Superfoods go wild

Super food’s global growth Research from Mintel has highlighted the growing popularity of nutrient dense super foods. According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database, there was a phenomenal 202 per cent increase globally in the number of new food and drink products launched containing the terms ‘superfood’, ‘superfruit’ or ‘supergrain’ between 2011 and 2015.

And it seems there is no end to the popularity of these so-called wonder foods. In 2015 alone there was a 36 per cent rise in the number of food and drink products launched globally. In 2015, the US played host to the most super food and drink launches (30 per cent), followed by Australia (10 per cent), Germany (seven per cent), and the UK and Canada at six per cent each.

The surge in launches comes as a result of strong consumer demand for highly nutritious products. Today, over seven in 10 consumers in France, Germany, Italy and Spain agree that health-promoting benefits of natural foods, for instance fruit and vegetables, are preferable to the added benefits of functional foods.

Stephanie Mattucci, Global Food Science Analyst at Mintel, ‘The popularity of “super” products is clear as food and drink manufacturers globally are tapping into a demand for these nutritionally dense ingredients.’

The trend towards a wheat-free diet has resulted in a growing number of products containing ancient grains. While quinoa and buckwheat have all become household names in recent years, it’s chia which has seen the biggest rise in usage. Between 2014 and 2015, there was a 70 per cent increase in the percentage of food and drink products launched containing chia, whilst the percentage of food and drink products containing teff rose by 31 per cent. The percentage of food and drink products containing quinoa rose by 27 per cent.

‘The desire for healthier, less refined alternatives to wheat has fuelled the rediscovery of ancient grains. Flavourful and nutrient-dense ancient grains have begun to change the negative perception of some carbohydrates by leveraging their nutritional profile and rich heritage. Ancient grains offer an alternative to wheat but also come bundled with functional and nutritional components, and provide new flavours and textures. They are a great way for free-from products to talk about health,’ Matucci explains.

‘Whilst the number of products containing ancient grains has been rising, we can also see the popularity of sprouting ancient grains. The ancient, accidental process of sprouting, where whole grains are soaked and left to germinate has largely been eliminated by modern processing techniques.There has been a return to this ancient practice, with controlled sprouting practices being introduced, as the nutritive advantage of sprouted grains is being recognised. The ancient grain quinoa is leading the comeback of sprouted grains,’ Mattucci states.

Pulses are also under the spotlight, with the UN announcement that 2016 is the year of the pulse. Over the past two years, the percentage of food and drink products launched with green split pea has grown by 126 per cent, whilst the percentage of food and drink products containing coral lentils has grown by 62 per cent and the percentage of food and drink products containing yellow split peas has increased by 21 per cent.

Pulses can be used to add a range of natural health benefits to food and drink products. Additionally, healthy pulses are staples in many ethnic cuisines, offering manufacturers a pathway for product innovation for convenience-seeking ethnic food explorers.

Mintel research reveals that super seeds have also seen an uptick in usage. Over the past two years, the percentage of food and drink products containing chia seeds has risen by 70 per cent, whilst the percentage containing pumpkin seeds has grown by 27 per cent. The percentage of food and drink products containing sunflower seeds has grown by 22 per cent.

Going forward, it seems that turmeric known for its anti-inflammatory benefits and moringa, said to have beauty and anti-aging properties, could be the super foods to watch.

‘Turmeric has potential as an ingredient in supplements and functional food and drink products, particularly within products aimed at the growing senior population. Additionally, moringa could be used in anti-ageing beauty food products. Whilst currently the ingredient is used in many beauty launches, the leaves are nutritional powerhouses,’ Mattucci concludes.