"We’re unique in the fact that the all-natural cherry has some properties that nothing else synthetic can do," Haggart told FoodNavigator-USA. "It has an incredible ability to attach to lactic acid -- and remove it via blood stream -- and an incredible ability to reduce inflammation."
The tart cherries used by CHERRiSH in its drinks and 3-ounce to-go pouches are rich in antioxidants including anthocyanins, flavonoids, and melatonin – all of which play a role in muscle recovery, claimed Haggart.
According to the company, the phenolic content of tart cherries is significantly higher than sweet cherries (the variety eaten in whole form) -- 92 to 147 mg/100 g vs. 312 mg/ 100 g of fruit.
The company has significantly expanded distribution of its three flavors of tart cherry juice, added 150 c-store locations to its network and formed a partnership with Safeway Albertsons and each of the 14 regional banners. The chain's Jewel-Osco banner with 188 stores throughout Illinois and Indiana was one of the first and most enthusiastic chains to start stocking CHERRiSH, according to Haggart.
“We’re seeing that more of our customers are coming in with a better understanding of general nutrition and product ingredients, and they’re turning toward cleaner, healthier options,” said Eric Haacker, produce business manager of the Jewel-Osco family of stores.
“We thought this was the perfect time to partner with CHERRiSH, and we’re especially excited to offer our customers the opportunity to taste the beverage and learn all about its many health benefits. It’s sure to make a great impact.”
Steady expansion with Safeway Albertson is planned for the rest of year, commented Haggart.
"We always go into the produce department. We want to be in that premium juice cooler in the produce department with POM Wonderful, Naked Juice, and Odwalla. That’s where our consumer is," Haggart explained.
"We’re going to try open a [Safeway Albertsons] region every other month," said Haggart.
The company is expanding into 242 Safeway Albertsons stores in the Pacific Northwest this week in addition to new distribution in Canada with Sobeys, added Haggart.
Listening to customer feedback
While the company has been pleased with the reception of its three tart cherry juice beverages, the feedback from its consumer base (mainly traveling athletic teams) was that the product could be cumbersome to take on the road. To remedy this, CHERRish developed a 3-ounce to-go pouch of its cherry juice (1.5 ounces of cherry juice and 1.5 ounces of water to thin out the viscosity).
"The idea came from a whole bunch of customers," said Haggart who originally intended the pouches to be poured and mixed into consumers' water bottles.
You always have these great ideas, but they don’t necessarily come to the market like you’d thought. They took the pouches on the road, tore open the pouch and drank it right out of the pouch," he said, a similar to taking an energy gel shot. Other consumers would freeze them and eat them like popsicles.
Health benefits keep emerging
In recent years, there have been multiple studies documenting the health benefits of drinking tart cherry juice, including one human trial (published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry last September) studying Montmorency cherries' prebiotic effect on the gut microbiome. A June 2019 study also suggested that the consumption of tart cherry, either in capsule or juice format, may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease by improving cardiometabolic markers.
"It seems to be the most studied fruit I’ve ever seen," commented Haggart.
According to Haggart, in addition to promoting the sports recovery aspect of its tart cherry juice, the brand is pushing the sleep aid aspect for its 3-ounce to-go tart cherry juice pouches especially for consumers that travel frequently.
"We’re starting to play more on the sleep aspect. We’ve got great interest from Hudson News because it can help with sleep on an airplane because of the high melatonin count," said Haggart.
A 2012 study, reported on our sister publication NutraIngredients-USA, found a link between tart cherry juice consumption and improved sleep because of the fruit's high levels of phytochemicals, including melatonin.
New flavors and products to come
Haggart shared that the company is constantly exploring new sports nutrition-related categories it can expand into and has new flavors of its cherry juice to be launched in Q4 2019 including a chocolate & cherry flavor.
"We think it's going to be a big hit," Haggart said.