UK berry sales have increased by 40% this year, according to the retail giant, due to perfect growing conditions, with the warmest spring for 20 years making fruit especially juicy.
Tesco soft fruit buyer James Waddy predicted that its newly launched Mac Black variety “could become a future star among berries, and one day may even be more popular than the traditional red variety”.
The berries are being grown by the UK’s largest berry grower, Berkshire-based Hall Hunter, led by general manager David Kay, and will cost £2 for a 125g punnet.
The fruit originates in the US, and was brought to the UK five years ago, but Hall Hunter said it had taken time to propagate and generate commercially viable volumes for the mass market.
Tesco likens the flavour of Mac Blacks to raspberry jam, and says they are sweeter than blackberries but similarly juicy, while they preserve a red raspberry’s texture.
Waddy said: “Berries have had a lot of great publicity over the last few years because of their supposed great health qualities and since then we’ve seen demand rise on an annual basis.”
Especially high in ellagic acid, anthocyanins and antioxidants, research has shown that black raspberries may slow the growth of breast, cervical, colon and esophageal cancers.
A November 2010 study from the University of Illinois found that black raspberry supplements were associated with a 45% reduction in the incidence of colorectal tumors, and a 60% reduction in tumors within mice engineered to develop intestinal tumors.
Given the hype surrounding Baobab as a food ingredient – with UK-based Organic Herb Trading Company distributing the fruit’s pulp, which contains twice as much calcium as milk and more magnesium than spinach – Mac Blacks have obvious potential for inclusion within other manufactured foodstuffs, with fruit juices and smoothies clear application areas.
Mintel estimated in a recent report that pure fruit juice sales will increase by 1.7% to £1.82bn in 2011 (£1.75bn: 2010), but said: “Superfruit flavours have seen sales fall back [between 2005 to 2010] after growing strongly earlier in the decade.
"Cranberry has seen its share of the market fall back sharply since 2007, with this mirroring the fortunes of the main brand in the sector, Ocean Spray.
“Pomegranate, another superfruit, has recorded sluggish sales over the same period.” However, Mintel said that superfruits were finding greater success within blended pure fruit juice, with firms such as RDA Organic including them with traditional fruits such as apple.
Mintel said that young people had a more open attitude towards trying new products, and was the group most interested in health and ethical issues, varied flavours and superfruits.
A recent Mintel survey of 766 consumers aged 16+ who bought fruit juice and smoothies, found that the brand choice of 32% was influenced by the presence of antioxidant-rich superfruits, such as pomegranate, acai and cranberry.
Hall Hunter was unavailable for comment as FoodManufacture.co.uk went to press.