Balance superfruits’ flavor and health benefits
Less sugar makes fruit-flavored yogurt healthier
It seems that every year I learn about another exotic tropical superfruit brimming with healthy phytonutrients. But the reality is that most fermented dairy products in the United States rely on a fairly narrow list of traditional and cost effective fruits in their flavor lineup. According to Statista, https://tinyurl.com/y8mr6rsb, the most popular yogurt flavors for 2018 were strawberry, peach, blueberry and mixed berry, plus blends of these fruits.
In 2017, Comax conducted a study of 500 yogurt consumers. In the study, 52% of respondents said “flavor” was the most important attribute in making a yogurt purchase; “health benefits” came in second, cited by 37% of respondents, said Catherine Armstrong, brand ambassador for Comax.
Fruits in general are good sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber, but are generally not added to cultured dairy products in a quantity that would enable label claims. Many
of the fruits commonly used in yogurts offer additional health benefits that might qualify them as superfruits. For example, Ellagic acid is a natural phenol antioxidant that protects against chronic diseases and aging. The best dietary sources include strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, pomegranates and cherries.
“Blueberries are customarily listed among superfoods due to their high antioxidant property and potential to reduce the effects of age-related loss in brain function,” said Tom Payne, industry consultant for the U. S. Highbush Blueberry Council. “Studies of older laboratory animals consuming blueberry-supplemented diets have shown measurable improvements in memory, coordination and balance. Research is also uncovering neuron regeneration in older animals fed blueberries.”
Designating a specific fruit variety or geographic origin hints at superfruit quality. Examples are Chobani Willamette Raspberry yogurt, Liberté Ecuadorian Mango yogurt and DAHLicious Alphonse Mango lassi.
Blending traditional yogurt fruits with higher antioxidant fruits is a cost-effective way to add superfruit appeal. For example, Redwood Hill Farm combines blueberry, pomegranate and acai in a cultured goat milk kefir.
Sugar reduction strategies
In the Comax study, respondents also “expressed interest in more flavor, more fruit, more vitamins and less sugar” when asked what they wished their yogurt contained but currently does not, Armstrong said.
So in addition to touting the antioxidant power of fruit, dairy processors should consider reducing sugar.
Dairy processors currently use a variety of strategies to reduce the sugar content of cultured dairy products. Danone North America’s Light & Fit Two Good Mixed Berry Greek yogurt is sweetened with natural fruit flavor and stevia; it has only 80 calories and 2 grams of sugar per 5.3-ounce serving. That’s 85% less sugar that the industry average of 18 grams. General Mills’ YQ by Yoplait and Chobani’s new “Hint Of” line both contain 9 grams of sugar per 5.3-ounce serving, 50% less than a typical yogurt. Both brands are sweetened with sugar.
Happy Family’s Happy Tot Whole Milk Apple and Blackberry yogurt, with 6 grams of sugar per 3.5-ounce serving, is sweetened with apple puree and contains no added sugars. Happy Family Organic yogurts are sweetened with organic fruit and veggie purees and boast 0 grams of added sugars. Both are sure to please moms and toddlers.
Innovative fruit-dairy combos
Superfruits such as blueberries, with their high antioxidant properties, can add a healthy halo to innovative cultured dairy products. VinaMilk, a large Vietnamese dairy with a plant in Los Angeles, recently introduced ProBeauty yogurt with blueberries and collagen. Superfruits are showing up in other cultured products, too, including Muuna cottage cheese.
As an active senior, I search for real fruit yogurts with anti-inflammatory and memory-enhancing properties. Bring on the superfruits!