The USDA’s MyPlate guide suggests two servings of fruit per day for adults. But according to a 2017 press release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 12% of U.S. adults consume those recommended servings.

“U.S. consumers are increasingly looking for foods that will contribute to their daily fruit and vegetable intake, with 29% of consumers noting this as an important shopping factor in March of 2021, up from 26% in July of 2020,” Lynn Dornblaser, Mintel’s director of innovation and insight, said in a presentation during IFT’s 2021 FIRST virtual conference.  

According to the USDA, a serving of fruit is 1 cup raw or cooked, or 1/2 cup dried. All fruits contain nutrients such as fiber and phytochemicals that are beneficial for overall health and wellbeing. 

Trendy superfruits

Dairy foods are excellent vehicles for adding full or partial servings of fruit to the diet.

“We have seen a wide variety of on-trend superfruit ingredients included in new dairy products,” notes Vicki Gawlinski, director, content and communications, Van Drunen Farms. 

Her company offers a unique program called TruServ that’s ideal for brands looking to make fruit and vegetable serving claims on their finished product label. This program connects whole-food fruit pieces to USDA-recommended fruit servings to answer the call for convenient, better-for-you products.

“As an example, if you were to use approximately 5 grams of our freeze-dried wild blueberries, that would be equivalent to one-half of a serving of fruit and equivalent to 64 fresh wild blueberries,” adds Gawlinski.

Blueberries are a perennial superfruit favorite. Wild-grown blueberries are smaller in size than cultivated blueberries and have an earthy sweet flavor that is an organoleptic complement to dairy products.  

“Top considerations for consumers in 2021 were strengthening the immune system and managing stress. According to IRI data, there was an uptick in popularity of elderberry in 2021,” Dornblaser noted in her presentation. 

Elderberry is packed with antioxidants and vitamins, which may help to support the immune system. It is an ideal fruit for inclusion in yogurt or fruit smoothies. 

In the past year, consumers with a passion for globetrotting have most likely had to push the brakes on their adventures. As a result, many have explored global cuisines instead. They widened their flavor experiences with healthy fruits from around the world. 

“A few exotic superfruit examples include pink dragonfruit and purple berries like açai and maqui. Coffee fruit is another example of an up-and-coming superfruit making waves in dairy applications like yogurt as a functional energy ingredient,” says Gawlinski.

Form and function

Dairy processors may choose from a variety of fruit delivery systems, depending on the application and desired fruit content. Fruit puree concentrates allow processors to increase the number of fruit servings without the use of any added sugars. Single-strength fruit purees provide partial servings of fruit, but often don’t provide enough texture or viscosity for yogurt applications.

“Single-strength fruit purees are often used in smoothie applications because they lend themselves well to the drinking experience,” says Jose Guerrero, senior manager, business development, Kerr by Ingredion. “At Kerr by Ingredion, we help clients interested in specific fruit-servings targets and differentiated flavor by creating customized food systems that blend puree concentrates, purees, juice concentrates and natural flavors. 

“Juices and juice concentrates are typically not utilized to drive claims related to servings due to the need to use these at a higher dosage rate to compensate for the lower fruit matter,” Guerrero adds. “In yogurt and dairy applications, juices and juice concentrates are typically used at low rates to enhance the perception of sweetness, color and flavor.” 

Some consumers will opt to add their own fresh fruit to plain dairy, and that’s another great way to pair the great natural nutrition of dairy and fruit.