The fruit products sector offers a range of healthy snack alternatives, suited to our increasingly prevalent on-the-go lifestyle. Alissa Ostrowski examines the current trends and future of the sector, as well as looking at some of the latest fruit products to hit the market.

Fruit products continue to offer healthy snacking solutions for busy consumers – many focusing on portability or on enhancing inherent health benefits with added fortification. In addition, imported fruits provide a convenient method for consumers to experiment with exotic flavours while other products add a touch of decadence by incorporating liqueur and other premium ingredients.

The organic segment is also making an impact on the market, and as consumers grow increasingly aware of the logistics behind organic growth practices, it is likely that such products will continue to move into mainstream markets.

In general, fruit is highly regarded for its health benefits and versatility. Formats include convenient snack food items, low calorie “light” products, specialty fruits created specifically for cooking, and exotic imported varieties. In general, as with many other perishable products, producers focus on freshness, avoiding preservatives and other additives. However, methods for preservation are often utilised, with products such as Harvest Bay’s Tenderfruit in the US. The product line includes partially rehydrated apricots, pineapples, mangos, peaches, and tropical fruits in an airtight package to allow the package to remain shelf stable for at least one year.

Healthy snack alternatives

Producers of fruit products are positioning products as healthy snack alternatives in an era when typical selections include cookies and potato chips with high fat content. Guilt-free snacking often includes one traditional favourite, the raisin – a product that has had many substitutes including Ocean Spray’s Craisins, introduced a number of years ago. It is common for such products to include on-the-go formats conducive to travelling, for example dehydrated fruit and portable packages:

Eat Your Heart Out! introduced a line of Freeze-Dried Fruit in US health food stores including Apple Cinnamon Wedges and Peach Wedges with Mango that are said to be “heart healthy, low calorie, and Kosher.” The products are also claimed to be all-natural and fat-free, and to contain no cholesterol, preservatives, or chemical additives. In the UK, Tesco launched Fruity Bites! Apricots under its Tesco Kids brand, a pack of small apricots designed to fit in a child’s lunch box.

Products with fortification ingredients are also found, primarily in countries within the Asia Pacific region. Adding vitamins and minerals only adds to fruit’s healthy reputation, making the likelihood of expansion into other regions extremely attractive. Recent examples include the introduction by Nguan Seng of the Gogo Dried Mango; quality dried mangos with vitamins A & C, iron and fibre in Malaysia. In China, Treasure Flavour Food introduced a Seedless Gold Shred Date claimed to contain rich amino phenol, calcium phosphor, iron, zinc and vitamins.

In Malaysia, Wang Nutrition launched Gar’s Golden Lime, naturally preserved lime enriched with vitamin C. The company claims that the product is a “great tasting nutri-snack” that is free from artificial sweeteners, colourants, and preservatives.

In China the Ling Yuan Yuanquan Li Food Co. introduced a 100% natural Crisp Apple, described as a vitamin supplement with B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and copper.

Exotic fruits, flavour combinations and alcoholic ingredients

The endless selection of fruit available leaves a great deal of room for consumers to experiment with exotic flavours from distant locations. In particular, a few exotic fruit varieties have expanded out of the country of origin into other regions including the rambutan (Malaysia), cherimoya (Andes region), longan (also known as Dragon’s Eye, from the Asia Pacific region), and durian (Southeast Asia).

In their native lands these fruits are not uncommon, evident from the introduction of the Nu Dang durian-flavoured fruit snacks in Malaysia, but in other regions such as North America and Europe, the fruits are more likely to be considered to be adventurous and unique. In addition to exotic fruits, products that mix a number of flavour components are also appearing – often incorporating two different fruit flavours together in one product. For example, in Canada Nabisco introduced the Del Monte Rasp-O-Licious Peaches, described as peach slices in raspberry essence. The company also launched its Del Monte Almond Flavoured Apricot Halves in the US; unpeeled apricots in natural almond-flavoured light syrup.

In many dessert products, alcoholic ingredients such as wine and liquor are common. In the fruit category such products are also found, offering an indulgent addition to any dessert. For example, the Cranberry Gourmet introduced its Cranberries in Port Wine under the Cranberry Gourmet line in the US. The product is produced in small batches by hand with cranberries grown in Oregon to preserve the homemade taste, and are claimed to be all-natural and low in fat. In the UK Sunsweet Growers introduced a line of Fruit Fusion products including soft dried apricots with a twist of peach schnapps flavour, said to be 99% fat free and low in sodium. In Spain, Alimentos Alidel introduced its ready-to-eat pears with Vino Crianza Ribera del Duero red wine.

Organics move into the mainstream

As in many other categories, organic products are moving mainstream – appearing in a number of general grocery outlets in addition to gourmet and specialty stores. As a result, consumers are aware of the logistics involved with organic produce, and are therefore increasingly likely to purchase the products when offered them. Many organic selections include “healthy snacks” similar to the products mentioned in the previous section. For example, Just Tomatoes introduced an extensive line of Organic dried fruit products in US health food stores. Included in the launch were “Just Blueberries,” “Just Strawberries N’ Bananas,” and “Just Persimmon.”

The organic trend has even expanded into the private label sector with the introduction of products such as the President’s Choice Organics Jumbo Thompson Seedless Raisins in Canada from Loblaws. The activity from economy brands such as President’s Choice provides strong evidence that many more organic varieties will surface in the near future. For example, Cascadian farms introduced its Premium Fruit in two more varieties in the US: Sweet Cherries and Sweet Raspberries. Each is packed with luscious flavour and is 100% organic.

Global Organic Brands introduced its Organic Grapefruit Sections to its Mediterranean Organic-brand line in the US. According to the company, they come from the fertile groves of Southern Israel, which is renowned for some of the world’s finest citrus. They are hand-selected, packed in organic grapefruit juice, and are so sweet there is no need to add sugar, states the company. Organic Grapefruit Sections are sold in health food stores.

Packaging and portability

In general, packaging developments have a focus on providing consumers with convenience and portability. In the US and Canada, Dole foods introduced its Pineapple Chunks, Sliced Peaches, and Tropical Fruit products in resealable plastic containers, which eliminate the need for bulky can openers and also give consumers the opportunity to consume the product in multiple sittings. Other products provide utensils, eliminating the need to search for a fork or spoon. For Instance, Soldive introduced in France Melon Plaisir, fresh melon cubes packaged in a sleeved resealable plastic pot with a stick for picking up the melon pieces.

A number of products are packaged in ready-to-eat bowls, including Del Monte’s Fruit to Go varieties in North America and Fruit Express line in Europe. The concept of a portable, healthy snack received positive reviews from consumers, evident from the subsequent activity from key players within the industry and from private label producers including Stop N’ Shop and Kroger in the US.

Health and convenience reign supreme

The healthy nature of fruit will lead to products that offer additional added value benefits. Products such as the Apple Crisps from Ling Yuan Yuanquan Li Food Co. in China have a unique positioning as a dietary supplement, and if other producers within the industry take notice, it is likely that similar offerings will surface.

As portability remains an important focus for manufacturers, it is likely consumers will increasingly incorporate fruit products into their daily routine. In particular, fruit bowls are an easy breakfast solution, providing extreme convenience without the guilt associated with other products. Therefore, it is likely that future products will provide a spoon or fork to eliminate the need to transport metal utensils, and will also be contained in rigid, shatterproof packaging that will withstand a rigorous commute.

Alissa Ostrowski works for Mintel. To view Mintel research reports, click here.

To find out more about Mintel’s Global New Product Database, click here.