Healthy Halo
By Nick Roskelly

Flavors that influence purchase decisions
Consumers want all they can get from new beverages. A product must taste good, but if it can also increase blood circulation, all the better. If a processor is unable to use an actual healthy ingredient in an application, sometimes a flavor will add a nutritional perception, which can make all the difference in a purchase decision.
A number of flavors have healthier connotations than others. In fact, some flavors are perceived with such high nutritional value that they overcome the less healthy applications they occasionally support. Case in point: deep-fried blueberry snack pie. There are no reports of high antioxidant claims on deep-fried blueberry pies yet, but the possibility exists because consumers generally consider blueberries a high nutrition superfruit. A general rule of thumb: they’ll buy a fatty pie if the antioxidant content is high.
For processors, healthier reformulation can pose obstacles. Reformulating within the parameters of their systems and processes can potentially discourage manufacturers from making a commitment to healthier alternatives. They’re always asking the question: How can I introduce a healthier characteristic into formulations with minimal disruption to my line? Sometimes the answer is simple.
Flavors with a healthy halo allow processors to develop healthier new products with little difficulty. Essentially, processors create a line extension with a healthy halo flavor and go to market with a nutritional message. In other cases, a processor may choose to devote more resources to a new formulation and provide a more efficacious product with real nutritional benefits. In either instance, consumer perception of a new product as nutritious has everything to do with their purchase decisions. The trend is the primary driver behind the influx of new beverages created with flavors that have an attached health message.
Flavors of health
According to the Center for Culinary Development (CCD), “superfruits,” such as acaí, gaurana and goji berries, are becoming more popular with American consumers keen to eat healthful foods while trying new tastes, and food processors are using the “super” ingredients and flavors in everything from beverages to chocolates.
With their well-seasoned palates, today’s sophisticated consumers expect more than standard chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. On top of that, health is a major concern as more consumers seek functional foods offering antioxidants, vitamins and other nutritional benefits that can increase longevity and quality of life. In response, manufacturers have broadened their sights to source ingredients that add exciting new flavors and targeted functionality to their product offerings.
Increasingly popular with mainstream consumers, and touted for healthy attributes, superfruits are proving to be today’s panacea for health, beauty, energy and longevity.
One superfruit currently in the spotlight is acaí. For thousands of years a staple for tribes in the Amazon’s lush rain forests, acaí was introduced to modern society in the 1990s. A recognized energy booster with natural antioxidant and cholesterol-controlling properties, acaí is fast becoming a sought-after ingredient.
One product making a splash with acaí flavors is Zola Acaí, which is certified organic and comes in Original, Acaí + Pineapple and Acaí + Blueberry varieties.
Acaí is one of the most exotic and trendy flavors with a nutritional vein. Other healthy halo or superfruit flavors include blueberry, pomegranate, green tea extracts and fresh flavors like grapefruit, mint and cucumber.
Another flavor growing in popularity is goji berry. The berries have been celebrated in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to enhance longevity, wellbeing and to boost the immune system. Goji berries have a flavor that is a cross between cranberries and cherries, and can be steeped to create a tasty and healthy tea.
The goji berry is a nutritional powerhouse that contains 18 amino acids including all eight of the essential amino acids. This superfruit is also chock full of antioxidants, and contains 21 minerals including zinc, iron, copper, calcium, germanium, selenium and phosphorus, as well as vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C and E. Goji berries also contain calcium beta-sisterol (an anti-inflammatory agent), linoleic acid (a healthy fatty acid), sesquiterpenoids, tetraterpenoids (zeaxanthin, physalin), betaine and polysaccharides which are known to fortify the immune system. Several recent studies show that goji berries provide the body with antioxidant protection and have anti-aging, cancer-fighting and immune system-boosting properties (International Journal of Molecular Medicine, 2006).  
Flavors in new products
A number of new products across categories have hooked into health halo flavor trends.
Luctor International, Orlando, Fla., maker of Van Gogh Vodka, launched Acaí-Blueberry flavored vodka in late April. The exotic new flavor has an overtone of blueberry with an acaí finish.
“Acaí is widely popular in Brazil, where major cities like Belize and Belem have thousands of acaí juice bars,” Dave van de Velde, Luctor’s founder and president said in a statement. The 70-proof vodka retails for about $25 per 750-liter bottle.
Also in the spirits category, Chopin Vodka took note of health and flavor trends, and then infused its newest offerings with tea, crystallized ginger, fresh berries and cool cucumber and mint.
Kagome launched two flavors to its blended (half fruit, half vegetable) line: Yellow Mango Orchard and Ruby Pomegranate Harmony. Each 8-ounce glass offers a full serving of vegetables and fruits, and is packed with antioxidants such as beta-carotene, lycopene and anthocyanin.
Clearly Canadian Beverage Corp., Vancouver, Canada, launched non-carbonated Natural Enhanced Waters: Daily Energy, Daily Vitamin and Daily Water certified organic essence waters. These new Natural Enhanced Waters are low or zero-calorie, flavorful, health conscious offerings with no preservatives or artificial sweeteners. Natural Enhanced Waters come in six varieties including, pink grapefruit and blueberry.
Kraft Foods entered the vitamin-enhanced water category with Fruit2O nutrient enhanced water beverages. The beverages are formulated with vitamins, and contain zero calories and zero grams of carbohydrates per serving. Varieties include Energy, Hydration, Immunity and Relax, each of which feature a unique and healthy-oriented flavor.
Fruit2O Immunity, for example, is made with a combination of pomegranate and berries flavors and Fruit2O Relax is infused with a blend of chamomile and hibiscus.
Nick Roskelly is managing editor of Stagnito’s New Products Magazine, Beverage Industry’s sister publication.