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By David Feder, R.D., editor | 12/13/2007
Mangosteen in juice form was one of the big emerging superfruits of 2006/2007, thanks in part to companies such as Adam’s 100% Inc. (www.mangosteens.com), San Francisco, and Xango LLC. (www.xango.com), Lehi, Utah.
Xango began marketing the juice of the Southeast Asian fruit a few years ago as a supplement. The fruit’s deep burgundy rind and ivory-colored, lychee-like pulp is rich in xanthone antioxidants. Research shows xanthones may maintain intestinal health, strengthen the immune system, help support cartilage and joint function and protect the respiratory system.
Two big South American superfruits coming up are acerola and camu camu. Acerola was popular as a supplement a generation ago. The sour, bright-red cherrylike fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C. It’s just now making a comeback as a beverage ingredient and could break big in 2008 or later.
Camu camu is also a vitamin C bonanza — in fact, the reddish-purple fruit has more C per gram than any other fruit. It also provides amino acids, beta-carotene, iron, niacin, phosphorous, riboflavin and thiamine. Camu camu’s ability to balance the nutrition profile of some formulations makes it a serious contender for future Top Superfruit.
Ingredient suppliers are combing the rainforests, steppes and other exotic locales to find the next generation of trendy ingredients. Companies such as Earthfruits (www.earthfruits.com), South Jordan, Utah; Blue California (www.bluecal-ingredients.com), Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.; PLThomas (www.plthomas.com), Morristown, N.J.; Fona International Inc. (www.fona.com), Geneva, Ill.; and NP Nutra (www.npnutra.com), Hawthorne, Calif., offer such exotics as dragonfruit, cupuaçu, rambutan, camu-camu and yuzu in addition to the current crop of hot exotics such as the now ubiquitous pomegranate and açai.
Since 1984, many studies connected cranberries to health benefits ranging from cholesterol management and cancer and heart-disease protection to fighting cavities. The foremost benefit, though, was cranberry’s “anti-adhesion” effect on certain bacteria via compounds called proanthocyanidins. Because of this, cranberries and cranberry juice gained popularity as fighters of urinary tract infection and, a few years ago, H. pylori-induced stomach ulcers.
However, emerging science is showing cranberries could help protect against flu and lung conditions. According to the Ocean Spray Ingredient Technology Group (www.oceansprayitg.com), cranberry juice offers a non-specific antiviral effect toward different viruses. The world’s largest cranberry cooperative, Lakeville-Middleboro, Mass.-based Ocean Spray, noted an exponential global demand for cranberry products, especially sweetened dried cranberries, which saw sales rise 30 percent in 2006.
Decas Botanicals Inc. (www.decasbotanical.com), Carver, Mass., has kept pace with both the accelerating science and consumer demand for berry-derived nutraceuticals. The company expanded its expertise beyond cranberries to a full line of berry extract powders and combinations for multiple food and beverage applications. This is in addition to its growing production of enhanced dried cranberries and omega-rich cranberry seed oil.
Tart cherries are another domestic red fruit, are being remarketed for their health properties. According to the Cherry Marketing Institute (www.choosecherries.com), Danville, Calif., they’re not only a strong antioxidant, cherries exhibit powerful anti-inflammatory properties and a significant source of melatonin, a hormone-like compound known to regulate sleep and mood. While available fresh for only about eight weeks out of the year, manufacturers and consumers can get tart cherries year round in dried, frozen, or juice forms.
Grapes also are loaded with polyphenolic compounds, including anthocyanins, flavonoids (such as quercetin) and stilbenes (such as resveratrol). Resveratrol is believed to protect against cancer, vascular disease and osteoporosis. It also may help regulate cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure, and has anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal capacity. San Joaquin Valley Concentrates (www.activin.com), Fresno, Calif. The company provides ActiVin water-soluble resveratrol powder, a heat-stable product that can be added to beverages or the liquid portion of a food formulation.
Blueberries, including wild blueberries, have become core players in the antioxidant and berry categories. They saw continued growth in consumer awareness and demand last year, according to the Wild Blueberry Assn. of North America (www.wildblueberries.com), Old Town, Maine. “From consumer research, we know today’s health and wellness-oriented public wants more information about antioxidants than ever before,” notes Ruth Lowenberg, of the Folsom, Calif.-based U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (www.blueberry.org). “They want to know which antioxidants are in their foods and how they work, and want to take their knowledge to another level to go deeper into understanding antioxidant research.”
Currants, once held back by legal issues, were set free in the United States at just the right time. The little berries, as with the other fruits in this category, turned out to be concentrated with antioxidant compounds. Moreover, the popularity of currant juice in Europe made it easier to introduce a growingly worldly American palate to the tart and tiny fruit. As crops in North America expand, so too will currants’ popularity.
Meanwhile, the Europeans have taken notice of the burgeoning American interest in botanicals and are bringing over old favorites that are new to these shores. Companies such as Naturex (www.naturex.com), Avignon, France, are promoting both the flavor and health aspects of extracts of elderflower, bergamot, rose hips, fig, juniper, gentian, muscat grape and blood orange.
Those and other combinations of “old” and “new” were profiled by Mark Blumenthal, director of the Austin, Texas-based American Botanical Council (www.herbalgram.org) in a presentation at the Supply Side West International Trade Show and Conference in Las Vegas in November. Blumenthal specifically targeted the emerging trend of “older herbs with new uses” and the ongoing science supporting same.
Other botanicals showing new promise include hibiscus as an antihypertensive, rhubarb – common as a laxative in Germany – as an anti-anxietal, vitamin C-rich rose hips and hops as anti-inflammatories, chokeberries for diabetes management and blood orange for its hesperidin flavonoids and anthocyanins.
Processors continue to recognize the increasing impact health and wellness has on consumers. When Datamonitor surveyed nearly 1,000 global industry executives from the consumer packaged goods industry, health was identified as “the most important of the 10 Datamonitor mega-trends shaping new product development and marketing.” The independent marketing group found nearly two-thirds of consumers take more steps to eat more healthily and “more than half of European and U.S. shoppers use nutritional information on packaging with greater regularity to make food and drink choices.”
Research clearly shows Americans are seeking foods and beverages that fill dual needs for both greater health and more convenience. The good news for processors is modern consumers are more open-minded than ever to having those needs met via unusual and innovative ingredient sources.
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