Superfoods are frequently marketed as the answer to consumers’ health woes and now new research from Mintel highlights the popularity of these nutrient packed foods. Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) reveals that between 2011 and 2015 there was a phenomenal 202 percent increase globally in the number of new food and drink products launched containing the terms “superfood,” “superfruit,” or “supergrain.”

And it seems there is no end to the popularity of these so-called wonder foods, as in 2015 alone there was a 36 percent rise in the number of food and drink products launched globally featuring the terms “superfood,” “superfruit,” or “supergrain.” In 2015, the U.S. played host to the most superfood and superdrink launches (30 percent), followed by Australia (10 percent), Germany (7 percent), the U.K. (6 percent), and Canada (6 percent).

The surge in launch activity comes as a result of strong consumer demand for highly nutritious products. Today, more than seven in 10 consumers in France (72 percent), Germany (71 percent), Italy (73 percent), and Spain (72 percent) agree that health-promoting benefits of natural foods, for instance fruit and vegetables, are preferable to the added benefits of functional foods.

What’s more, Mintel research reveals that the superfood sensation has spread beyond food and drink. Indeed, while 43 percent of products launched globally 2011–2015 with the words “superfood,” “superfruit,” or “supergrain” in the product description were in the food category and 11 percent fell under the drink category, as many as three in 10 (30 percent) were found in beauty and personal care, while 12 percent were in the health and hygiene category and 4 percent were in the pet category.

Stephanie Mattucci, global food science analyst at Mintel, says, “The popularity of ‘super’ products is clear as food and drink manufacturers globally are tapping into a demand for these nutritionally dense ingredients. But superfoods are not only limited to food and drink as they are regularly appearing in the beauty, health, and hygiene and pet food aisles as a result of today’s consumers becoming much more aware of what they are putting into and onto their bodies.”

In particular, the trend towards a wheat-free diet has resulted in a growing number of products containing the “supergrains” ancient grains. While quinoa and buckwheat have both become household names in recent years, it is chia that has seen the biggest rise in usage. Between 2014 and 2015, there was a 70 percent increase in the percentage of food and drink products launched containing chia, while launches of food and drink products containing teff rose by 31 percent. Meanwhile, the number of food and drink products containing quinoa rose by 27 percent.

“Desire for healthier, less refined alternatives to wheat has fueled the rediscovery of ancient grains. Flavorful 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 flavors and textures. They are a great way for free-from products to talk about health,” Mattucci adds.

Alongside the hype in launch activity, there is also strong consumer interest in ancient grains as 30 percent of U.K. pasta consumers say that pasta made with ancient grains, for instance quinoa, is healthier than regular pasta. What’s more, usage of these heritage grains is high, as two in five (41 percent) U.S. consumers have eaten ancient grain-based cereals.

“While the number of products containing ancient grains has been rising, next we could 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 recognized. The ancient grain quinoa is leading the comeback of sprouted grains,” Mattucci says.

While ancient grains have been in the spotlight over the past year, with the United Nations announcing 2016 as the year of the pulse, pulses have also been receiving added attention. Over the past two years, the number of food and drink products launched globally with green split pea has grown 126 percent, while food and drink products containing coral lentils has grown 62 percent and food and drink products containing yellow split peas has increased 21 percent.

“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,” Mattucci adds.

Mintel research reveals that super seeds have also seen an uptick in usage. Over the past two years, the number of food and drink products containing chia seeds has risen 70 percent globally, while launches containing pumpkin seeds has grown 27 percent and the number of food and drink products containing sunflower seeds has grown 22 percent.

“Some seeds, including chia and pumpkin seeds, offer complete protein, with all nine essential amino acids in the correct ratios. However, a lot of protein from seeds is incomplete. Blending seeds can help improve the quality of protein,” Mattucci says.

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 superfoods 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-aging beauty food products. While currently the ingredient is used in many beauty launches, the leaves are nutritional powerhouses,” Mattucci says.

Consumer Trends, Health & Wellness, News