Fruit innovation crops up in nut butter blends, sauces & vibrant plant-based colors


26 Apr 2022 — Fruits have long-held mainstay status in product development. Yet even still, new iterations of texturizing, flavoring and coloring solutions made from fresh harvests are steadily cropping up each year. FoodIngredientsFirst speaks to key F&B suppliers who are innovating with nature’s candy.

“One of our recent studies on the world of fruits discovered that 56% of consumers across key global markets are interested in a spoonable yogurt combining fruits and brown flavors,” highlights Markus Wagner, global director new business at Agrana Fruit.

Besides the classic brown flavors, such as chocolate or caramel, nuts are the key high-growth taste trend in brown flavors. That’s why we came up with the idea of combining nut butters and fruits for use in a spoonable yogurt. 

Go nuts for creamy fruit butters
One of Agrana’s recent innovations is its fruit and nut butter concept “Go Nuts,” which pairs different creamy nut butters, such as almond, cashew or hazelnut, with fruits such as strawberry, cherry, orange, pineapple or mango to make customized fruit and nut butter preparations.

Agrana has introduced new fruit and nut butter blends, which can be incorporated into dairy products such as yogurt.The finished concept combines the creamy, earthy texture of nut butters with the light, sweet flavors of fruit. 

“The fruit selection was very important as well as pairing these with the various types of nuts, and ultimately balancing the very distinct profiles of each ingredient,” says Wagner. 

“We also challenged ourselves to develop a solution that did not include added colors or flavors, supporting the clean label trend that consumers continue to seek.”

Agrana tested the “Go Nuts” concept of a fruit and nut butter layer under high-fat creamy yogurt with consumers in the US. In this study, the company observed a 77% purchase intention among consumers regularly indulging in snacks and on the lookout for “better-for-you” snacking options.

Nuts are a consumer favorite and nut butter has found its way into various product applications such as snack bars and drinks. “Originally established in the US, nut butters are now also a trendy food in Europe,” says Wagner.

“While the preparations can be used in numerous applications, one of their favorite uses is as a layer on the bottom of a high-fat yogurt leading to a very indulgent yet not too heavy treat,” he notes.

“The texture of our nut butter preparations ranges from smooth and butter-like to a low or medium-grainy texture that is inherent to the properties of tree nuts.”

Craving organic colors
The natural appeal of fruit and vegetable solutions is elevated further with the organic label positioning. 

A recent report by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements found that retail sales of organic products reached €52 billion (US$55.5 billion) in 2020 in Europe alone – up 15% from the previous year.

Natural coloring expert GNT has added two new shades to its range of EU organic-certified Exberry Coloring Foods. 

“Exberry Organics ‘Fruit & Veg Yellow’ is made from organic safflower and organic apple, while Exberry Organics ‘Veg Green’ is created from organic safflower and organic spirulina,” explains Maartje Hendrickx, market development manager, GNT Group.

“Both are fully compliant with the latest EU organic regulations and add to our existing red, purple, blue, and orange Exberry Organics products.”

Natural coloring expert GNT has added two new shades of green and yellow to its Exberry Coloring Foods range (Credit: GNT).Like all Exberry Coloring Foods, the new additions are made from edible fruit, vegetables and plants using traditional physical processing methods. 

“As a result, they not only support organic declarations but also clean and clear ingredient lists. Within the EU and UK, Exberry Organics ‘Fruit & Veg Yellow’ can be labeled as ‘Coloring Food (concentrate of safflower and apple)’ or simply ‘safflower and apple concentrate’,” says Hendrickx.

The new products are available in an easy-to-use liquid format that is ideal for the majority of beverage, confectionery, bakery, dairy, savory and plant-based applications.

Naturally stabilizing phytonutrients
Almost 90% of European consumers over the age of 15 are failing to eat adequate amounts of fruit and vegetables, according to a report by Eurostat, the European Commission’s (EC) statistical office.  

To this end, NutriFusion has developed a proprietary process to “naturally stabilize”, concentrate and protect the phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables, which can be integrated into processed food products.

“Our ingredient is very bioactive and bioabsorbable especially when compared to synthetic vitamins,” notes William Grand, president and CEO of NutriFusion.

In certain products, such as baked goods, NutriFusion can extend shelf life due to the high levels of antioxidants – both from vitamins and polyphenols in the fruits and vegetables.

“NutriFusion does not affect taste or functionality of the products it goes into and is 100% natural,” says Grand.

“Our ingredient is used in foods where formulators want to increase the nutritional value with nutrients from real food. There are no synthetic nutrients. We supply a very simple ingredient deck with common fruits and vegetables. No unpronounceable chemicals that confuse and scare the consumer.”

NutriFusion currently sells in eight countries worldwide including South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Europe.

Sokol has launched a range of better-for-you citrus-based sauces and dressings.Citrus sauces and dressings
Sokol has launched a range of better-for-you citrus-based sauces and dressings. The US company will include gluten, soy, nut, dairy and egg-free offerings.

“We created formulations to remove high fructose corn syrup and worked in low sugar ingredients where we could. Fruit and citrus contain naturally-occurring sugars, but they add immense flavor in exchange,” says Paul Noble, chief commercial officer at Sokol.

“We are thrilled to introduce this healthy and flavorful offering into the marketplace,” adds Mark Madden, VP of marketing and global licensing at Sunkist Growers. Sunkist, a centennial family-owned food formulation team, is partnering with Sokol to launch this range of citric sauces.

“This collaboration represents over a century of expertise and know-how from our agricultural cooperative as well as from Sokol,” adds Madden.

The products will be available nationally in all US Walmart locations, with other future retailer announcements still to be disclosed. 

Fruity and fibrous cakes
Premier Foods has also just launched a range of better-for-you fibrous-full cakes and pies with 30% less sugar and increased natural fruit, under the Mr Kipling brand. The move is designed to attract health-conscious consumers who are searching for healthy indulgence.

A study by the UK food manufacturer shows that “73% of shoppers say they would buy healthier cakes.” The cakes, launched in UK Tesco stores, contain 99 calories per portion.

A contrast to the 2018 study by Action on Sugar at Queen Mary University of London, that affirmed Premier Foods held the highest energy (424 kcal per 100g) among all UK manufacturers with five or more cakes.

“Those who bake cakes themselves will understand that creating a cake with significantly less sugar, healthier and still tastes indulgent is no easy task. However, using the expertise garnered from the last 50 years, our teams have made the impossible possible,” says Alex Whitehouse, CEO, Premier Foods.

By Benjamin Ferrer

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