Sandy Almendarez, VP of Content

June 12, 2012

21 Min Read
A Berry Affair

Compared to other fruits, berries are quite small, but pound for pound, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries pack way more nutrition than their larger watermelon, apple and orange counterparts. Berries contain numerous vitamins, flavonoids, polyphenols and anthocyanins as well as other antioxidants and phytochemicals known to benefit human health. All that, and the little guys are pretty tasty with beautiful coloring, making them a great choice for beverage and food fortification. And the science behind their benefits also lends them great credence for supplements.

Consumers are clear on the message that antioxidants help halt disease, even if they aren't so savvy on how a specific component of a berry helps health. Although with recent media messagingtake Dr. Oz's April 2012 mention of raspberry ketonesconsumers are even starting to understand the benefits of one berry compared to other nutrition sources.

"Berries have had great PR over the last 10 years with loads of studies and research, and product manufacturers are reacting to the potential health benefits of berries by creating newer and more innovative product offerings," said Marina Linsley, marketing director, NP Nutra. "More research highlights the age-protective benefits of berries, particularly in the area of cognitive function, inflammation, vascular health and blood sugar support."

FTC Cracks Down on Açai Marketing

However, the press hasn't all been good for berry manufacturers in the last year. In particular, several açai (Euterpe oleracea) marketers tainted the superfruit market with deceptive practices, which led to an FTC settlement in January 2012. Six online açai marketers agreed to settle with FTC over charges of deceptive advertising using fake news sites. The settlements permanently halted the fake news websites and required the six companies to clearly inform consumers when marketing is an advertisement and not legitimate news. The marketers also agreed to collectively pay roughly $500,000 to FTC as a penalty for breaking the law. This represents the amount of commission these marketers made for employing the deceptive advertisements.

While Linsley noted the açai industry may see some short-term decline, she said this case is a positive step that will ultimately strengthen the supplement and natural products industry. "From our perspective, FTCs crackdown on açai marketers has helped to increase consumer confidence in the industry, so were very pleased to see FTC finally taking action."

Nichole De Block, marketing director, Nutraceuticals International Group, noted FTC was right to charge the açai marketers."This was a case of companies pulling fraud on the mass market," she said. "They faked reports from bogus companies that didnt exist. It was an outright scam. The only effect it has on the market is positiveweeding out the companies that dont belong."

Perhaps what was negative for the açai market may be a boon for other berries, suggested by Thomas Payne, industry consultant for the U. S. Highbush Blueberry Council. He said consumers may becoming weary of conflicting health claims, new ingredients without valid evidence and safety concerns of exotic food. "Thats where blueberries come in," he said. "People trust blueberries; they trust what they grew up with."

While the specific açai case looked at marketing news sites and not on specific health claims per se, governments (and class action lawyers) have been more vigilant about what marketers can and can't say about their products. Manufacturers of all-natural products need to be sure their claims don't promote products as curing, preventing, treating or mitigating diseases, and the claims they do make need to be backed by scientific evidence.

Testing Methods

While numerous studies have shown the science backing berry bioavailability and health benefits, many in the industry still would like to see better testing methods for berry components. This way, manufacturers and consumers could be better aware of what actually is in end products and what health benefits one could expect to receive. Accurate testing methods of berry content could also help establish better dosage guidelines for consumers and help monitor shelf life. Plus, standardized tests could help further berry research and allow for an accurate comparison and communication of berry components.

Chris DiLorenzo, president, Pocantico Resources, said no current test methods are adequate to determine the healthy benefits of berries. "We rarely guarantee ORAC or antioxidant levels, and if we do, it is well below what the actual value is," he said. "We prefer people use and eat our products based on their intrinsic goodness rather than exaggerated claims."

Oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) is the most recognizable test for antioxidant activity. However, critics argue this method only shows antioxidant potential in vitro, which may not necessarily translate to in vivo benefits in humans. "Just increasing the ORAC value provides no guarantee of greater benefit," said Massood Moshrefi, Ph.D., vice president, operations and technical services, InterHealth Nutraceuticals. "Measuring the antioxidant activity in vitro is one thing, assessing if the antioxidant has activity inside the body is another."

Moshrefi noted the best tests measure a products effectiveness in promoting health, including the products bioavailability. "These studies are more expensive and time consuming, but reveal much more about the health benefits of a given antioxidant product."

ORAC and antioxidant levels may not be the best way to demonstrate a berry's benefit, but consumers know the term "antioxidant" and are likely to recognize ORAC value, so using these terms in marketing is a good idea. However, Paul Dijkstra, CEO, InterHealth Nutraceuticals, said consumers want to know that antioxidant claims are backed by bioavailability, efficacy and safety research. "An ingredient that is marketed as a 'powerful antioxidant' will be too vague and will get lost among the many other 'powerful antioxidants' on the market," he said. "Antioxidants are more effectively marketed when positioned for a particular use, which requires scientific substantiation and a focused marketing message. We often see blueberry or pomegranate marketed as antioxidants that support heart health, or bilberry or zinc as antioxidants that support eye health."

Berry benefits don't stop at antioxidant levels and, thus, testing methods beyond ORAC can show how much of a valuable component is in a specific ingredient or product. For example, Cal Bewicke, president, Ethical Naturals Inc., said European Pharmacopeia's high-performance liquid chromatography (EP-HPLC) is the best method for testing anthocyanins. "It is reliable, accurate and a good industry standard," he said.

Jeremy Bartos, senior product development manager, ChromaDex, said HPLC offers the anthocyanin information a company needs to determine plant source and purity. "A spider plot on the anthocyanins can determine if a berry extract is bilberry, blueberry, raspberry, etc., which is key for label claims," he said.

Chris Holland, vice president of sales and marketing, BGG North America Inc., added HPLC is a good measure for bilberries. "For bilberry extract, in particular, you need to compare your product versus the full HPLC 'fingerprint' to ensure you are formulating with and using authentic bilberry extract." He added that some manufacturers do not take this necessary step to cut costs, which he feels is a mistake. 

Industry is still working on developing reliable methods for detection of proanthocyanidins (PACs), Bewicke said, because not having a solid testing method causes confusion, especially for cranberry products. Christina Khoo, senior manager, research sciences, Ocean Spray, agreed, noting research has shown the A-type PACs in cranberries aid urinary tract health, but manufacturers must be able to measure the PAC content to establish efficacy guidelines for consumers and regulators. "There are several methods for measuring PACs, including gravimetric, colorimetric and HPLC methods," she said, but none are as precise as desired.

The colorimetric methods currently used by the industry can deliver vastly different results, according to Ocean Spray. And the procyanidin A2 (dimer) standard that is used, the 4-dimethylaminocinnamaldehyde (DMAC) method, is disparaged by critics who say this testing method may not be able to accurately identify the unique A-type PACs found in cranberries. The recently introduced DMAC method provides an accurate quantification of PAC content based on the use of the procyanidin A2 standard, which is a dimer (chain length of two), but can lead to an underestimation of PAC content in products that are enriched in PACs of different sizes and lengths. Variations in processing techniques for cranberry products can lead to significant differences in PAC composition, according to Ocean Spray.

To help solve this issue in December 2011, Ocean Spray and Complete Phytochemical Solutions LLC announced they are working to create a cranberry-specific PAC standard to improve the accuracy of measuring and quantifying PACs in cranberries. Ocean Spray and Complete Phytochemical Solutions hope to make the cranberry PAC standard developed in this collaboration commercially available to the cranberry industry, academic institutes and contract research organizations worldwide

Since DMAC is now considered to be the industry standard method, we are committed to improving its accuracy for all cranberry products by developing a more robust, commercially available cranberry PAC standard," said Amy Howell, associate research scientist at Rutgers University and member of the project team. "We anticipate this new methodology will provide more confidence for suppliers, consumers and regulatory agencies in the assessment of PAC content, which will have a significant impact on the cranberry industry."

Linsley said NP Nutra's berry ingredients are tested under a number of different assays, including authentication testing using thin-layer chromatography (TLC), pesticide residue testing, inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP/MS) testing for heavy metals (ensuring products are in compliance with California's Proposition 65), USP 2021 and USP 2022 microbial enumeration tests to ensure the product is free of impurities and microbial contamination, ICP/MS AOAC analysis to ensure the product is free of heavy metals and other impurities, quantitative assay IT2-026 tests for active ingredient, and further organoleptic and visual verification. Then, Linsley said NP Nutra uses third-party labs to guarantee in-house accuracy.

De Block noted Nutraceuticals International Group tests include physiochemical, macroscopic analysis and chromatographic fingerprinting through the TLC, HPLC, ultraviolet (UV), fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), gravimetry and titration protocols. Bewicke said Ethical Naturals uses UV-folin-ciocalteau to quantify polyphenol levels and also tests for pesticides.

Third-party seals may also help assure consumers that products have been tested. For instance, Payne explained the Real Blueberry Seal helps buyersfrom the ordinary consumer to food professionalsidentify real blueberry products. "Products must contain real highbush blueberries in any form and use an adequate amount of blueberries as standard in a certain product category," He said. "With heightened consumer awareness of health benefits of blueberries in the news (anthocyanins, ORAC measures, anti-aging reports, etc.), the Real Blueberry Seal program ensures the blueberries are the real deal."


Testing is just one aspect of berry formulation, which starts long before products get to a lab. First, the environment where berries are grown should be clean in terms of air, water and soil, according to Linsley. Additionally, she said NP Nutra's seeds must be free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). "We want to make sure we are producing the purest, most potent and freshest ingredients we possibly can. For this reason, we contract processing plants as close as possible to the growing areas so fruits can be taken fresh from harvest and processed as quickly as possible." From there, she said the company prefers to freeze dry its ingredients to maintain the flavor, color and nutrient profile.

"Overall quality and consistency of raw material is essential," DiLorenzo said. "Then, you must handle the berries as carefully as possible to maintain their qualities through production. Lastly, final packaging is essential to maintaining their quality."

Once the product gets to the manufacturing facility, a manufacturer needs to make sure the facility is cGMP (current good manufacturing practice) compliant to ensure products stay safe and traceable. It also helps ensure production won't be halted due to an unanticipated FDA inspection (if products are being sold in the United States).

Berries can be formulated into different delivery forms, each one offering benefits for particular finished products. "Different berry products provide different health benefits at different dosages, so during formulation, it is important that the right berry product is used for a specific function at the effective dosage based on available literature data or clinical trials," Bewicke explained.

DiLorenzo noted whole berries are great, but they are fragile; he said it is usually better to freeze dry them for processing. "Extracts can give a formulator a concentrated component of a fruit, but the processing alters the inherent nutritional content," he said. "Fruit in its natural state, either fresh or freeze dried, is really is best since it retains all the beneficial vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and flavor that an extract does not have."

When formulating tablets and capsules, using extracts makes the most sense to De Block because they offer the maximum potency per milligram, while freeze-dried powders and liquid concentrates work better for beverages and smoothies because they retain antioxidant activity and a high nutrient content.

Extracts are good when a manufacturer needs a precise amount of a certain active ingredient for marketing claims, Linsley said. Still, she added, powdered berry products have their advantages as they are versatile, easy to transport and store, and often maintain the nutrient profile of the original fruit. "We're very proud of our freeze-drying technology that enables us to preserve the color, flavor, enzymes and nutrients, yet produces a powder that has many versatile uses, is easily transportable, has a long shelf life without preservatives, and can either be instantly rehydrated or used in formulas where the liquid content needs to be strictly controlled," she said.

Stephanie Weil, product manager, marketing, WILD Flavors Inc., said juice concentrates are common in beverages. "Juices are easy to source, maintain fruit flavor characteristics and typically are the easiest to use in manufacturing as powders can be insoluble."

And while berries are known for their great taste, Khoo pointed out high-polyphenol foods often possess a naturally astringent taste. "When developed carefully, this can form the base of a pleasant, tart taste profile. With inadequate product development skills and sensory testing methods, however, polyphenol-rich foods can taste bitter and deter consumers."

Finished Formats

Finished products with berry ingredients usually must taste good if they expect longevity in the marketplace. With beverages and food items, this is a must, and supplements at least need to be taste neutral.

Tablets, capsules and ready-to-mix powders seem to be the more popular delivery forms for berry supplements. Holland noted almost all of BGG's berry extracts are formulated into capsules. "They are too bitter for beverages or foods, and are too pigmented for creams," he said adding, "Bilberry extract 25 percent is the most common bilberry extract used in dietary supplements. The fruit-to-extract ratio for this product is 100:1, so it allows formulators to pack the anthocyanidins from a bucket of bilberry fruit into a single capsule."

DiLorenzo said berry ingredients are popular in powdered drinks and are good in effervescent vitamin blends to add flavor and color. In the beverage arena, Paula Morrison, director, beverage applications, WILD Flavors Inc., commented, "Most recently, we are seeing berry juice and extracts incorporated into energy drinks and shots."

Mixing food and beverages, Dijkstra said yogurt drinks with a dash of berries are popular with consumers as a way to incorporate ingredients that improve healthparticularly digestive healthinto their daily lives. "Antioxidant waters and fruit juices may prove popular choices for people interested in supporting their skin health through functional beverages as consumers associate antioxidants with good health."

When it comes to berry food products, the sky's the limit. "Cranberry ingredients can be used in a broad range of applications, from health supplements and mouthwash to muffins, cheeses and savory meals," Khoo said, adding, "Cranberry ingredients are used across the globe in a wide range of applications and some of the more unusual combinations include Italian-inspired cranberry paninis and panna cotta and Asian-styled cranberry wontons with cranberry jalapeno dipping sauce."

DiLorenzo reported freeze-dried berries as well as all fruits have exploded on the snack market. "At the Natural Products [Expo West] show, there were at least 15 companies that had freeze-dried fruits as ready-to-eat snacks. Why not? Completely shelf stable, portable and a great snack that you can take anywhere." He added berries also work well in bakery products such as muffins and cereal bars.

Payne also cited blueberry's addition to bakery including breads, pastries, cupcakes, cookies and bagels. "Some of the more interesting examples of blueberry use include an ice cream cone with real blueberry bits; blueberry salsas and sauces paired with nontraditional seasonings like tarragon and cider vinegar; blueberry barbecue sauce; a pancake mix with dried blueberries; and a traditional candy with a very modern blueberry twist, Blueberry Wagashi from Japan."

A developing area for berry ingredients is the cosmeceutical market, or beauty-from-within products. "Nutricosmetics are entering the marketplace through a variety of nutraceuticals, beverages and functional foods that purport to beautify the body from within," Payne said. "According to this trend for 'eating beauty,' foods and veggies are marketed as beauty enhancers. They generally contain antioxidants, fruit extracts, sport a superfruit halo and promulgate natural approaches to nourishing skin and general wellness. Thanks to all the good news about antioxidants and health benefits, blueberries have a place at the forefront of such product development."

Being at the forefront of development is right where berries want to be. Add that to the long history of use, established and emerging research and a safe, comforting profile, and the berry future is bound to be bountiful.

Berry Benefits

Berries offer a long history of anecdotal evidence that shows their benefits, but science is catching up, offering credible research on specific health needs.


Study Type


Various edible berries

USDA-ARS review of clinical research

Neurological benefits and antioxidant effects1

Wild blueberry juice

Preliminary in vivo study in nine older adults with early memory changes

12 weeks of consumption improved learning and word list recall, and reduced depression and glucose levels2

2-percent blueberry extract

NIH study on male rats undergoing oxidative stress

Protected against neurodegeneration and cognitive impairment3

2-percent blueberry or strawberry extracts

USDA study on male rats undergoing oxidative stress

Protected against performance and spatial deficits in a maze test4

Lyophilized extract of blueberries (Vaccinium ashei)

30-day Brazilian study on mice

Improved memory tasks and protected against DNA damage5

Blueberries as 1, 2 and 4 percent of total diet

Pigs fed high level of plant-based components

Decreased total, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol6

Blueberries and pomegranate juice

In vitro study on cells from rats with colon cancer polyps

Reduced polyps better than blackberries, plums, mangoes, watermelon juice and cranberry juice7

Blueberry anthocyanins

In vitro

Increased apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells8

Pterostilbene, a stilbene from blueberries

In vitro study on cells from male rats with cancer

Suppressed polyp formation and cancer cells9

Proanthocyanins (PACs) from cranberries

In vitro on urinary tract cells

Elicited in vitro anti-adhesion activity at 60 microg/ml10

Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.)

juice cocktail

In vitro on urinary tract cells

Decreased E. coli adhesion11

PACs-standardized cranberry powder (as Urell® from Pharmatoka)

In vivo via urine samples

72 mg/d protected against E. coli12

Low-calorie cranberry juice cocktail

Obese men consuming for four weeks

Increased HDL cholesterol13

Cranberry juice

Boston University uncontrolled pilot study

Reduced arterial stiffness14

Blackberry (Rubus sp.) phenolic compounds


Protected against age-related neurodegenerative diseases and bone loss in vivo, and inhibited LDL in vitro15

Ethanolic extracts of longan (Euphoria longana) seed

Scopolamine-treated mice that showed learning and memory deficits

Oral administrations of 1,000 mg/kg improved ability to find platform in maze test16

Longan seed extract

In vitro Bangkok study

Three polyphenolics (corilagin, gallic acid and ellagic acid) are the major contributors of the high antioxidant activity17

Extract of litchi fruit pericarp phenolics

Chinese in vitro study

Inhibited free radical damage18

Standardized, proprietary blend of wild blueberry extract, strawberry powder, cranberry powder, wild bilberry extract, elderberry extract and raspberry seed powder (as OptiBerry from InterHealth Nutraceuticals)

Review conducted by InterHealth Research Center

Anthocyanins improved neuronal and cognitive brain functions, ocular health as well as protect genomic DNA integrity19


In vitro cell assay and eight-week administration to vitamin E-deficient Sprague Dawley rats

Exhibited high ORAC value, low cytotoxicity and superior anti-angiogenic properties compared to other berry combinations, and prevented free radical damage in the lung and liver of the rats20

References listed on the next page.

References for "A Berry Affair" by Sandy Almendarez

1.       Miller MG, Shukitt-Hale B. "Berry Fruit Enhances Beneficial Signaling in the Brain." J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Feb 3.

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

3.       Duffy KB et al. "A blueberry-enriched diet provides cellular protection against oxidative stress and reduces a kainate-induced learning impairment in rats." Neurobiol Aging. 2008 Nov;29(11):1680-9.

4.       Shukitt-Hale B et al. " Beneficial effects of fruit extracts on neuronal function and behavior in a rodent model of accelerated aging." Neurobiol Aging. 2007 Aug;28(8):1187-94.

5.       Barros D et al. "Behavioral and genoprotective effects of Vaccinium berries intake in mice." Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2006 Jun;84(2):229-34.

6.       Kalt W et al. "Effect of blueberry feeding on plasma lipids in pigs." Br J Nutr. 2008 Jul;100(1):70-8.

7.       Boateng J et al. "Selected fruits reduce azoxymethane (AOM)-induced aberrant crypt foci (ACF) in Fisher 344 male rats." Food Chem Toxicol. 2007 May;45(5):725-32.

8.       Srivastava A et al. "Effect of anthocyanin fractions from selected cultivars of Georgia-grown blueberries on apoptosis and phase II enzymes." J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Apr 18;55(8):3180-5

9.       Suh N et al. " Pterostilbene, an active constituent of blueberries, suppresses aberrant crypt foci formation in the azoxymethane-induced colon carcinogenesis model in rats." Clin Cancer Res. 2007 Jan 1;13(1):350-5.

10.   Howell AB et al. "A-type cranberry proanthocyanidins and uropathogenic bacterial anti-adhesion activity."  Phytochemistry. 2005 Sep;66(18):2281-91.

11.   Liu Y et al. "Direct adhesion force measurements between E. coli and human uroepithelial cells in cranberry juice cocktail." Mol Nutr Food Res. 2010 Dec;54(12):1744-52. DOI: 10.1002/mnfr.200900535.

12.   Howell AB et al. "Dosage effect on uropathogenic Escherichia coli anti-adhesion activity in urine following consumption of cranberry powder standardized for proanthocyanidin content: a multicentric randomized double blind study." BMC Infect Dis. 2010 Apr 14;10:94.

13.   Ruel G et al. " Favourable impact of low-calorie cranberry juice consumption on plasma HDL-cholesterol concentrations in men." Br J Nutr. 2006 Aug;96(2):357-64.

14.   Dohadwala MM et al. "Effects of cranberry juice consumption on vascular function in patients with coronary artery disease." Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 May;93(5):934-40.

15.   Kaume L, Howard LR, Devareddy L. "The Blackberry Fruit: A Review on Its Composition and Chemistry, Metabolism and Bioavailability, and Health Benefits." J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Dec 8.

16.   Losuwannarak, N et al. " Effects of longan seed extract on scopolamine-induced learning and memory deficit in mice." Thai J. Pharm. Sci. 33 (2009) 31-38 31

17.   Rangkadilok N et al. " Evaluation of free radical scavenging and antityrosinase activities of standardized longan fruit extract." Food Chem Toxicol. 2007 Feb;45(2):328-36.

18.   Duan X, Wu G, Jiang Y. "Evaluation of the antioxidant properties of litchi fruit phenolics in relation to pericarp browning prevention." Molecules. 2007 Apr 11;12(4):759-71.

19.   Zafra-Stone S et at. " Berry anthocyanins as novel antioxidants in human health and disease prevention." Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 Jun;51(6):675-83.

20.   Bagchi D et al. " Safety and whole-body antioxidant potential of a novel anthocyanin-rich formulation of edible berries." Mol Cell Biochem. 2006 Jan;281(1-2):197-209.

About the Author(s)

Sandy Almendarez

VP of Content, Informa


• Well-known subject matter expert within the health & nutrition industry with more than 15 years’ experience reporting on natural products.

• She cares a lot about how healthy products are made, where their ingredients are sourced and how they affect human health.

• She knows that it’s the people behind the businesses — their motivations, feelings and emotions — drive industry growth, so that’s where she looks for content opportunities.

Sandy Almendarez is VP of Content for SupplySide and an award-winning journalist. She oversees the editorial and content marketing teams for the B2B media brands Natural Products Insider and Food and Beverage Insider, the education programming for the health and nutrition trade shows SupplySide East and SupplySide West, and community engagement across the SupplySide portfolio. She is a seasoned content strategist with a passion for health, good nutrition, sustainability and inclusion. With over 15 years of experience in the health and nutrition industry, Sandy brings a wealth of knowledge to her role as a content-focused business leader. With specialization in topics ranging from product development to content engagement, creative marketing and c-suite decision making, her work is known for its engaging style and its relevance for business leaders in the health and nutrition industry.

In her free time, Sandy loves running, drinking hot tea and watching her two kids grow up. She brews her own “Sandbucha” homemade kombucha; she’s happy to share if you’re ever in Phoenix!


Speaker credentials

Resides in

  • Phoenix, AZ


  • Arizona State University


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