March 1/Duiven, The Netherlands/Innova Market Insights -- Cherries have long been appreciated for their taste, but growing evidence about their health benefits is now putting them squarely in the frame for “superfruit” status, as they are increasingly being used in juices and juice drink blends.  Although orange and apple still dominate globally, ahead of mango and grape, cherry did feature in about 7% of the juice and juice drink launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in 2011, up from 4% five years previously. 

While a significant number of these launches are in the form of blends with other juices, particularly apple but also berries and other red fruits, pure cherry juice products are also increasing. This is usually occurring on a premium platform, and sometimes specifying the type of cherry, not just sour or tart, but also varieties such as Montmorency. 

Research has established that cherries, particularly sour or tart cherries, have a high antioxidant content, and that claim is increasingly being used. Newer research, focusing on potential benefits in terms of reducing inflammation, painkilling properties and improving sleep quality is being published and publicized, and may already be adding impetus to sales, as consumer awareness rises.

Developments have been particularly marked in the U.S., where tart cherries are a traditional American fruit. North American introductions accounted for 16% of juice drink launches containing cherry, but as well as the more traditional blended products, there have been an increasing number focusing on more specialist cherry juice lines with a strong health image. Cherry is also becoming a more popular flavor in launches in Europe, accounting for over 50% of the 2011 global total, led by the U.K. and Germany. 

“Cherry juices are clearly increasing in popularity and increasingly carrying a ‘superfruits’ branding in  the wake of a growing body of research linking sour cherries to a whole range of  health benefits,” says Lu Ann Williams, research manager for Innova Market Insights. “This, combined with their unique sweet-sour taste properties, looks set to boost demand and carry cherries still further up the rankings in terms of soft drinks flavor use,” she concludes.

 From the March 2, 2012, Prepared Foods' Daily News.