Fruits, vegetables, spices and seeds have had their places at the head table in the never-ending quest for the next big thing" in superstar plant-based ingredients. One by one, the market has cycled through various superfruits like acai and goji berries, super vegetables like kale, super spices like ginger, and even super seeds like chia. With super" fatigue beginning to set in, the timing may be right for a somewhat more traditional super" plantaloe vera.
Hardly a new kid on the block, aloe vera has been renowned for its health properties for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians referred to aloe vera as the plant of immortality" and used it for its healing and medicinal properties, while ancient Greeks regarded it as a common solution to myriad medical issues. It is doubtful ancient populations were aware of the specific components of aloe vera responsible for its health benefits, but ancient cultures were on the right track.
It turns out aloe vera is a veritable chemical factory disguised as a cactus-like plant able to eke out a living in hot and arid conditions that many other plants cannot tolerate. The plant itself contains more than 200 compounds that can help the body, including vitamins (A, B, C and E), enzymes, plant sterols, fatty acids, amino acids and minerals. On the mineral front, aloe vera contains calcium, magnesium, zinc, chromium, selenium and more.
Most consumers in Western countries associate aloe vera with topical skin care, especially sunburn relief. And that is where the majority of aloe veras new product introductions come from. According to Datamonitor Consumers Product Launch Analytics database of new products, aloe vera has appeared in more than 50 different product categories globally since 2012. Soap, facial care, and bath and shower products rank as the top three categories using aloe vera for new products. Non-food categories actually dominate the list, grabbing 18 of the top 20 product categories using aloe vera as an ingredient. Juices and functional drinks were the only two food categories to crack the top 20.
Aloes reputation as a skin-soothing ingredient has enabled it to move into areas adjacent to its usual haunts in skin care and sun care. Green People 100% Natural Toothpaste, a UK import that was launched in the United States in 2013, uses aloe vera to soothe tender gums. Intimina Feminine Moisturizer, also new in the United States, is an intimate moisturizer" featuring a water-based lubricant enriched with soothing aloe vera to alleviate vaginal dryness. Personal care innovation aside, the new product moves attracting the most amount of attention for aloe vera are in beverages where aloe vera is beginning to look like a successor to coconut water.
Aloe vera-based drinks may be novel to many Americans, but have been around for some time in markets such as Asia as well as South and Central America. In these markets, the practice of drinking a textured beverage (as aloe vera drinks typically contain pulp" that can have something of a slimy, chewy texture) is nothing out of the ordinary. But to many American consumers, the practice of drinking a health beverage with little bits of pulp in it is off-putting. Since nothing else on the American beverage scene offers a similar pulpy experience, aloe vera drinks with pulp can be at a disadvantage.
American consumers are likely to ask What are the bits in it? when drinking an aloe vera beverage with pulp," noted Louis Grayson of Ontario, CA-based Eastland Food Corp. Eastland markets its TropiKing Aloe Vera Juice Drink toward Hispanic consumers who are already familiar with the concept of aloe vera drinks, as well as health-conscious types schooled on aloe vera. As for the rest of consumers, Grayson noted you have to direct sampling to drive interest" in aloe vera beverages.
Also citing the need for product sampling is Avihn Schumacher of A & T Marketers, a company that sells Oka Aloe, a six-item line of aloe vera beverages in flavors such as apple, pineapple, strawberry and mango that is said to be high in vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Schumacher stated, once people try it, they like it," adding aloe vera drinks are starting to become a fashion item."
One brand that attempted to take aloe vera in more of a mainstream direction is Aloe Gloe, a Natural Aloe Water" offering digestive, immune and skin health benefits. Interestingly, only one of the three original Aloe Gloe flavors contained pulp. Other ways to move aloe in a more mainstream direction include blending the familiar with the unknown, as with TEAloe Green Tea & Aloe Beverage from Aventura, FL-based TEAloe LLC. Blending brewed green tea and juicy aloe bits, the drink comes in flavors such as Passion Fruit, Peach and Mint. A sign of things to come may be new Tropical Aloe Yogurt Aloe Vera Juice & Yogurt Drink, a new entry offered in Taiwan that is made from fresh aloe vera and fresh yogurt.
The aloe vera and yogurt connection is one to watch, as markets outside of the United States seem to be embracing the healthful duo. In Switzerland, Emmi Schweiz AG recently introduced Emmi Good Day Yogurt in an Aloe Vera Mango flavor. And in the Czech Republic, Danone Activia Aloe Vera is a new yogurt flavor that prominently features green-colored aloe vera chunks. Perhaps the yogurt category will be the next food category to embrace the natural goodness of aloe vera.
Tom Vierhile is the Innovation Insights Director for Datamonitor Consumer. Follow him on Twitter at @TomVierhile.