As consumers push for more healthy foods and beverages, manufacturers can look to fruit when creating new products. Fruit is frequently used in baked goods, desserts, cereals and yogurt, but it's also popping up in energy drinks and snacks; even pet offerings.
Most fruit easily fits into consumers' ideas of clean-label foods. Many colors derived from fruit are organic and can be labeled as such. Recent nutrition trends relating to clean ingredients have increased the potential for using fruit in different formats, from dried fruit to powders, purees, extracts and large inclusion chunks with varying moisture levels.
Yet most Americans don't eat enough fruits and vegetables, per the 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommendations. The USDA's Economic Research Service earlier this year reported children and adults who eat more fruit tend to have lower body mass indices (a measure of being overweight). But the ERS also reported dietary intake of fruit and vegetables by U.S. children ages 6-19 is on average half of what it should be.
Besides being clean-label, fruits adds natural sweetness, critical considering the current spotlight on sugar and sweetener reduction. "Fruit provides both a nutritional functionality from the nutrients it provides like fiber, vitamins and minerals, and an appealing taste profile to snacks," says Stephanie Perruzza, integrated communications specialist at Kind Healthy Snacks (www.kindsnacks.com), New York. In August, Kind introduced Fruit Bites, which contain only fruit and no added sugar. They were developed to address over-consumption of sugar by kids, who typically get 19 teaspoons of added sugar a day, more than three times the American Heart Assn.'s recommended limit of 25g. Fruit Bites also are devoid of gluten, preservatives or genetically engineered ingredients. They have three ingredients or less, and each 0.6-oz. pouch features varieties made with cherries, apples and pineapple.
"Adding fruit to snacks is an easy way consumers can increase their fruit consumption on the go," she says." Fruit allows us to achieve a simpler ingredient list without compromising taste, and it's naturally sweet, so allows us to avoid using added sugar."
If you prefer bananas, Barnana (barnana.com) developed Banana Brittle, a crunchy snack in chocolate, gingersnap, peanut butter and toasted coconut flavors. The gluten-free, non-GMO brittle squares are also organic. And they're made with partially dehydrated, upcycled bananas that are deemed "imperfect" for regular consumption, which helps reduce food waste, the Santa Monica, Calif., company says.
Even our furry friends can get more fruit in their diets. Crunchy Diet Fruity Snacks, baked with oatmeal and either cranberries or apple pieces, is offered by Hill's Pet Nutrition, Topeka, Kan. Blueberries are popping up in many pet foods. The same benefits they give humans apply to pets, with some pet owners particularly interested in blueberries' cancer-fighting properties.
Zuke’s LLC, a high-end pet food manufacturer in Durango, Colo., uses visible blueberries, cranberries, cherries and mango in its recipes. The fruits are provided by Milne MicroDried (milnemicrodried.com), a processor that uses a unique drying process – radiant energy vacuum drying – that maintains higher levels of whole-food nutrition and yields pieces that are close to the original forms.
Dole Food Co. (www.dole.com) introduces a portable way to enjoy berries. Fresh fruit snacks called Go Berries! are three-packs of fresh strawberries or blueberries packed for on-the-go snacking. Launched in August, the ventilated packs hold 6-oz., snap-apart compartments that offer easy access and rinse-and-go convenience.
Cranberries rank high on the list of fall flavors. They're low in calories, reduce risk of urinary tract infections, improve immune function, decrease blood pressure and may prevent certain types of cancer. Thomas' English Muffins (www.thomasbreads.com) from Bimbo Bakeries USA, Horsham, Pa., introduced limited-edition Cranberry English Muffins as well as Cranberry Swirl Bread and Cranberry Bagels, available until Jan. 5, 2018.
Benefits of berries
"Superfruits" have been newsworthy for a while because of their free-radical-fighting health benefits. Adding blueberries, blackberries and other high-antioxidant superfruits to formulations can be an advantage, as superfruit has a "health halo" seemingly beyond reproach.
Studies indicate deeply colored berries can help prevent neural tube defects in infants during pregnancy, possibly slow Alzheimer's disease, inhibit the growth of cancer cells, guard against osteoporosis and can help lower cholesterol levels. They're also compatible with nuts and seeds, a traditional accompaniment to many grains.
Research from the National Processed Raspberry Council (www.redrazz.org), Washington, reveals promising aspects of red raspberry intake on gut microbiota, as well as improved glucose control and increased satiety in participants of short-term human trials.
"We're excited about this new flurry of studies, which builds on previously published research aimed to better understand the potential health benefits of red raspberries," notes Tom Krugman, executive director of the NPRC. Preliminary evidence suggests the actions of essential nutrients, fiber and polyphenolic phytochemicals found in red raspberries may play a role in supporting key metabolic functions, including anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative and metabolic stabilizing activity.