Superfoods: (Part 1) The evolution of nutrient-rich food for health-conscious consumers

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17 Oct 2017 --- Superfoods can be classified as foods that are superior in terms of their nutritional value or nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. Even small portions of some superfoods can supply an abundance of vitamins, minerals, proteins, antioxidants and more. Many superfoods contain extraordinary characteristics that can have a variety of health benefits from boosting immunity, treating illness/disease, reducing blood pressure, cutting sugar intake, lowering cholesterol and more.

As personalized nutrition continues to gather pace around the world, the notion of eating superfood-packed food appeals to health-conscious consumers. It’s gone from a buzzword to mainstream understand, an all-encompassing way to say “this is great for you”. 

Food innovators are keen to tap into this by providing products that can make a superfood claim in some way. And with a growing number of items that are being described as a “superfood”, we are seeing it on the label more and more, whether it is indeed superfood or more like “super marketing”, is an important point to consider. Making the distinction ultimately comes down to the consumer. 

The word has been bandied about now for a good few years with many a marketing department adapting it to products from fresh fruit and vegetables, herbs, nuts, oils, coconuts, cacao and the list goes on. What’s happening with the ever-expanding league of superfoods?

In this special report, FoodIngredientsFirst takes a closer look at trending superfoods, the superfoods of tomorrow and how the term is now applied to much more than just fresh fruit and vegetables – although that’s a good place to start. 

Fresh veggies
First, it was spinach, then kale and now… good old cauliflower is enjoying a veggie resurgence. 

Supermarket own brands and other manufacturers are turning to the traditional vegetable classic, the humble cauliflower, to give it a contemporary twist, making it much more appealing to today’s consumers. 

TV chefs are pushing its use in exotic recipes leading to a spike in creative cauliflower inspired dishes dominating Instagram feeds, the vegan contingent is singing its praises, it’s heavily featured in the spiralizing trend as well as a solid meat alternative. A good example was the recent UK Tesco launch of healthy carb alternative, cauliflower couscous. 

In terms of its nutritional profile, the brassica is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. It’s also a very good source of choline, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorus, and biotin.

Berry-tastic
The berry category – which is the number one fruit selling category in the UK – is skyrocketing. Thanks to their natural superfood label, blueberry, raspberry and strawberry sales are, generally speaking, booming. Last year, in Britain alone, the fresh berry market exceeded a value of £1 billion (US$1.3 billion) and there is no sign of this slowing down. 

Eaten as a whole fruit, berries can be enjoyed on-the-go, packed into a child’s lunchbox, eaten whilst walking, commuting, at the desk and so on – another attribute that boosts their popularity. They are loaded with antioxidants, are high in fiber and low in calories and fat. 

Alongside the continued spike in berry consumption, other superfruits to watch include blackcurrants and Maqui berries, a berry originally from Chile that is rich in vitamin C and antioxidant anthocyanins. It has a purple pigment – purple foods are also very on trend – and is associated with anti-aging. 

Plant-based proteins
Late last year Innova Market Insights revealed its top trends likely to impact the food industry in 2017 from its ongoing analysis of key global developments in food and drinks launch activity worldwide – and in at number two was “Disruptive Greens.” 

Plant-based protein is a front-runner in the alternative meat-free scene and within the plant-based protein category, products naturally link to all sorts of superfoods. 

Legumes, lentils, quinoa & pulses
Pulses (referring to the dried part of the legume) are often praised for their health properties alongside their ecological and economic benefits, while legumes are taking center stage as part of a new European project examining ways to identify and enable mechanisms for the increased adoption of successful legume production systems, feed and food chains.

The TRUE project consortium involves citizens and businesses operating in legume commodity production and processing and it is underpinned by excellence in the natural and social sciences and humanities.

Legume cropping is perceived at governing level to have a large number of significant economic, environmental and social benefits and should be encouraged more widely and extensively. Despite this, and the well-known agronomic benefits to growers, legume cropping in the UK – and EU in general – remains very much a minor crop sector compared to cereals and oilseeds.

Securing a sustainable supply chain of a product has a direct influence on how it impacts the food industry as availability to consumers has to be pinned down before long-term sustainable success can be envisaged. 

Higher in protein than most other plant foods, legumes provide a range of essential nutrients including protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, minerals and vitamins.

By Gaynor Selby

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