"Most aronia berries are grown in Ukraine and Poland, and they took a [cultivation] actually from North Dakota back in the '80s and populated that, so it's really an American story. It just hasn't been told," Johnson said. "We're really trying to create that story -- that narrative -- and to show everyone the highest variant antioxidants has grown actually, right here in the United States with great farmers and great people."
From antioxidant to sports recovery: Understanding aronia berry’s potential
CPG brands looking for functional food and beverage ingredients might consider aronia berries because of its high antioxidant, vitamin C, and fiber content, Johnson said. Also, “it's a great natural anti-inflammatory, so go running, hiking, go to the gym, workout, the recovery time for people can be shortened with the use of aronia,” he added.
"If you look at blueberries, pomegranate, and acai, aronia is three to four times higher in antioxidants, and depending on the crop [and] the growing season, if the plants are stressed, they'll produce more antioxidants," he said. "If you saw the big craze a couple of years ago with resveratrol and raspberry, aronia is actually the highest berry in resveratrol. They're also the highest variant catechins."
The demand for these properties in products has increased as consumers are becoming more health conscious and demanding a variety of functional claims. Statista found that 50% of Americans claim to actively try to eat healthy, with a higher percentage of Baby Boomers (58%) saying the same, according to surveys of US consumers.
“Culturally the United States is trying to eat healthier foods ... people are eating with a purpose. So, if you're going to eat for a purpose, why not eat something that's really good for you? It helps everything from skin quality to heart health to gut health to ... natural inflammatories for the weekend warrior.”
Aronia berry market ripe for growth in the US
While aronia berries started as a crop indigenous to the US, Europe produces the bulk of the aronia berries at about 55m pounds a year compared to only 4m in the US, Johnson said. Similarly, Europe has the bulk of share of the aronia berry-based products on the market with more than 400 products, and the US has less than 20, he added.
When it comes to products currently on the US market, Gut Bar offers a range of snack bars, powders, and energy shots, formulated with aronia berries, Johnson shared. Additionally, prebiotic shot brand So Good So You offers a grapefruit and aronia berry drink, which markets the antioxidant benefits of the ingredients for skincare and digestive health, he shared.
Other categories in which the ingredient plays well are smoothies, juices, drink mixes, and other products, and A3 wants to facilitate innovation with its juices, powders, and frozen berries, he added.
“The easiest go-to-market is probably taking the frozen berries and throwing them into antioxidants super blends with strawberries and blueberries, and then you have something that people can just use every morning if they want to dump into a smoothie.”
What do aronia berries need to achieve elderberry status?
When it comes to growing the aronia berry market in the US, A3 is really focusing on getting the message out about the ingredient and its functional benefits, Johnson said. “Five years ago, two out of 100 people had heard of aronia, and now, I'd say it's probably 10 out of 100,” he said.
“It's just getting the word out. Elderberry really had its COVID moment, and a lot of people don't know what [aronia berries] look like, and don't even know that those are grown in the United States. Well, we've seen immunity studies that aronia berries is better and elderberries got higher antioxidants and elderberry. So, it's just a matter of starting to put it into a product for people to taste and feel it in different applications.”