Exotic Fruits Keep the Heat on Flavors
By ELIZABETH BREWSTER
From the amazing Amazon
acai berry to the perky pomegranate, exotic and tropical fruits continued
to flavor beverage taste trends this year.
“We saw an extreme interest in exotic fruit
flavors [this year]: common ones like guava, passion fruit, mango, kiwi and
even more exotic like acai, mangosteen and sea buckthorn,” says Debby
Poskanzer, senior manager of consumer insights at Wild Flavors, Erlanger,
Ky. “The exotic fruits are popular because of their perceived health
benefits (and potential ability to aid metabolism and concentration and
Suzanne Niekrasz, director of marketing communications
at Robertet Flavors, Piscataway, N.J., agrees that exotic and tropical
fruit flavors are showing up in all kinds of beverages these days. “I
did a study a short while ago looking at what flavors have been trending up
in beverages over the past year,” she says. “Mango use has been
growing for several years, and lime’s growth can be traced to its
original and longstanding appeal in lemon-lime blends. And passion fruit
has a lot of great things going for it, including its tropical taste, sexy
name, and pleasing deep purple color.”
Of course, the tried-and-true beverage flavors like
orange, lemon, apple and blends are still holding their own, says Steve
Fowler, director of beverage applications for Mastertaste, Rosemont, Ill.
“A lot of the berry [flavors] are still hot because of their health
connotations,” he says. “And citrus continues to do well
because of its refreshing taste.”
In fact, Niekrasz says, one trend that plays right
into citrus flavor profiles is the increased use of named varietals in
fruit flavors. “It’s an effective way to formulate with a
perennially popular flavor profile while still differentiating a beverage
from all the other citrus beverages in the market,” she says.
“A walk down the beverage aisle turns up examples such as mandarin,
clementine, blood orange, key lime and Meyer lemon. And the favorite citrus
varietal this year, particularly as part of a flavor combination, is
tangerine, a varietal mandarin type.”
Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based Fuze Beverage, for
example, has freshened up its Slenderize beverage products with a new
Tangerine Grapefruit flavor; the low-carb line also includes Cranberry
Raspberry, Tropical Punch and Strawberry Melon varieties. Meanwhile, New
Leaf White Tea with Tangerine from Skae Beverage, Orangeburg, N.Y., joined
six other tea blends this summer that include Strawberry, Plum, Ginseng,
Honeydew Melon, Honey and Grapefruit flavors.
Pomegranate palate pleasers
Skyrocketing up the beverage flavor charts right now
is pomegranate, a fruit dating back to Biblical times that marries a
sweet-tart taste with a heaping helping of antioxidants.
|Top alcohol beverage flavors and fragrances
(for year ending Sept. 30, 2005)
|Source: Production Online|
“One flavor ... that really stands out in terms
of current use ... is pomegranate, particularly in combination with fruit
flavors such as cranberry and blueberry,” Niekrasz says. “All
three of these fruits have been getting great exposure in the media due to
their good-for-you benefits, which has produced a halo effect that’s
been driving increased flavor use.”
Among the newest pomegranate beverage offerings this
year, in fact, is Old Orchard’s Blueberry Pomegranate 100 percent
fruit juice, the first pomegranate juice product from one of the top five
national juice manufacturers. Launched in May
by the Sparta, Mich.-based beverage-maker, the new juice is priced at $2.99
for a 64-ounce bottle.
“By combining the blueberry and pomegranate, the
end result is a sweet and exciting taste,” says Michael McDonald,
vice president of sales and marketing for Old Orchard. “Many people
enjoy the benefits of cranberry or grapefruit juice, but they don’t
enjoy the taste; pomegranate blueberry will be a great way for these
people, and others, to fill the body with valuable antioxidants.”
Azusa, Calif.-based Naked Juice is also introducing a
Pomegranate Blueberry Naked Juice, and it rolled out a 100 percent
pomegranate juice product this fall. “We’ve had great success
with our pomegranate [beverages],” says president Tom Hicks.
Another pomegranate newcomer this year was Izze
Beverage Co.’s Sparkling Pomegranate Juice, an all-natural blend of
fruit juice and sparkling water that launched last spring.
|Top non-alcohol beverage flavors and fragrances|
(for year ending Sept. 30, 2005)
|Source: Production Online|
“We chose pomegranate as our seventh flavor [in
the sparkling water line] based on its complex flavor profile, and on the
quantity of customer suggestions we’ve gotten through our Web
site,” says Todd Woloson, founder and chief executive officer of
Boulder, Colo.-based Izze.
Pomegranate’s versatile flavor also lends itself
to dairy beverages, such as Lifeway Foods’ new Pomegranate Kefir,
which rolled out in August. “Pomegranate as a flavor is ...
tremendously growing in the market, making us thrilled to add Pomegranate
Kefir as a new flavor to our growing line of LowFat Kefirs,” says
Julie Smolyansky, president of Morton Grove, Ill.-based Lifeway Foods.
First imported from the Amazon rainforest to North
America in 2000 by San Clemente, Calif.-based Sambazon, the increasingly
popular acai (AH-sigh-EE) packs a flavor punch both alone and mixed with
other fruit flavors.
“I think we’ll see more use of acai, which
is a small, dark purple berry native to Brazil’s Amazon basin,”
says Robertet’s Niekrasz. “Acai has a high antioxidant count
— even higher than blueberry — and its sweet berry character
carries a hint of chocolate.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see the flavor
profile launched in the marketplace with a friendlier fantasy name, such as
Brazilian Berry,” she adds.
In fact, Sambazon has just introduced two types of
industrial acai powder, along with the industrial bulk pulp it markets in
agreement with another company, according to Chief Executive Officer and
Founder Ryan Black. Sambazon, which started out marketing acai as a frozen
pulp for juice shops to use in smoothies, is now the global leader in acai
consumer products and wholesale acai pulp and powder.
“There’s not a lot of fluff in the message
or the marketing [of acai],” Black says, who discovered the
rainforest berry at Brazil’s juice bars during a South American
surfing getaway in 1999. “It really does taste good, and it really is
extremely good for you. It’s a unique combination of flavor and
Acai lends itself to fruity flavor combinations, Black
says. Last year Sambazon launched fresh organic acai smoothies to the
consumer market in four flavors: Strawberry-Banana, Mango, Soy Milk, and
Amazon Cherry (acerola).
Naked Juice also rolled out a Mango Acai juice
beverage earlier this year, which is doing “exceptionally
well,” Hicks says, while Zola Acai in San Francisco offers a
shelf-stable, ready-to-drink pure acai beverage called Acai Power Juice.
To a tea
Acai and other emerging exotic fruit flavors also are
finding a natural niche with tea flavors, especially white and green tea
varieties. “Green tea’s growth has been phenomenal ... [but] it
must deliver on taste first, and flavors have been instrumental in
mainstreaming this relatively new tea style,” Niekrasz says.
“The specialty tea category offers many flavor ideas for future
In fact, new Mango White Tea with acai from Bethesda,
Md.-based Honest Tea took top honors this year at the New Products Expo
East’s Taste of Expo. And this summer, Revolution Tea, Phoenix,
Ariz., unveiled its ready-to-drink bottled
White-T in four flavors: Key Lime, Blackberry, Raspberry and Tangerine.
Ferolito Vultaggio & Sons, the creator of Arizona Beverages, also added
both Pomegranate Green Tea and Blueberry White Tea, the company’s
first white tea, to its lineup this summer.
Niekrasz adds that two other tea flavors to keep an
eye on this year are the South African herbal teas rooibos (roy-boss),
which has a reddish-amber color and a clean, aromatic taste profile, and
honeybush, which provides a honeylike, apricot, floral and sweet profile.
Robertet has commercialized herbal tea extracts from both plants, in
addition to developing other South African flavors including minneola and
naartjie tangerines, wild apricot, guavadilla, kei apple and mobola plum.
Looking ahead, industry experts say to watch for
growing demand for big, bold beverage flavors, especially as the Hispanic
population continues to increase. “There
are now 41 million Hispanics in this country, and their culinary traditions
include hot and spicy flavors,” Niekrasz says.
Adds Wild Flavors’ Poskanzer: “Authentic
Hispanic flavors are in demand [for beverages], like hibiscus, lime,
citrus, carambola and dulce de leche.” She adds that herbal flavors
also seem to be on the upswing, “and beverage manufacturers might
[once again] start formulating with ginger, turmeric, lemon balm and
Mastertaste’s Fowler spotlighted chocolate as
another flavor growth area, particularly in combination with nut flavors or
fruit flavors such as raspberry or orange.
“We’re also seeing requests for dessert or
indulgent type flavors
— cheesecake, bold spicy blends, chocolate combinations,”
Fowler says. “We’re seeing more sophisticated blends emerging
in after-dinner drinks.”
Finally, some beverage-makers are turning to
limited-edition or seasonal flavors to reinvigorate established brands,
“When using flavor itself to establish a
seasonal feel, we’ve been working with profiles such as pumpkin, warm
spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, rich chocolates, caramel types and
peppermint,” she says. “This is an area where concepts that cross categories can be a great vehicle for a
limited-edition beverage flavor — for instance, a festive dessert
profile like caramel gingerbread in a dairy-based beverage, a peppermint
stick-flavored alcohol, or a red candy apple fruit drink.” BI
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