Superfruits Aren’t Born: They’re Made
Maybe it’s just me, but I find it interesting to surf around some of the trade publications and articles examining industry trends. These provide me with new perspectives about how and why certain products are marketed. It’s a peek behind the curtain, so to speak. I’m a “science” person, after all…and – in its purest form – science is about creating new knowledge and understanding. So it’s fascinating for me to see how the subject I’ve dedicated so much of my adult life to is used – and abused – to generate $$$.
The “Superfruit” craze is a case in point. Paul and I have written about this before, but mostly from the consumer side of things – evaluating the claims for existing products. But the superfruit market is like the proverbial hydra…deal with one product, and a new one pops up to take its place.
Despite the claims, however, it’s not nutritional science that’s driving this phenomenon…instead, it’s straight out of Business Econ 101.
Superfruit success not grown on trees, say authors
By Shane Starling
14-May-2008 – Superfruits are created by progressive product strategy and have little to do with the far-flung location in which they might be grown or even their nutritional payload, according to a new book.
“People think superfruits are found just growing in an exotic forest somewhere. That’s just not true – you can create a superfruit,” says one of the authors, Karl Crawford, who is business leader for health food at New Zealand-based food researcher HortResearch.
The book, called “Successful Superfruit Strategy – How to build a superfruit business” is co-authored with food industry analyst and consultant, Julian Mellentin, and points to the superfruits category as one with near unlimited potential.
Yet only a few fruits have crossed over from whole fruit commodities to genuine ‘superfruit’ status, despite overall growth of 40-100 per cent at a time when fresh fruit sales such as apples and pears are stagnant or falling in many countries.
Goji, mangosteen and acai are some of the more high-profile superfruits that have established a strong presence in western markets. Usually in the form of fruit juices, they can command price premiums 20 or times that of staple juices such as orange, apple and pineapple.
The book highlights keys to succeeding in the superfruits market that include fruit quality, science, marketing, IP protection and understanding the broader consumer environment.
The book itself will be released this month. Now, I have no intention of buying it (I’m interested, but not THAT interested). Rather, it’s the breathtakingly open cynicism that impresses me: it’s ultimately about how information – including scientific information – is presented in order to “command price premiums” that are grossly inflated relative to everyday, ho-hum staple products.
In other words, perceived value trumps actual value (in terms of nutrition/health benefits and production costs), when it comes to the price you pay. And marketers pull out all the stops to make sure your perceptions benefit their bottom line. Science isn’t just being used as a tool to discover which fruits are worthwhile; it’s also being used as a post hoc justification for jacking up product prices.
In this case, superfruits are just an example: there’s a whole spectrum of supplements and functional food products out there offering various health benefits. Some of them may even be worthwhile. But the existence of books such as the one above underscores the point Paul made earlier, about how “natural” food/supplement marketers are driven by the same motives as “Big Pharma” and other “bad guys.”
It’s all about the money, honey. Thus, a little skepticism is in order when it comes to evaluating claims, as it’s clear that marketers have a vested interest in seeing you jump on the latest bandwagon. Remember that when the next “Superfruit” hits the market.