Natural Foods Merchandiser

Superfruits: Villains in disguise?

by Shara Rutberg

It's a bird… it's a plane…it's a vitamin deficiency!

A new report from London-based market research firm Datamonitor reveals that British consumers are eating more fresh fruits and vegetables to meet their "Five a Day" target. However, its research shows that the emergence of "superfruits" might be having an adverse effect on the population's health. The report, released Aug. 1, suggests that false assumptions about the nutritional value of superfruits, such as pomegranate, açaí and goji berries, may prevent consumers from fulfilling their fruit and vegetable quotas.

According to Datamonitor, the annual consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables in the U.K. increased from 93 kg per person in 2002 to 113 kg in 2007. The company forecasts this amount will increase to 123 kg in 2012. But emphasizing a quantifiable consumption target, such as five servings a day, has caused consumers to look for a quick fix to meet their goals, according to a press release accompanying the report. They seek to "dose" themselves with a quick, smaller shot of a superfruit, or product that contains superfruit, as they would dose themselves with daily medicine, without the inconvenience of all that messy planning, washing, chopping, and chewing. In doing so, they miss out on a range of nutrients offered by other produce options. Overlooking more traditional alternatives could undo the positive effects that fruit and vegetable targets have had in the U.K., according to Datamonitor.

Superfruits have proven their super marketing powers in the U.S. as well. Americans, too, need to be aware of the importance of diversity in their "daily five," says nutritionist Dave Grotto, a spokesman for the American Dietetic Association and the author of 101 Foods to Save Your Life (Bantam, 2008). "There's plenty to choose from," he says. "Diversifying our plate is a very good idea." The more types of fruits and vegetables, the merrier. Plain old apples, oranges and tomatoes can be super too, when it comes to nutritional value.

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