America’s next super berry

Food and flavor companies are on the hunt for the next best super berry.

Berries, which are some of the top nutritionally rich foods, are in everything from smoothies to breakfast cereals, juices, yogurts and granola bars. Their presence seems to calm those on the health and diet circuit as well as picky eating toddlers.

Blueberries have been the king of the berry aisle for years as they transformed muffins and pancakes into super foods worthy of even the pickiest foodies. Now the new kid is on the rise, we just don’t yet know which berry that will be.

Since 2008, marketers have introduced 358 products with goji berries as an ingredient, about 200 with bilberry and more than 500 with elderberry, the later is used a lot as a natural food coloring.

Berries, because of their tiny size, demand more labor intensive handpicking and special packaging is added to protect the product to its final destination.

The result is that berries remain a “premium” product, with an average retail price closer to $3 a pound compared to stone fruits like plums, peaches and nectarines whose unit prices are near $1.50 per pound.

In the past two years alone sales of berries have risen nearly 18 percent despite an average 4 percent rise in retail prices during the same period. Sales of raspberries rose 31 percent, and blackberries and bluberries 27 and 25 percent respectively. Strawberries’ 11 percent growth is actually considered a drag.

Berry commissions and growers’ sales groups have taken note of the success of blueberries and funded studies on berries which showcase individual berry effects on the growing populations of diabetes, inflammation and other ailments. In this same way “Heart Health” has become one of the new sound bites surrounding certain berries. Of course, as with a lot of marketing, consumer’s hopes outweigh most of the hype.

On the rise for next year is the Olallieberry, a hybrid cross of loganberry and youngberry, a California native. No matter which will become the new king of berries we can all count on enjoying the journey.

 

Susan Woody has been a home and garden writer for more than 20 years and is an advanced master gardener.


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