More and more consumers are searching shop shelves for the king of all healthy foods. Amy Lanning finds out what makes a superfood

Nutritionists preach the benefits of eating five portions of fruit and vegetables every day and most consumers, it seems, try to follow the advice (C-Store Healthy Balance survey, September 22, 2006). But there's another trend set to grow in popularity, that of the so-called superfoods.

Superfoods are natural foods that contain powerful substances such as antioxidants, which are beneficial to good health and wellbeing. Nutritionists have identified 14 key 'superfoods', which are said to prevent disease and improve our health and lifespan. Research shows that the foods could prevent or even reverse illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, dementia and cancer.

The list includes beans, blueberries, broccoli, oats, oranges, pumpkin, salmon, soy, spinach, tea (green and black), tomatoes, turkey, walnuts and yogurt. On top of these 14 superfoods, nutritionists have also been extolling the antioxidant properties of 'superfruits' such as Brazilian fruit açaí, pomegranate, guarana, noni, mangosteen, goji berries, blueberries and blackcurrants. 

Goji berries are a small red fruit grown on vines in the Himalayas and are said to boost energy, fight cancer and heart disease and lower cholesterol, while the noni berry - from the morinda citrifolia tree found mainly in Tahiti - produces a reddish-brown juice with a distinctive smell and taste. The açaí is a thick-skinned purple berry from Brazil, rich in vitamins A and C, and is said to contain twice as many antioxidants as blueberries.

A number of brands such as Bernard Matthews' turkey products and Cauldron Foods' tofu ranges already highlight their superfood status in promotional material, and others have quickly jumped on the bandwagon. Innocent Drinks, for example, has launched three superfood smoothies - natural vitamins A & C, which include 175% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C and 50% of vitamin A; natural vitamin C with 375% of the RDA of vitamin C; and natural detox, which contains the equivalent of antioxidants gained by eating the average five portions of fruit and veg. The latter contains superfruits pomegranates, blueberries and açaí berries.

For Goodness Shakes, meanwhile, launched a superberry flavour this summer, combining the goodness of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and cherries with milk and NutriMix, a blend of 23 vitamins and minerals including energy releasing B vitamins, antioxidants, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, selenium and more.

And it's not just the fresh and chilled category that's embracing superfoods. Jordans, for example, has introduced a superfoods cereals range comprising The Superfoods Muesli, The Superfoods Breakfast Flakes and The Superfoods Bar. The products combine cranberries, blueberries, almonds and pumpkin seeds. And Ribena launched a blueberry variant in April this year, and has just announced the introduction of Ribena Really Light raspberry & pomegranate, along with an £8.5m marketing campaign.

The next big thing
According to Datamonitor's Productscan Food Review, carbon dioxide-injected fresh fruit, square watermelons, sausages filled with superfruit goji berries, and camel milk are the latest products around the world to satisfy consumers' taste for healthier food.

The Fizzy Fruit Company has launched a packaged fresh fruit product in the US that consists of grapes which have been injected with carbon dioxide, making them fizzy. The company says the fruit is entirely natural, apart from its carbonation, contains no added sugar or preservatives, while retaining the same vitamin and fibre content as natural fruit. 

The company originally designed the concept for sale in schools, but has since rolled it out into the retail sector, with the aim of attracting kids who dislike regular natural fruit products.

Tesco, meanwhile, has developed a square-shaped watermelon, an idea that was first invented by the Japanese for sale to the very rich. Tesco's version is grown in Brazil, where it takes 60 days to mature. The melon is grown within a clear plastic box and naturally fills out to fit the shape of the box without the use of any stimulants.
With goji berries attracting interest for their alleged benefits in fighting heart disease, cancer and even boosting libido, US producer Fabrique Delices has included the berries in a range of frozen sausages.
Camel milk is also being touted as having potential as a new superfood, with the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation reportedly trying to garner interest for it in the West. The milk is consumed widely across the Arab world and features in a large range of products, such as the recently launched Al Ain Dairy Camel Milk Ice Cream in the United Arab Emirates. Camel milk is rich in vitamins B and C and is said to have 10 times more iron than cow's milk.

How super are superfoods?

Beans: pulses like kidney beans are very low in fat, a good source of protein, fibre, calcium, iron and zinc
Blueberries: contain antioxidants, which can protect against cell damage and support healthy brain function, as well as vitamins A and C and folic acid
Broccoli: rich in beta-carotene, folate and potassium, plus vitamin C and other antioxidants, as well as sulforaphane and indoles, which are known to prevent cancer
Oats: wholegrain oats are high in fibre and low in saturated fat
Oranges: a medium-sized orange provides the recommended daily amount of vitamin C and contains folic acid and soluble fibre pectin, which helps regulate cholesterol levels
Pumpkin: raw pumpkin seed is a great source of magnesium and tryptophan, which helps produce the feel-good hormone serotonin, enzymes that aid digestion, most of the B vitamins, plus C, D, E, K and minerals calcium, potassium, niacin and phosphorous
Salmon: a source of healthy heart omega 3 fatty acids
Soy: found in tofu, soy milk, soy nuts and green soybeans; lowers cholesterol
Spinach: rich in B vitamins for energy release from food; folic acid, as well as antioxidant vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, iron and calcium
Tea: green tea contains powerful antioxidants - catechins - said to fight viruses, slow ageing and benefit health by destroying free radicals
tomatoes: rich in antioxidant lycopene, and vitamin C and fibre
Turkey: one of the lowest fat meats and a good lean source of protein and zinc for a healthy immune system, as well as B vitamins that help your body get energy from food
Walnuts: rich in 'good fats' and compounds that help cut the damage that fatty food can do to the arteries
Yogurt: probiotics support the immune system and help keep the digestive system healthy.

Meet the supplier

SUPPLIER: Bernard Matthews
BACKGROUND: Bernard Matthews dates back to 1950 and one man, 20 turkey eggs and a second-hand incubator. By 1952 Bernard Matthews was producing 3,000 turkey eggs at his Norfolk home and decided to leave his job in insurance and move into turkey farming full time. Three years later he bought a derelict mansion and 36 acres of land. Great Witchingham Hall, near Norwich, is still the company's headquarters.
Today the business is global, with an annual turnover of about £400m and more than 7,000 employees worldwide.
It produces seven million turkeys every year in the UK, feeding them a strictly vegetarian diet from the company's own feed mills and rearing them on 54 farms throughout Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire.
Bernard Matthews highlights the superfood status of turkey on some of its consumer press campaigns and on www.bernardmatthews.com.
RECENT LAUNCHES: the premium thick-cut Carvery Cuts range has just been relaunched, and Deli Fillets and Deli Slices are due to relaunch soon. Mini Golden Drummers launched in frozen.
DISTRIBUTION AREA: national via wholesalers, multiples and independents.

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