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Nutrient levels highlight more fruits under superfruit umbrella

By: Jessica Jacobsen
From: bevnetindustry.com (Jan. 12, 2012)

Acai and Coconut WaterBetter-for-you beverages continues to appeal to consumers, and beverage companies continue to find ways to address that trend. According to Chicago-based Mintel Group Ltd.'s "Juice and Juice Drinks" report, 5 percent of launches from January to June 2011 contained antioxidants, which represents a 1 percent increase from the previous period. The report adds that many launches sourced their antioxidant content from superfruits such as acai berries, blueberries, cranberries and pomegranates.

According to the January 2011 Mintel report, 36 percent of American consumers who have bought 100 percent fruit juices look for products with antioxidants.

"Antioxidants are high among the attributes consumers are looking for in superfruits," says Tom Payne, industry specialist with the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, Folsom, Calif.

Payne adds that although the name superfruit is not a regulatory term, it is used to describe fruits that are rich in nutrients, including, for example, antioxidants. Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the Austin, Texas-based American Botanical Council and editor of HerbalGram, agrees that superfruit is not a legal or regulatory term, but says that fruits marketed as superfruits often are associated with antioxidants.

"Antioxidant benefits are obviously one of the key benefits associated with many so-called superfruit items," he says. "Such activity can often translate into cardiovascular benefits: less cholesterol build-up in arteries reducing arterial plaque formation, thereby reducing risk of hypertension, high blood pressure, stroke, etc."

Blumenthal adds that antioxidant activity also can translate into reducing risk for some kinds of cancers.

What's old is new

Commonly associated with nutrient richness and antioxidant quality, superfruits also can be associated with novel tastes, but that is starting to change, experts note.

"Some folks consider only the new, unique, cutting edge and different fruits as superfruits, when in reality there are many tried and true products that have always been superfruits," says Don Giampetro, vice president of iTi Tropicals, Lawrenceville, N.J. "Some fruits include bananas, prunes, grapes, etc. Even new items like coconut water could be considered a superfruit.

"The coconut itself has been around for a long, long time, but only recently has coconut water emerged," he continues. "With the high levels of potassium and magnesium it has, it can be considered a superfruit."

Giampetro adds that the newness of fruit doesn't matter; it's the research that is being presented and the level of benefit that can be demonstrated from the fruit that matters, he says.

American Botanical Council's Blumenthal adds that many fruits that can be found in the common household have benefits that should be recognized.

"Many common, ordinary fruits are ‘super' when compared to some of those fruits being promoted as such today," he says. "These might include apples, avocados, bananas, blueberries, cherries, mangos, papayas, all of which have nutritional value and/or biological characteristics that warrant their consumption and possible addition to beverages and so-called functional foods."

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