Antioxidant demand driving blackcurrant breakthrough

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Vitamin c, Fruit

New product development (NPD) involving blackcurrants is growing fast, fuelled by demand for products with high antioxidant content, according to exclusive information for from Datamonitor.

According to the market researcher, the number of new stock keeping units (SKUs) of food and beverage products containing or flavoured with the fruit has grown strongly since 2005.

NPD data

The number of SKUs more than doubled in 2008 compared to 2007, increasing from 43 to 102, a significant jump on previous years. A total of 28 SKUs were launched in 2005 and 30 in 2006. From the beginning of this year to July 23, 27 SKUs have been introduced.

“Blackcurrant products are relatively scarce in the USA though product launches have increased over the past few years rising on the back of the coloured foods trend,”​ said Tom Vierhile, director of product launch analytics at Datamonitor.

However, Vierhile said many of these new products had not originated from US companies because of low awarenesss levels in the US. This situation is partially fed by a ban on blackcurrant cultivation that only recently has been reprieved in many US states.

“On the food and beverage side, a significant percentage of those products we did see were European imports.”

A total of 32 new vitamins, minerals and supplements containing, or flavoured by, blackcurrants have been launched since 2005, Datamonitor revealed.

Low blackcurrant awareness

“These fruits have been getting a lift from the trend toward high-antioxidant fruits like acai and pomegranate, for instance, but they really have not broken out on their own in any significant way,”​ said Vierhile.

“I think part of the problem is that people just don’t know what they are and may never have seen them either growing on a farm or in a supermarket. Up until a few years ago the same could be said for pomegranates, though supermarkets did carry them even before the boom in pomegranate as a flavor or ingredient.”

2009 product launches logged by Datamonitor include Connecticut Currant’s Black Currant Juice Drink from Concentrate, which carries the slogan ‘high in antioxidants’. The company also promotes blackcurrants as high in vitamin C, with good levels of potassium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B5. Other products include Hint Mint Sugar Free Mints, which come in a blackcurrant flavor.

The blackcurrant ban

Use of blackcurrants as ingredients by US companies has been hampered by the fact that Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia still ban or severely restrict their cultivation.

The bans remain after blackcurrant growing was made illegal across the US in 1909 because they were blamed for transmitting White Pine Blister Rust to pine trees.

The US-wide ban shifted to the jurisdiction of individual states in 1966 and New York and many other states chose to lift restrictions in 2003.

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