Once used for enhancing the diets of Russian astronauts, the chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) could have a stellar future, with the US’ leading supplier predicting extracts and concentrates could one day rival the cranberry market.
Chokeberries could soon start to step out from the shadow of the big five berries, strawberries, cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, with US supply of the berries growing, and the science supporting the benefits emerging.
The majority of the science supporting the potential health benefits of chokeberry relate to heart health (enhancing blood flow , normalizing blood clots , benefiting blood pressure ), but other reported benefits include anti-inflammatory effects, antioxidant activity, and immunomodulatory effects. A study from the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism also indicated potential for sports nutrition (2005, Vol. 15, pp. 48-58).
With so many health benefits, the biggest marketing challenge is how to position the berry, said Jan Mills, President of Artemis International. “The majority of the science is for heart health, but that’s already a crowded segment.”
Speaking with NutraIngredients-USA at the recent Berry Health Symposium in Charlotte, NC, Mills said that the current demand for the berry is ‘growing’, she said. “We’re trying to increase demand by increasing the usage, and taking chokeberries in to new applications. All we say is, ‘try it, taste it’.”
Artemis has extensive expertise with berries, and the Indiana-based company is best known for standardized anthocyanin extracts from elderberries, chokeberries, cranberries and blackcurrants.
Mills’ love affair with aronia started in 1996 during a trip to Poland. She came back owning a field of aronia plants and has been working with universities across the US to better understand the benefits of these berries.
The berries are grown extensively across Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and Russia. According to the Agronomy Institute opened at Orkney College in the Scottish Isles, use of the berry was developed for enhancing the diets of Russian astronauts.
Artemis International has been supplying aronia extracts and concentrates for years that were sourced from Poland but that is now changing. The plant, which is native to the US, is coming home.
Artemis is leading the cultivation of aronia berries in the US, and currently provides domestic berries (as fresh berries, concentrate and powdered extract forms) to the B2B and B2C markets in the US and further afield.
“We still have some berries in storage and the harvest is in August and September, so we’ll have a lot more,” said Mills.
The company currently sources from farms across the US, including Nebraska, Iowa, the Mid-Atlantic States, Oregon, and North Carolina.
Chokeberry products can be found at local farmers markets as fresh berries and fruit, and Mills sees this as positive to raise awareness of the berry.