Tropical Fruit Benefits You Should Know About  

By: iTi Innovation

Tropical Fruits Heating up the Beverage Scene 

Exotic Fruit 

Consumers are increasingly seeking out beverages that are functional, provide specific health benefits and taste great.  The rise of functional beverages has driven an increase in the popularity of utilizing fruit juices for their natural health benefits and flavor. As a result of this, we are seeing a positive push towards utilization of more domestic and exotic fruits for their functional properties. We are also seeing that sugar consumption (added sugars vs. naturally occurring sugars) and low caloric intake are another large part of the health consciousness trend. As more informed consumers seek new functional ingredients, exotic and tropical fruit ingredients are rising in popularity and familiarity. The evolution of the market is being driven not only by curious consumers but by creative formulation teams leveraging significant advances to create better-tasting, better-for-you beverages.   

Exotic fruits such as coconut water, acerola, acai, guava, dragon fruit, and passion fruit all contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health and wellness.  When paired with other fruits, there are endless flavor combinations that can be made. Health shots are a great example of this. Many of the health shots combine a number of different functional ingredients to create a beverage that targets specific wellness goals such as immunity. 

Leveraging Benefits Exotic Fruits 

Exotic fruits are more widely used in beverages now to: add vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, increase the juice content of the beverage, reduce the added sugar content, and potentially reduce the caloric load. The end goal is to ultimately make a beverage that not only tastes good, but also nourishes the body. A few exotic fruits that are essential to creating a nutritious and delicious beverage include: 

Acerola puree and juice concentrate is one of the most unique exotic fruits that is used in the industry lately.  It is high in ascorbic acid, resulting in a tart flavor profile, which can sometimes be difficult to overcome.  On the contrary, beverage-makers need a very trivial amount to achieve the RDI for Vitamin C. With that being said, it ultimately only contributes a slight acidic note to beverages. Acerola enhances beverages with light to medium red/orange hue, depending upon what else is in the beverage.   

Acai, a known superfruit, has many unique, defining functional properties. Acai has naturally occurring antioxidants and anthocyanins that can help support immune health. The overall fatty acid profile of acai is similar to that of olive oil with omega fatty acids 3, 6, and 9.   

Coconut water has continued clout in the industry because of its naturally occurring electrolytes, vitamins and minerals, low caloric load, and its incredible versatility.  Coconut water blends well with many flavors because it is translucent, light color and subtle flavor.  High levels of coconut water contribute juice content, low sugar levels, and low flavor impact, which make blending it with other juices very practical and useful. 100% juice blends can be made at lower sugar/caloric levels with coconut water and many other named fruits, i.e.. grape, apple, orange, etc. 

Utilizing Domestic and Exotic Fruit Flavors in Beverages 

Beverage makers are incorporating domestic and exotic fruits in their formulations in a variety of different ways, depending upon the application. Applications may include flavor blends, single flavors, natural colorants, and as a general ingredient for various reasons. Domestic and exotic fruits will continue to shine in functional beverages, low-calorie beverages, and low-sugar beverages.  Fruits such as acerola and coconut water may continue to see an increase in the beverage industry because of their functionality.   

We see a lot of beverage-makers using dragon fruit as a natural colorant for beverages because dragon fruit is so highly pigmented and vibrant.  Dragon fruit removes the need for any artificial dyes and/or colors.   

It is really dependent on what type of application a company is working on to determine what role a fruit will play in the beverage.  If the beverage is a cocktail, the fruit is probably not the main ingredient, but it is blended with other fruits and spirits. If the application is more of a juice beverage, then the fruit is most likely the star of the show.  The exciting thing about the beverage industry is that domestic and exotic fruits can be used in many different ways. 

Functional Properties Bring Endless Possibilities 

The benefits of using exotic fruits in beverage formulations are really endless.  To name a few, exotic fruits offer unique and exotic flavor profiles, vibrant and natural colors, natural health benefits, etc. 

Passion fruit is one of our favorite exotics fruits when it comes to its unique and exotic flavor profile. Passion fruit delivers intense flavor that is naturally tart, sweet, and pleasantly aromatic.  The juice is highly concentrated; a little goes a long way with abundant top notes and tropical emphasis. Passion fruits strong, pleasant flavor has the unique ability to mask off–flavors from high nutrient-value ingredients that may not taste great on their own. 

When it comes to vibrant and natural colors, exotic fruits such as pink guava and red dragon fruit are a great addition to beverages.  Pink guava offers a light to medium pink hue while red dragon fruit offers a bright, vibrant magenta hue. 

Acerola is an exotic fruit that is often used as a component in a beverage because of the vitamin C content.  This fruit is often used at low levels to provide color and vitamin C.  Coconut water on the other hand, is often used at much higher levels, as either the main flavor or a secondary flavor in a blend.