Wellness Foods: Products to Watch in 2009

Developing products with multiple health benefits is on trend — but don’t overwhelm.

By David Feder, RD, Technical Editor

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The move to create foods that are “be all-end all” products combining multiple ingredients for health is part of the encroaching convergence of marketing for a number of health benefits and conditions. A rush of products typifying this trend have been marketed during the past year or so and serve as indicators for the direction new products will take in 2009 and beyond. Here are some examples. 

Beverages such as Purple juice beverage by Purple Juice Co. (www.drinkpurple.com), Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., are prime examples of where the trend-oriented drinks are headed. Calling itself “the most powerful antioxidant beverage on the planet” and made from seven superfruits (açai, black cherry, pomegranate, black currant, purple plum, cranberry and blueberry), Purple is not overkill; it’s a drink succeeding by arriving on the crest of the trend and aiming for multiple targets. 

Grouping trendy ingredients and targeting several different health issues, as does Purple seven-superfruit beverage for heart and cognitive health, is typical of the shift toward multiple product focuses.

Purple strikes with a heart-healthy banner as well as targeting Alzheimer’s, cancer and aging. The drink then rounds things out with a note that each serving counts toward the recommended “5 A Day Fruit for Better Health” program.

Tea fits nicely into the growing market for widely inclusive, “on trend” products. As research reveals more and more healthy compounds and benefits related to Camilla senensis, this oldest and most globally popular of beverages can’t be content to just lend extracts of itself to non-beverage products.

The drink itself is branching out. Ito En North America Inc.’s (www.teastea.com) Tea’s Tea brand of cold teas cover a lot of ground. Its calorie-free and exotic flavors — for example, rose green tea —  are a nod toward the growing demand for ethnic flavors, such as Indian and Middle Eastern.

Tea’s Tea products declare their catechins and theanine for heart health and antioxidant benefit. When it comes to eco-friendliness, the brand not only boasts its use of non-GMO product but pulls a truly unique rabbit out of its hat. The company won multiple awards for turning its used tea leaves into paper, cardboard and (combined with recycled plastic) pens and even benches. 

A combination of multiple physical and social benefits makes for a successful combination in the crowded beverage market, such as Ito En’s green tea polyphenols, ethnic floral flavors and ecologically focused cold tea drinks.

Although enhanced waters have overflowed the market the past few years and have very likely peaked, the ones most likely to hang in there come in two forms: Those “grandfathered in,” such as the ubiquitous Vitaminwater (www.vitaminwater.com), now owned by Coca Cola Co. and appearing in vending machines and every store in the world; and the newcomers who “get it,” such as Ayala Water (www.herbalwater.com).

What makes organic Ayala float to the top of a very crowded pool of competition is, in a word, quality. They have flavor without tasting fake, they really do refresh and they don't feel as if someone just put three drops of flavorant in a water and charged you out the wazoo for it. They also are right on trend — ethnic and floral — with flavors: vanilla bean, lemongrass, clove and cardamom, lavender, ginger, orange peel and lemon peel.

Not just beverages

Whereas beverages have shown themselves to be important advance guards of trendiness, snack foods certainly have been overwhelmed by the “health-plus” trend. Betty Lou’s Inc. (www.bettylousinc.com), McMinnville, Ore., makes its Nut Butter Balls snacks with food allergies in mind, using brown rice syrup as a sweetener and no wheat, corn or soy. But it also adds DSM Nutritional Products’ (www.dsm.com) Teavigo green tea extract, San Joaquin Valley Concentrate’s (www.activin.com) Activin grape seed extract, Advanced Ingredients Inc.’s (www.advancedingredients.com ) Fruitrim as well as inulin, rice bran, rice protein concentrate and grapefruit extract, the need for new products to apply to multiple needs is something major processors readily recognize. “American consumers continue to request better-for-you, convenient products that fit their nutritional needs and their lifestyles,” says Jennifer Garrett, director of nutrition marketing for Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Co. (www.kellogg.com).

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