While demand for some more exotic fruits can wax and then rapidly wane after celebrity backers lose interest, and over-use (and abuse) has devalued the term ‘super fruit’ somewhat, enthusiasm about fruits of all kinds continues to grow.
There are lots of reasons for this, says fruit powders and extracts specialist VDF FutureCeuticals, but the primary one is that consumers instinctively know that fruits are good for you, even if they are starting to become a little fatigued by some of the marketing hype, says general manager John Hunter.
"We have always been very conservative in our marketing, but there was a time when the term 'super fruit' was applied to everything.
"But if everything is the bomb, then nothing is the bomb, and this can lead to consumer fatigue."
If everything is the bomb, then nothing is the bomb
There is also an "element of faddishness" around some 'super' fruits such as mangosteen, he says, while the initial "feeding frenzy" surrounding acai berries was clearly not sustainable, although interest remains strong.
However, "overall interest in fruits and grains of all kinds remains intense", says Hunter.
"We’re seeing double-digit growth across the board.”
Meanwhile, consumer messaging is also evolving as firms move beyond which fruit has the highest ORAC score to more targeted communications based on human clinical data.
Could apples compete with olives in the cardiovascular health arena?
As for which fruits are super, new research suggests “that many fruits that are not currently labeled as super fruits may well be seen as such in future”, he observes.
Take apples, some of which contain polyphenols shown to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, making them potentially exciting new players in the cardiovascular health arena.
And while exotic fruits remain popular, FutureCeuticals is also seeing growing demand for home-grown fruits such as tart cherries and North American wild blueberries, which are now top sellers, he says.
Meanwhile monk fruit is starting to attract interest as scientists look beyond its sweetening properties and explore its potential health benefits, he adds.
“We screen fruits all the time and we’re in the early stages of looking at monk fruit.”
We have made the decision to be an engine of IP
As for R&D cash, while ORAC tests have their place, FutureCeuticals has invested significant resources to develop new methods for in-vivo measurement of antioxidant activity and the concentration of free radicals in humans after consuming fruit extracts, says director of marketing Brad Evers.
It has also invested heavily in clinical research around a growing number of patented and trademarked branded ingredients from Coffeeberry and VitaCran to VitaCherry, adds Evers, who points out that there is “not much profit” in pumping cash into research that everyone else can piggyback off.
“We have made the decision to be an engine of IP, and sales of our branded products are escalating.”
Several of its products are also at the stage in their development where that all-important second clinical study is about to be - or has just been - published, providing the kind of regulatory reassurance customers need before making hard claims about their health benefits.
Recent studies have also identified some exciting new areas of opportunity, notably for coffee fruit concentrate NeuroFactor, which significantly increased plasma levels of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) - a protein with neuroprotective effects - in a pilot study, he says.
Click here to read more about NeuroFactor.