Newswise — CHICAGO – Fruit has always been an important component of a healthy diet – from ubiquitous blueberries and strawberries to seasonal varieties like peaches and cranberries. Recently, less-familiar fruit, such as dragon berries and prickly pear, are finding their way into smoothies, coconut water beverages and frozen fruit bars. These flavors, when blended with classic fruits, can further expand the variety of choices for consumers and may even help increase the consumption of food that meets nutritional needs.

In the September 2011 issue of Food Technology magazine, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), Donald Pszczola delves into the variety of classic and exotic fruit flavors that drive today’s food trends.

Exotic fruit flavors, like pomegranate and acai, are becoming mainstream in beverages, confections, ice cream, yogurt, desserts and nutritional supplements. These popular flavors do not exist on their own, but are created by flavorists and product developers who use natural fruit formats, chemical synthesis, extraction methods to create fruit flavors that play a role in making food more enticing and flavorful.

New Uses for Classic Berries:

According to McCormick Grill Mates and Lawry’s Flavor Forecaster 2011: Grilling Edition, certain types of traditional fruit can help create new, tart and sweet sensations when paired with freshly cooked foods. One such is example is the blueberry, which can add flavor, sweetness and color, making it the perfect fruit to put a novel spin on salsa, marinades and sauces.

Similarly, the cranberry has made a popular juice beverage since 1930, but in recent years, product developers have discovered the versatility of the round, red berry. Today, cranberries are present in many popular desserts, baked goods, cereals and even savory dishes and sauces. Like blueberries, cranberries pair well with flavor combinations including exotic fruits, like acai, guava and pomegranate.

Because consumers equate both blueberries and cranberries with antioxidant power, professional chefs and home cooks enjoy them as a key ingredient in savory meals, smoothies, cocktails and desserts.

Discovering New Tropical Tastes:

While classic berries remain mainstream, exotic fruit flavors from around the globe can create novel, flavorful, nutritious products. Flavors from Columbia, Ecuador and Panama are among some of the most popular in today’s market.

Fruit and fruit flavors like mango, guava, papaya, pineapple, lychee, passionfruit, pomegranate and prickly pear are used in a wide range of formulations, from confections, bakery products, savory toppings, desserts, teas, still drinks, carbonated drinks and cocktail mixes.

Coming Out of the Desert:

Unlike the pears most of us grew up with, prickly pears closely resemble cactus plants. Grown primarily in dry regions, such as Mexico and the Southwest United States and Mexico, the prickly pear has a husk covered in small, hair-like thorns over a fruit pulp that comes in a variety of colors: ruby red, golden yellow and emerald green.

Prickly pear can be enjoyed fresh or prepared in a variety of products, including alcoholic drinks, fruit juices, smoothies, jellies, syrups, baked goods and dairy products, High in fiber, rich in antioxidants and an excellent source of magnesium, prickly pear may have implications for preventing or improving health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer.

The Coconut Craze:

Coconut, traditionally linked with indulgent desserts and candy bars, is moving beyond traditional associations and providing a source for ingredients other than coconut milk. One such ingredient, coconut water, pairs well with exotic fruits but also offers a number of nutritional properties on its own, as a natural source of hydration, potassium and magnesium.

For fruit lovers who want something light to sip, coconut water blends with fruit juices such as orange, pomegranate, pineapple, berry, guava and passion fruit for a refreshing and rejuvenating coconut beverage. As consumers clamor for more coconut water options, product developers look to even more exotic formulations, like lychee, passion fruit and acai, to create new water flavors and even frozen desserts.

Read the full Food Technology article:

About IFT

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is a nonprofit scientific society. Our individual members are professionals engaged in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. IFT's mission is to advance the science of food, and our long-range vision is to ensure a safe and abundant food supply, contributing to healthier people everywhere.

For more than 70 years, the IFT has been unlocking the potential of the food science community by creating a dynamic global forum where members from more than 100 countries can share, learn, and grow. We champion the use of sound science across the food value chain through the exchange of knowledge, by providing education, and by furthering the advancement of the profession. IFT has offices in Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit