Sponsored By
Steve Myers

June 3, 2010

12 Min Read
Berries in Bloom

These days, berries are ripe for the picking, as the love affair with these colorful little treats has moved beyond simple picked-fruit consumption and into a variety of products from foods to beverages, and even supplements. Aesthetic and flavor appeal has always been there, but an increasing crop of research results suggesting powerful health benefits for various berries and berry-base ingredients is driving new applications for these wonderful little fruits.

After taste and visual appeal, antioxidant content is a huge driver for berry products. Consumers seem to understand the importance of dark-pigmented fruits and berries abundance in antioxidants, polyphenols and flavonoids, said Matt Phillips, president of Cyvex Nutrition. The recent Welchs and Ocean Spray TV campaigns seek to educate general consumers on these benefits, with similar messaging included on an increasing number of products available at mass-market grocers.

Among the flavonoids in berries is a group of compounds called anthocyanins, which provide the fruits with their vibrant, rich blue, red or purple colors. Dimitri Papadimitriou, Ph.D., Arevno Consulting, who has conducted and reviewed research on various berries, noted anthocyanins may work on their own or synergistically with other flavonoids and phytochemicals to address oxidative factors throughout the body. This includes oxidation in the brain, eyes and cardiovascular system, in addition to targeting general oxidative stress.

One of the first berries that come to mind is the blueberrythe longtime baked goods and breakfast food staple. Tom Payne, industry specialist for the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council confirmed antioxidant content is the main driver in the blueberry market, according to results of the councils consumer research in four regions of the country showing consumers identify blueberries with antioxidants and believe blueberries to be healthy. They see blueberries on virtually every list of superfruits, he noted. This is an advantage for food designers when they add blueberries to their products and/or feature them on labels.

There are about 16 species of blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium), and their benefits are similarly numerous. Blueberry anthocyanins are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and they have been credited with protecting neuronal1 and brain function, and memory;2 as well as improving glucose control.3

Grapes, technically berries, also address glucose-related conditions, including metabolic syndrome factors, but this berry is well-known for cardiovascular health benefits, such as blood pressure and inflammation.4

Other berries affect some of these factors as well. Chokeberries appear to improve blood sugar control and insulin function,5 not to mention positive results on obesity and potentially protective actions on cancer, gastric disease and pancreatitis.6 The Brazilian-based açaí berry has also addressed blood sugar and insulin levels, in addition to lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and total cholesterol, among the several factors associated with an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke.7,8 Bilberry has inflammation as its target, namely uveitis (ocular inflammation).9  It also protects the eyes from oxidative problems by raising levels of various antioxidants, including vitamin C and superoxide dismutase (SOD).10 Still other berries, especially exotic varieties such as goji and maqui berries, have garnered attention for antioxidant content and actions.11,12

Tiffany Kiro, Thion Global, said macqui had one of the highest ORAC values (measure of antioxidant status in test tube) among superfruits. "It has very high delphinidin content in its anthocyanin composition, which is one of the strongest active compounds," she noted.

However, a handful of berries have been touted for beneficial effects on the immune system. With an abundance of antioxidant anthocyanins such as quercetin, cranberries have shown promise in CVD, cancer and immune health.13,14,15 Proanthocyanidin content has been the focus of much work on the anti-adhesion capability of cranberriesmostly juice, but also powder and wholewhich inhibits bacteria and other pathogens from sticking to certain wall cells, especially in urinary tract infections (UTIs).16,17  Elderberries also contain quercetin, although its the berrys lectin content that has been credited for antiviral actions.18 Elderberry is also promising in the battle against the flu, inhibiting the replication of viral strains and helping to speed recovery from the illness.19,20

This glancing overview of research on health benefits is the basis for increased consumer demand for berry ingredients, dependent only on the consistency of this information reaching consumer ears. With this educational ground work in place, consumers are increasingly educating themselves on the specific health benefits of individual berries, and also the benefit of combining different berries, Phillips said.

A number of multiple berry ingredients on the market combine the benefits of each individual berry into a superberry product able to offer formulators a range of possible mechanism of action to consider.

Phillips noted Cyvexs BerryVin combines antioxidant-rich berries including blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and cranberriesin a concentrated, high-ORAC formulation. Similarly, Paul Dijkstra, InterHealth USA, explained OptiBerry® a standardized, proprietary blend of extracts from well-researched fruits: wild blueberry, wild bilberry, cranberry, elderberry, raspberry and strawberry. Each berry offers different health benefits and complementary and overlapping mechanisms of action for whole body, he added.

Combining berries appears to have merit. Recently, a berry purée made of bilberries, blackcurrants, cranberries and strawberries was found to lower plasma glucose concentration when consumed with sugar.21 Similarly, adding berries to the diet appears to reduce inflammatory markers of non-alcoholic liver disease and decrease risk of metabolic disease, according to a study in slightly overweight women.22 The berries in the Finnish study include lingonberry, sea buckthorn, bilberry and black currants.


Field of Berries Products

Given the range of health benefits associated with various berries, as well as the universal appeal of many berry flavors and textures, these colorful fruits are featured in all sorts of products, from foods and beverages to supplements and personal care.

Drinks that are already associated with healthy living, such as dairy and fruit smoothies, should prove very successful, Dijkstra said. Yogurt drinks have already proved popular with consumers as a way to incorporate ingredients that improve healthparticularly digestive healthinto their lives.  In addition to preliminary research demonstrating OptiBerrys whole-body antioxidant properties, research suggests OptiBerry may support gastrointestinal (GI) health, and has been shown to inhibit Helicobacter pylori by 100 percentH. pylori has been associated with various GI disorders.

Beverages are also a target of macqui, cranberry and other berries. "Ready to drink products, energy powders, tablets and encapsulation and the characteristics are its deep purple color and neutral flavor making it very easy to work with," Kiro said. "We take our Organic Maqui 65 Brix and freeze dry it with a patented process to offer an organic maqui freeze dried juice powder that is 100-percent water soluble" She further noted maqui is a very neutral flavor, so formulations with other fruits that offer more flavor work well with the berry.  "It is very rich in color therefore any usage will move towards this rich purple color," she said.

Functional foods, beverages and personal care are growing due to a multi-tasking society looking to reap several health benefits out of existing daily practices (e.g. eating, drinking, washing), Phillips said. He noted Cyvexs roster of berry ingredients and blends are versatile, and its composures render them viable in pill forms and powders (such as in meal replacement shakes), as well as beverages.

Phillips further explained consumers increasingly understand the health benefits of antioxidants not only in promoting internal cellular health and protecting the immunity system, but also externally in promoting beauty and healthful aging. Because of this, we are seeing tremendous interest in a next generation of functional foods, beverages and anti-aging creams for face and body that feature the rich-antioxidant capabilities of berries, he said.

The U.S. Highbush Council tracks the use of blueberries in a variety of product types. Payne said, This year, food product developers are taking advantage of the quasi-mythical power of blueberries-as-imprimatur and are using blueberries to rev-up interest in offerings from beauty-from-within foods to health-halo desserts and snacks. On foods, he reported calcium enrichment from babies to Baby Boomers are inspiring blueberry-laced dairy concoctions. Cheese-and-blueberries is an au courant item, such as the blueberry bries from Alexis de Portneuf, he said. In Graeters Elenas Blueberry Pie ice cream, blueberries signify doing good for yourself, as well as for a good cause. According to the manufacturer, for every purchase, Graeters donates a portion of the proceeds to finding a cure for pediatric brain cancer. Some of the other delectables featuring blueberries of late include sorbet, ice bars, salad dressing, syrup and a cobbler for dogs.

Berries are also still a sought-after dietary supplement ingredient. Mosca said Cran-Max is suitable for tablets and capsules, in addition to certain beverage forms. It comes down to what the specific goal of that formula is, and the matrix used (beverage, powder supplement, capsule, nutrition bar, etc.), he explained. Each berry has a specific ORAC value, and many also pull double-duty, meaning its phytochemical composition may also have specific actions for support and nourishment of a system and/or organ. He also reminded, the research and development (R&D) department will need to do its due diligence to ensure the berry ingredient, when combined with other nutraceuticals and inert materials, will still perform unmolested and uninhibited in the final formula. What may work in theory and on paper, may not work in the final reality, he warned.

Fortunately for formulators and manufacturers, berries are not typically the problem children of the formulation. The characteristics of berry ingredients are normally easy to work with, Dijkstra assured, noting OptiBerry, for example, is generally stable during food and beverage heat-processing conditions. He did note berries shouldnt be exposed to UV light, which can destroy the anthocyanins. Also, for OptiBerry and similar whole-berry ingredients, the seeds may sink to the bottom of a beverage, making these type of ingredients better suited for yogurt drinks and smoothies. As for taste, the berry flavor and rich color can be blended into the overall finished-product profile. Dijkstra added the berry combination will not add calories or sugar to a finished product, which makes it attractive to manufacturers and consumers alike.

Another parameter to consider is the quality control (QC) of a berry ingredient. Phillips noted Cyvex tests all incoming raw materials, including third-party certification by independent labs for active ingredients, microbiology, heavy metals and pesticide solvent residue when applicable. Much of this quality assurance (QA) is now mandated by food or supplement GMPs (good manufacturing practices), although personal care does not have its own set of GMPs. Despite regulations, good manufacturers and formulators double-check that such QA measures are in place before using any of a suppliers ingredients.

Research, taste, flavor and a longtime love affair with berries is fueling the continued inclusion of berry ingredients into all sorts of products. Weighing the specific health benefits, flavor profile and application type desired, as well as learning all the different berry types and ingredients on the market will go a long way to ensuring your berry-containing finished product is among the cluster of successful launches.

References available on the next page...


"Berries in Bloom" References


1. Vuong T et al. Biotransformed blueberry juice protects neurons from hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidative stress and mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway alterations. Br J Nutr. ePub 12 May 2010;

2. Krikorian R et al. Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Apr 14;58(7):3996-4000.

3. Vuong T et al. Antiobesity and antidiabetic effects of biotransformed blueberry juice in KKAy mice. Intl J Obesity. 2009;

4. Seymour EM et al. Whole grape intake impacts cardiac peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor and nuclear factor kappaB activity and cytokine expression in rats with diastolic dysfunction. Hypertension. 2010 May;55(5):1179-85.

5. Qin B and Andersen R. Presented at Experimental Biology 2010 meeting, Anaheim, CA, April 25, 2010.

6. Matsumoto, M., et al. Gastroprotective effect of red pigments in black chokeberry fruit (Aronia melanocarpa Elliot) on acute gastric hemorrhagic lesions in rats. Journal of Agric. And Food Chem. 2004.

7. Oliveira de Souza M et al. Diet supplementation with acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) pulp improves biomarkers of oxidative stress and the serum lipid profile in rats. Nutrition. 2009 Dec 17

8. Udani, J. Medicus Research. Pilot tudy. Presented at the Scripps Clinic Health Center Natural Supplements Conference, Jan. 24, 2010. http://www.medicusresearch.com/news.html

9. Yao N et al. Protective Effects of Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) Extract against Endotoxin-Induced Uveitis in Mice. J. Agric. Food Chem., 2010, 58 (8), pp 47314736.

10. Kolosova NG et al. Long-term antioxidant supplementation attenuates oxidative stress markers and cognitive deficits in senescent-accelerated OXYS rats. Neurobiol Aging. 2006 Sep;27(9):1289-97.

11. Amagase H, Sun B, Borek C. Lycium barbarum (goji) juice improves in vivo antioxidant biomarkers in serum of healthy adults. Nutr Res. 2009;29(1):19-25.

12. Escribano-Bailon, M., et al. Anthocyanis in Berries of Maqui. Phytochem. Anal. 2006; 17, 8-14.

13. Ruel G., et al. Changes In Plasma Antioxidant Capacity And Oxidised Low-Density Lipoprotein Levels In Men After Short-Term Cranberry Juice Consumption. Metabolism 2005; 54:856-861.

14. Narayansingh R and Hurta R. Cranberry extract and quercetin modulate the expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and IB in human colon cancer cells. J Sci Food Agric. 2010;89(3):542-47.

15. Lipson S., et al. Antiviral Effects On Bacteriophages And Rotavirus By Cranberry Juice. Phytomedicine 2007; 14:23-30.

16. Stothers L. A Randomized Trial To Evaluate Effectiveness And Cost Effectiveness Of Naturopathic Cranberry Products As Prophylaxis Against Urinary Tract Infection In Women. Canadian Journal Of Urology 2002; 9:1558-1562.

17. McMurdo ME. et al. Cranberry or trimethoprim for the prevention of recurrent urinary tract infections? A randomized controlled trial in older women. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2009 Feb;63(2):389-95.

18. Roschek B et al. Elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro. ochemistry. 2009 Jul;70(10):1255-61.

19. Zakay-Rones Z et al. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40.

20. Zakay-Rones Z., et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucas nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J. Alt. Comp. Med. 1995; 1(4): 361-369.

21. Törrönen R et al. Berries modify the postprandial plasma glucose response to sucrose in healthy subjects. Br J Nutr. 2010 Apr;103(8):1094-7.

22. Lehtonen HM et al. Berry meals and risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jun;64(6):614-21.

About the Author(s)

Steve Myers

Senior Editor

Steve Myers is a graduate of the English program at Arizona State University. He first entered the natural products industry and Virgo Publishing in 1997, right out of college, but escaped the searing Arizona heat by relocating to the East Coast. He left Informa Markets in 2022, after a formidable career focused on financial, regulatory and quality control issues, in addition to writing stories ranging research results to manufacturing. In his final years with the company, he spearheaded the editorial direction of Natural Products Insider.

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