Fruit—in new varieties and forms—is finding its way into the American diet at home and in restaurants. For example, despite the tough economy, the number of consumers buying more fresh-cut fruit doubled in 2011 vs 2010, according to the Hartman Group’s 2011 Identifying Consumer Trends in the Produce Category Report; 10% bought more canned and 9% bought more frozen fruit.

Bananas, purchased by 87% of U.S. households, remain Americans’ favorite fruit; in addition, 78% of households bought apples, 72% grapes, 65% strawberries, 59% oranges, 58% cantaloupe, 57% watermelon, 52% peaches, 47% blueberries, 43% lemons, 42% cherries, 36% pears/plums, and 34% avocados, according to The Packer’s 2011 Fresh Produce Report.

Specialty, stone, and value-added fruits, along with berries, enjoyed the biggest volume gains in supermarkets for the year ended (Y/E) 10/10/11, reports the Perishables Group. Shoppers diversified their berry choices as goose, lignin, and loganberries came on the scene; mandarins, especially Clementines, topped new growth in citrus.

Strawberry led the list of fruit flavors in new foods/beverages introduced in the United States in 2011, according to Innova Market Insights. It is followed by orange, raspberry, lemon, apple, cherry, blueberry, coconut, cranberry, and banana.

Beverage company R&D executives surveyed for Beverage Industry’s 2012 New Product Development Survey project that orange, strawberry, mango, tropical fruit, lemon, peach, apple, cherry, and lime will be the top-selling drink flavors in 2012, right after vanilla and chocolate.

Superfruit flavors continued to fall out of favor in the beverage industry in 2011, according to the Beverage Industry survey. Açai, which was in the top five most used beverage flavors in 2009, fell to 14th place in 2011; pomegranate, which was No. 1 in 2008, dropped to 18th in 2011.

Right after low price, all natural/no preservatives or artificial colors was the attribute consumers looked for in 100% juice products in 2012, according to Mintel’s Fruit Juice & Juice Drinks—U.S., a 2012 report.

Because a growing number of Americans are brown-bagging breakfast, snacks, lunch, and beverages, portable, single-serve fruit-based items that lend themselves to immediate consumption are in high demand. Volume sales of fruit cups rose 7.2% for Y/E 11/12/11, according to the Perishables Group.

Ready Pac’s 100% Fresh Fruit Parfait showcases fresh-cut seasonal fruit under a clear lid. Chiquita Juice + Fruit Duos come with a spoon and no added sugar. Revolution Foods’ Mashups deliver 100% fruit purees in squeezable pocket pouches for kids. Chiquita touts its Super Crunchy Fruit Chips as “100% Air-Crisped. Never fried. Never freeze-dried.” Citra Pac’s Fruit Pearls are real oranges and tangerines that are flash frozen into tiny pearls and mixed with all-natural fruit purees, fruit juices, and yogurts.

Gerber Graduates Fruit and Veggie Melts are melt-in-the-mouth freeze-dried fruit morsels that deliver a serving of fruit for older infants and toddlers.Crunch Pak’s new Apple-tizers are bringing fresh fruit to the appetizer category.

Convenience Store News reports that retailers chose 100% natural Nature Valley Fruit Twists as the “coolest new product in c-stores” for 2012.

Superfruits and exotic fruits rank third and fourth, respectively, among the hot produce trends for 2012, according to the 2011 What’s Hot? survey of American Culinary Federation chefs conducted by the National Restaurant Association; heirloom apples ranked fifth. More than half of chefs cited hybrid fruits as trendy this year.

Consumers perceive bananas to be the most nutritious fruit, followed by apples, oranges, blueberries, strawberries, pomegranates, cranberries, grapefruit, avocados, pineapples, and peaches, according to the 2009 Study of Fruit.

More fruit products are touting their “naturally high in” nutrient claims on the front of package as major produce companies better position their products for the naturally functional movement. A good example is Dole’s “delivering nutrition naturally” slogan.

Fruit accounted for 29.4% of organic produce sales and had the largest dollar growth. Organic berries, apples, bananas, citrus, and grapes rounded out the list of top five organic best sellers. All
14 organic fruit categories increased sales for Y/E 7/30/11, except cherries and pineapples, according to the Perishables Group.

More than half (56%) of consumers made a conscious effort to buy locally grown/regional produce in 2011, the Hartman Group reports. Narratives about soils of origin/regions (e.g., Hawaiian onions “from rich volcanic soil”), unique varieties (e.g., Carnation strawberries), small farms and historic simplicity (e.g., Ataulfo mangos with a 6,000-year legacy) are among the new directions in the way produce is positioned that are likely to have high appeal, according to the Hartman Group.


A. Elizabeth Sloan ,
Contributing Editor
President, Sloan Trends Inc., Escondido, Calif.
[email protected]