all fruits are super. Each brings a unique nutrient profile to the table. Although one particular fruit won’t magically bestow optimal health, by enjoying a variety of fruits — in the context of enjoying a variety foods daily — one is much more likely to get all the essential nutrients, which will support better health.
That said, the concept of “superfruit” has a hold on consumers.
“Superfruits have a certain cache,” said Tom Payne, industry specialist, U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, Folsom, Calif. “Consumers are attracted to fruits because they taste good plus they’re good for you. With superfruits, there’s a perception of exceptional nutritional benefits. Even though consumers may understand that ‘superfruit’ is basically a marketing and not a scientific term, it’s become shorthand for unquestionably healthy eating.”
The “super” in superfruit is subjective in another way. Consumers are choosing fruits that are personalized to their dietary needs and wellness goals, noted Lauren Williams, marketing associate for beverage flavors, Sensient Flavors, Hoffman Estates, Ill.
“Research suggests that bananas have blood pressure-reducing powers, apples have antihistamine and anti-inflammatory effects and blueberries have memory-boosting abilities,” Williams said. “These are the types of in-depth characteristics that consumers are looking into before accepting superfruit’s declaration. They’re asking, ‘Is this a superfruit for me?’”
These are the popular flavors
Strawberry continues to be the top fruit ingredient and flavor, according to Agrana Fruit, U.S., Brecksville, Ohio. In the spoonable yogurt category, strawberries have the highest launch percentage, followed by blueberry, peach and black cherry. Also growing in popularity are citrus fruits and citrus zest.
“Citrus has the wonderful quality of brightening a dish, almost bringing it to life,” said Agrana Marketing Manager Felicia Francisco.
Blueberries are increasingly popular and are one of the hottest ingredients in dairy, Payne said. Blueberries are synergistic with many ingredients and flavors including ginger, cocoa, chocolate, caramel and lemonade.
Tropical and exotic flavors such as passion fruit, guava, mango and papaya will continue to grow, said Jorge Corrales of Del Carmen Foods, Calexico, Calif. Marketing Manager Azeem Mateen of Sensient Flavors also notices an awareness of the rising popularity of mango and dairy, and he adds apricot to the list.
Fruit/flavor trends come and go, but some trends have joined the mainstream.
“I think superfruits fall into this category,” said Francisco. “For example, several years ago, pomegranates were considered an exotic, almost mysterious, fruit. Flash-forward to today and they’re found in many products across the dairy category.”
Another example are acai berries which have many dairy applications, such as blends with milk and yogurt to create smoothies, said Marco Rega, the co-founder of Acai Roots, San Diego. Soursop and tamarind may be next to follow this foreign-to-familiar phenomenon and have captured Agrana’s interest.
The “miracle fruit” (Synsepalum dulcificum), a West African berry, has recently moved into the mainstream. The berry contains elements that perform as a masking agent, blocking sour receptors and increasing the perception of sweetness, said Williams of Sensient Flavors.
Fruit and dairy in the future
Across all fruit ingredients, there has been a movement toward organic and GMO-free, said Mateen.
“With consumers looking for wholesome and healthy pairings, they’re also willing to be more adventurous in their food selections as they look for unique twists on dairy,” said Mateen, who has noted a natural progression of consumers’ interest in superfruits/fruits and decadent desserts toward fruits and savory vegetables, as well as fruit and ancient grain unions in dairy. In fact, quinoa, teff or millet paired with kale, spinach or beet could become the next novel unions with fruits like pomegranate, cherry or berries.
The semantics of “super” aside, fruit and dairy are a magical flavor match. With a substantial amount of fruit, fruit and dairy are also nutritionally synergistic.
“Maybe the term superfruit has fallen out of fashion,” Francisco said. “But considering their health benefits and nutrition attributes, they’ll remain a super important part of our diets.”
Of course, the same is true of dairy foods.