Health claims are at the heart of the exotic-fruit-inclusion trend, but new research indicates that some familiar
varieties also possess superfruit qualities.
In light of today’s trends, “consumers today are on the lookout for products that offer a little health extra,” explains Sharon Miracle, corporate communications manager for Tree Top Inc., Selah, Wash. “One way product developers and culinary chefs can help make their product stand out on the shelf or menu is by adding real fruit. In most cases, fruit ingredients make good economic sense, are nutritious and add color, Flavor and texture.”
The biggest news in fruit in recent years has been the emergence and subsequent dominance of superfruits. Although no regulatory or scientific definition for the term exists, the “superfruit” designation has resonated with consumers and is associated with varieties that possess unusually high levels of nutrients, especially antioxidants. Companies continue to create products with superfruit appeal, as evidenced by Ocean Spray’s addition of pomegranate to its new BerryFusions® line.
“Building on the trend for more exotic flavors, this recent addition to the range allows bakers to innovate with baked products, without the difficulties in processing associated with soft fruits,” explains Marion Burton, marketing manager for Ocean Spray ITG, Lakeville-Middleboro, Mass. "This latest variety will inspire product innovation, while satisfying consumer demand for new and exciting flavors.” There seems to be little risk that the usual super-suspects will fall out of favor; rather, Burton predicts that familiar superfruits will continue to be big players in the inclusions game.
“Well-known North American superfruits such as cranberry and blueberry will likely continue their popularity, as they deliver both health benefits and great taste.”
Cranberries, blueberries, pomegranate and açai remain the current superfruit darlings, but a new group of fruits is poised to make a big splash. And although an exotic quality seems to be a requirement to earn superfruit status, two of these varieties aren’t quite as foreign as the rest.
Take the Queen Garnet plum, for example. It’s a new variety conventionally bred in Queensland, Australia, that offers the traditional look and taste of a plum but has increased levels of antioxidants and anthocyanin. A study concluded that the plum’s antioxidant capacity placed it above blackberries and blueberries and put it in the same league as cranberries. It also has the excellent levels of fiber, magnesium and potassium that ordinary plum varieties possess.
Sharon Miracle, corporate communications manager for Tree Top Inc., Selah, Wash., advises bakeries to ask themselves the following questions when considering a new fruit inclusion.
• What moisture and texture targets are you looking for? Soft, chewy, crisp-crunchy?
• What size of fruit particulate are you looking for? Large or small?
• What shape are you looking for? Uniform or irregular?
• Do you want all-natural?
• What fl avor and color are you trying to deliver though the inclusion?
• Are you looking to make a fruit serving claim?
Although the Queen Garnet variety is imported, U.S. consumers are hardly strangers to plums. The chokeberry, on the other hand, is a domestic fruit that suffers from a low–very low–profile. But that might be about to change. Native to the Midwest, chokeberries, also called aronia berries, grow on bushes and are similar in appearance to blueberries. Black chokeberries have a very tart flavor with a somewhat gritty texture. The red chokeberry is slightly sweeter but lacks the high antioxidant levels found in its black-skinned kin. A study performed by two biologists from the U.S.D.A. found that when rats were given chokeberry-spiked water for six weeks, “the chokeberry extract inhibits weight gain in insulin-resistant animals and modulates multiple genes associated with adipose tissue growth, blood glucose regulation, and inflammatory pathways.” Chokeberry lovers also tout the berry’s high levels of vitamin C–100 g of chokeberries yield 35 percent of an adult’s recommended daily allowance of the vitamin. As a result of the increasing attention being paid to their positive health properties, chokeberries are growing in popularity and have been popping up in health food stores and farmers markets across the country.
Cupuaçu looks to be another rising star. Named by market research firm Mintel as a breakout superfruit last year, the creamy-fleshed fruit grows in the Amazon and is related to cacao. Said to have a distinctive flavor and a fragrance described as a combination of chocolate and pineapple, it possesses high levels of antioxidants and is rich in flavonoids and essential fatty acids.
Baobab fruit also seems to be teetering on the brink of the mainstream. A fruit with a tart flavor described as a combination of grapefruit, pear and vanilla, it comes from the baobab tree, also called the monkey bread tree, which grows primarily in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia. PhytoTrade Africa, the trade group that represents South African baobab producers, proposed the use of baobab dried fruit pulp as an ingredient in cereal bars at a level of up to 15 percent, and the FDA awarded it GRAS status in late 2009. The fruit has high levels of vitamins C, B1, B2 and also of calcium, iron, magnesium and fiber, but PhytoTrade Africa claims that baobab’s most attractive quality is that it has double the antioxidant content of cranberries and pomegranates.
Despite the excitement surrounding the new fruits being brought to market, some familiar varieties are causing a stir of their own.
Cranberries, long a bakery staple, are known not just for their high antioxidant content but also for their positive effect on urinary tract health. A new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition indicates that the bright red berry also may improve prostate health. Researchers at Palacky University in the Czech Republic reported that supplementing the diet of 42 men with 1,500 mg daily of dried, powdered cranberries for six months significantly improved the men’s prostate health. The researchers noted that “in contrast to the control group, patients in the cranberry group had statistically significant improvement in International Prostate Symptom Score, quality of life, urination parameters including voiding parameters (rate of urine flow, average flow, total volume and post-void residual urine volume) and lower total PSA level on day 180 of the study.”
Kiwifruit is also making waves in nutrition circles. Nekta Nutrition, Auckland, New Zealand, has developed Nektabake, a fat replacer derived from kiwis that is suitable for cakes, muffins, pastry, cookies and breads. Nekta Nutrition claims that Nektabake can remove up to 90 percent of fats in pastry, while adding functionality in the form of fiber, vitamin C and vitamin E. In addition, scientists from the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research reported in the Journal of Functional Foods that pectin from kiwis boosts the levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Researchers described the most effective kiwi pectin they studied as “superior to inulin.” As bakers delve into probiotics and prebiotics, kiwifruit could prove to be a powerful ally.
It just goes to show that even ordinary fruits possess extraordinary qualities and to make an appealing health claim you don’t always need the latest exotic variety–good news for bakers looking to minimize the sometimes prohibitively expensive cost of sourcing exotic ingredients.