Wellness Food Trends for 2007

We consulted the top experts in consumer and producer research to bring you the latest on the ingredient and product trends that affect your industry. Whether the latest hot antioxidants or the focus on healthy oils and proteins, the "in" ingredients will help attract consumers to better health.

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Another macroingredient class seeing huge gains recently is the red and purple fruits, such as blue and blackberries, currants, tart cherries, grapes and tomatoes (botanically a berry). As whole fruits, dried fruits and fruit extracts, all are sources of antioxidant anthocyanins and polyphenolics. Added to this roster are pomegranate, açai, mangosteen and goji berries. All have become favorites of beverage and food manufacturers lately. Also, they've aided the sudden rush on other "exotic superfruits" high in antioxidants and other healthful compounds.

Açai is a sterling example of a superfruit trend, coming off a remarkable year that has seen it go from relative obscurity to household word faster than any ingredient since oat bran. Speaking of oats, that grain, barley and whole grains in general and  are another group of macroingredients hitting the right note for processors focusing on heart health and other health management needs.

"Pomegranate has set the tone for the breakout of 'superfruits' with açai rapidly ascending," says Tom Vierhile, director of Productscan Online for Datamonitor. "Black currants also are appearing more prominently these days, though these are much more common in Europe. Goji berries are just beginning to make a big splash in health and natural products circles, while mangosteen has yet to really break out but has potential to do so."

Vierhile notes there are other fruits that could be included under the banner of superfruits but common high-antioxidant fruits such as blueberries, while not "currently grabbing headlines," are important enough that there have been supply shortages, especially for the health and natural products industry.

What is a superfruit?
by Karl Crawford, business development leader at HortResearch, Auckland

In the eyes of a consumer superfruits are any fruit with demonstrated health benefits. As with any functional food, they offer something beyond basic nutrition. There are five key criteria for superfruit success: novelty, health benefits, convenience, controlled supply and promotion.

Whether some of the new superfruit products (usually juices) have the potential to move beyond niche status depends on marketing and availability. But juices and fruit beverages are the in-vogue way of consuming these fruits at present. Beverages seem to have the edge in terms of perceived convenience. However, that can change; there is a very big market for fruit bars.

Consumers have never been more ready to accept superfruits and superfruit-based foods. Modern lifestyles and diets are unhealthy, but we're not prepared to do too much about it and what we are prepared to do needs to be convenient and pleasurable.

Crucially, fruit is one of the only foods consumers still perceive as 'natural' when it has been processed. In fact, many consumers believe fruit is better when processed. The fruit juice market is huge.

As an added bonus, mainstream consumers seem to accept as juices new fruits they would rarely reach for in fresh form. Note the growth rate of pomegranate juice: It's one of the hottest juices on the planet, selling in the millions of liters.

Superfruit product consumers range from parents buying food that is healthy for their children, to young people looking for a performance edge at work and sport, to more mature consumers seeking benefits relevant to their time of life - such as antioxidant benefits for improved cognitive function.

Immunity, Aging & Memory

Aging, including energy and memory, came up fast as trends secondary to the market demographic juggernaut of baby boomers who began to turn 60 in 2006. This Peter Pan generation is in charge and too busy to become the seniors its parents' generation was. Having the stamina and mental acuity to stay in charge is of prime importance.

The trend toward foods to enhance immunity is indicative of how deeply science has become a part of food. Antioxidants are a big part of the immunity domain. Noting a nearly fourfold increase in products claiming to contain antioxidants or make an Immunity-related Claim since 2002 (see charts), Productscan director Vierhile explains, "There are a couple of different things going on. The first is that there is a certain "trendiness" to the antioxidants claim. It sounds more "sophisticated" to say a product is 'high in antioxidants' instead of 'high in vitamins.' I'm not sure the average consumer knows exactly what antioxidants are, but there's a growing realization antioxidants are good for you."

Anti-aging beauty benefits are an emerging niche, according to Datamonitor. Consumers are increasingly accepting the notion of "supplementing beauty from within." The implication is a "moving away from a passive acceptance of deteriorating physical health and beauty caused by aging by taking a more active stance."

Functional foods, drinks and dietary supplements offering beauty benefits, or as Datamonitor classifies them, "Oral Beauty Products (OBP)," are developing a growing following, particularly since the inception of Innéov, a joint venture between Nestlé and L'Oreal. A growing awareness of the link between diet and health - and by extension physical appearance - means many consumers are receptive to the concept of 'beauty from within'.

The OBP market is still nascent - although markets are growing fast, running in excess of 10 percent in France and Germany and above 20 percent in the U.S. and the U.K. The current focus is on supplements rather than on functional foods and drinks, but this mirrors the historical development of the nutraceutical market (where vitamin supplements became popular earlier than fortified foods). As consumers become more used to the idea of specific "beauty pills," so they will become more used to the idea of specific beauty foods and drinks.

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