Once considered the territory of foodies and health nuts, superfoods are going mainstream in a big way. According to a Mintel product database, there has been a huge 202% increase between 2011 and 2015 in food products containing the words “superfood,” “superfruit,” or “supergrain.” The trouble with large movements is that certain terms and the meaning behind them start to lose their effect as they get used in different, sometimes incorrect, ways. Add to this the fact that “superfood” is more of a marketing term than a scientific one and, therefore, cannot be easily regulated, and you have an industry that is “super-confusing.” We’ve unpacked some of the key facts and trends in the superfood movement to help demystify this growing, trend-driven industry.
While the US is leading the charge with the greatest appetite for new superfood and superdrink products, the perception of how nutrients affect our health is also changing across the globe. Almost three-quarters of consumers in European countries, such as France, Spain, Germany, and Italy, believe that natural foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are necessary foods to maintain optimum health.
The Truth Behind the Trend
Perception is what is truly behind the superfood movement. For the first time in western history, most of the population has easy and affordable access to a wide range of nutritious foods and an understanding of the effects eating these foods have on our lives. Also, because we live in the age of accessible knowledge, it is easy to see how consumers from western nations are becoming more informed about their diet, and the mental and physical effects of maintaining a nutrient-dense diet.
Making the Switch
One of the biggest trends in the superfood movement is simply choosing a superfood alternative to swap into your existing diet. Perhaps this is why so many consumers are adopting superfoods as integral components of their meals. Easy additions to typical meals are also experiencing a surge in popularity. Between 2014 and 2015, there was a 70% increase in the percentage of food and drink products launched containing chia, a staggering statistic given that the small seed that packs a powerful punch started garnering global attention way back in 2009.
The incredible thing about seeds, especially pumpkin and chia seeds, is that they “offer complete protein, with all nine essential amino acids in the correct ratios,” according to a Global Food Science Analyst. Blending seeds can help improve the quality of protein, which is why the market is seeing an increase in products consisting of multiple seed varieties.
Stepping Back in Time
Interestingly, many of the trends in the superfood movement involve a step back in time to the way we once ate, rather than a progression forward towards new foods. Whether it be the consumption of ancient grains, such as buckwheat and quinoa, that consumers are turning to instead of wheat-based products; or more traditional foods, such as pulses, as well as traditional techniques, such as sprouting, that are also on the rise.
Sprouting, in particular, is one trend to watch as it has not yet fully taken over the superfood market. Largely weeded out by modern, refined practices, sprouting is the ancient process where grains are left to soak and germinate causing a ‘regrowth’ of sorts, which brings with it a number of nutritional benefits.
Embracing Diverse Cultures
The trend for pulses is said to bear some correlation to the western trend of ethnic diversity in food. Asian cooking has won over many a Western consumer’s hearts with it’s flavorsome, fresh ingredients and healthful benefits. Over the past two years, the percentage of food and drink products launched with green split pea has grown by 126%. Additionally, the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric are beginning to become more widely understood and appreciated in Western diets, with many touting it as a superfood spice. Not just relegated to curries, turmeric is also popping up in many other food and beverage concoctions, such as golden teas, smoothies, and overnight oats.
With a 36% rise in the number of food and drink products launched globally featuring the terms “superfood” in 2015 alone, it is evident that the superfood movement is not going away anytime soon due to the rapid growth in the consumption of superfoods. This means that there are many vendors in the market that use the word with very little health science to back it up, which is why it’s important to buy these foods from vendors, such as Zen Spirit – the premium superfood brand, to ensure that you’re buying true high-quality superfoods at a reasonable price.
The key to harnessing the superfood movement is to pay attention to those ancient ingredients and processes in the food that you are purchasing and to look for a good spread of ingredients that will encompass the wide range of nutritional benefits that true superfoods can provide.