Speaking at the recent Nutracon conference in Anaheim, the New Zealand-based New Nutrition Business editor said superfruits were cashing in on changing consumer preferences, particularly among young people who seek convenience and so choose an acai juice over eating an apple of a pear.
NutraIngredients.com was unable to obtain press entry to the event, but Mellentin shared some of his insights and those obtained from fellow New Zealand-based fruit research specialist, Hort Research, after giving his presentation, which outlined what he viewed as key factors for superfruit success.
Convenience was one factor in the rise of superfruits, along with sensory appeal, novelty, control of supply, health benefits and price.
He noted that superfruit juices presented fruits in their most convenient form, a fact that allowed hefty price premiums to be charged due to the appeal to increasingly time-starved consumers.
These same consumers were drawn to a juice product over a finicky whole fruit such as pomegranate, that can be time-consuming, messy and difficult to eat in its whole form.
Superfruit juices offered cost savings for growers and producers as end-product appearance concerns were dispensed with.
Mellentin quoted food marketing professor David Hughes of Imperial College in London who said:
“Fresh products are not in the formats that meet people’s lifestyle needs. As a result the value that the fresh fruit industry should be capturing is being stolen by consumer goods companies. What form do you think people under 35 will eat fruit and vegetables? More than half – maybe much more – will be in processed formats.”
The kiwiberry was an example of a fruit reinventing itself in a more convenient format – it is a mini version of kiwi fruit that can be consumed in one bite, including the skin.
Superfruit extract-based food supplements such as bilberry, cranberry, acerola and pomegranate were also performing strongly, and bilberry had become the world’s most expensive fruit.
He put the superfruit extract raw material market at about €110m, of which cranberry and bilberry account for about 75 per cent.
Japanese food and beverage makers were increasingly focusing research and development on superfruits with health benefits ranging from the eyes, to skin to metabolic syndrome and general immunity.
The other five factors
Mellentin observed a defining factor in the success of superfruits is the fact they sell at low volumes but command high premiums. This situation is being driven by:
- Sensory appeal. Formulators can improve on unpleasant taste that may exist in the whole fruit.
- Novelty. Can be over-emphasised, but highlights the point that superfruit success lies not so much in the fruit, but the format in which it is presented.
- Control of supply. Without this differentiation of product offering may be lost so securing ownership of Plant Variety Rights becomes important, as well as being vertically integrated as in the case of PomWonderful which grows its own, clinically-backed version of pomegranate in Californian orchards. Ocean Spray controls 80 per cent of the US cranberry supply, and 65 per cent of the world’s.
- Health benefit. Mellentin noted a positive relationship between the quantity of science and a superfruit’s status with cranberry, blueberry and pomegranate leading the way. Regular fruits had far less science backing them.
- Marketing. The success of a pomegranate start-up in the UK which employed grassroots marketing such as sampling and a cassis campaign that created a cartoon character, were examples of innovative marketing that permitted success.