Of all the superfruits on the market, pomegranate seems to have gained the most traction as an ingredient that works well in food and beverage applications ranging from yogurt to adult beverages, and even beauty products such as lip gloss and lotion.
When it comes eating and drinking, the Pomegranate Council in Sonoma, Calif., describes pomegranate as "a new superfood … high in vitamin C and potassium, a great source of fiber and low in calories." The juice has high levels of three different polyphenol antioxidants: tannins, anthocyanins and ellagic acid. That's not to mention the minerals — potassium, folate, copper and phosphorous — this 4,000-year-old fruit boasts.
Pomegranate lends itself to numerous applications across multiple food and beverage categories. And as consumers have become more comfortable with pomegranate, more manufacturers have begun incorporating it as a flavor – with the knowledge that consumers also prize the ingredient for its many healthy properties.
"Pomegranate flavor has become increasingly popular the past few years," says Brad Paris, vice president and general manager of global produce for the Los Angeles-based Pom Wonderful. "It is being used in everything from yogurt to vodka to cereal bars. Pomegranate also has become very popular in the foodservice sector; chefs are using pomegranates and pomegranate products in their cooking in everything from salad dressings to desserts."
One can even snack on fresh pomegranate arils or seeds — another Pom Wonderful product.
"The unique, sweet-tart taste of pomegranates offers consumers a little something different and more exotic than traditional flavors," Paris says. "The amount of people purchasing fresh pomegranates has increased in the past year by about 50 percent, and compared to the specialty fruit category, pomegranates are the second-fastest selling item."
As the different and exotic become more familiar to those making purchases at market, pomegranate, in turn, is becoming more mainstream, as illustrated by its success across in many areas of the store.
And that success is increasing its use as an ingredient, an area Pom Wonderful just stepped into last year. "We believe there is an increasing demand for pomegranate-flavored products, especially quality pomegranate products," says Paris. Pom Wonderful in 2012 began selling its branded pomegranate juice as a food ingredient to other processors.
"Pom Wonderful's 100 percent pomegranate concentrate is made without any added fillers or ingredients, and can be easily adjusted to suit the needs and preferences of a range of manufacturers," he says. It's all-natural, 100 percent pomegranate juice and comes in both powder and liquid forms. "Additionally," Paris says, "because of Pom's vertical integration, we grow, process and ship all of our ingredients, so manufacturers know where their pomegranate products are coming from."
Van Drunen Farms, Momence, Ill., in 2009 added pomegranate to its portfolio of produce-based ingredients, making the tart flavor available in powder form and as arils.
Freeze-dried Pomegranate Arils "eliminate all the work and provide a flavorful, versatile and nutritious product," says a spokesperson for the company. "With a pop of color and a unique flavor accent, Freeze-dried Pomegranate Arils are great to use as salads toppers, with granola and in snack mixes. Use them to add a bit of culinary flare to a variety of dishes from roasted chicken to fresh vegetables."
Also offering a pomegranate juice powder, NP Nutra, Gardena,Calif., in 2010 added a certified organic version of the ingredient.
"NP Nutra's Pomegranate Juice Powder has long been used in many functional beverages and meal replacement formulas. Its organic counterpart promises to be a popular component in many organic superfruit products," said Thomas Walton, NP Nutra's managing director.
"Pomegranate, as well as pomegranate-flavored ingredients, will continue to be more prevalent in consumers' households," Paris predicts.
This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Food Processing Magazine.