Superfruits have been a topic of discussion for quite some time now. Often times these fruits that offer super health benefits, such as immunity, antioxidants, vitamin C or other boosters are typically sourced from exotic locations around the world with which many consumers in the U.S. might not be so familiar.
As health and wellness continues to be a high priority, so is flavor and that has led to a fusion of drinks that aim to tick each box without getting overly complicated.
Jamie Goodner, principal scientist at Wild Flavors, Inc. says, “[Exotic fruits] are unfamiliar to most people so the struggle is to be different enough without being ‘too’ different.”
Goodner notes that there’s a trend toward exotic fruits paired with something more familiar: “More unusual tropical flavors and fruit paired with spice or floral notes.”
Sensient Flavors tracks flavor trends through its Trends to Taste program each year to discover what the popular choices of the future will be for consumers. Within its Health and Wellness trend, the three flavor profiles the company focused on for this year is the blue honeysuckle berry, the cloudberry and the pawpaw. Teresa Olah, beverage marketing manager for Sensient Flavors, argues, “Consumer pallets are moving to a new level where they are not looking for the generic flavors.”
Blue honeysuckle berry is described as a combination of a blueberry, blackberry and honey suckle, notes Olah. “Depending on what flavor profile you put it with, you either get more of the blueberry flavor or the honeysuckle flavor. What does make it unique is, for a flavor company, often blueberry flavors tend to be quite candied and artificial in taste. This combination of the blue berry and blackberry offers very real true to nature profiles.” The cloudberry offers a light, fruity flavor profile, but it’s also creamy. “We’ve seen it work really well in teas and coffee creamers,” says Olah. “The cloudberry is best when it’s paired with another flavor profile since it’s so subtle. People in the past were struggling to find a way to use it and I think we’ve started to see it expand. Willy Wonka recently launched a cloudberry flavor candy, for example.”
The largest fruit indigenous to the U.S., the pawpaw is the size of a mango and has a tropical flavor that is a cross between a banana and a mango.
Tate & Lyle offers Purefruit, an all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener derived from monk fruit. “Monk fruit is a member of the melon family and is cultivated primarily in Southeast Asia, where it has been used for 800 years to make a tea-like drink,” explains Jeremy Thompson, director, Natural Sweeteners Product Management for the company. “The sweet components of the fruit are extracted and concentrated from the fruit. Its sweetness level is approximately 200 times that of sucrose.”
While consumers are looking for flavor, they are also looking for drinks that are less caloric and offer some health benefit. Thompson says the challenge in formulating such drinks is “maintaining good taste and getting consumers comfortable with the ingredients used. In the case of monk fruit, our Purefruit monk fruit extract is free of the bitter and licorice off-tastes associated with some zero-calorie sweetening options. ”
While exotic fruits can offer a far-away experience without the travel cost, that doesn’t mean one should discount familiarity. “Consumer research at Virginia Dare indicates that people are seeking simpler safer solutions to choosing their food and beverages,” notes Anton Angelich, Group VP of marketing for the company. “For a number of years now the American public has been interested in the health benefits associated with exotic super fruits...We are seeing less interest in the exotic super fruits, and significantly more interest in the more familiar domestic super fruits such as blueberry, tart cherry, raspberry, etc.”
Virginia Dare offers a wide range of natural flavors for all beverage applications, and can provide natural masking flavors for the functional category.
As the eating habits of consumers change—for example beverages replacing meals and becoming the new snack—functional elements, such as protein are also thrown into the mix.
“Functional beverages and protein-fortified beverages often require masking systems to overcome the taste of the efficacious [items] and enhance the taste of the beverage,” says Angelich.
Olah adds: “I think there has been an evolution in the industry on how we eat and snacking has become the new way of eating…Adding protein to drinks is the main trend there and I also think adding exotic fruits falls very well into that because to position a beverage as a snack the protein adds satiety and adding exotic fruit flavors adds an indulgent aspect that consumers don’t have to feel guilty about. You do feel that it is more of a complete meal.”