COVID-19 has heightened interest in health and wellness, prompting consumers to explore every corner of the globe for products that are purported to prevent or cure mental and physical woes.
The list of antioxidant citrus and “superfruits” keeps growing. At the same time, honey from unique parts of the world is gaining attention, while herbs and florals are appearing in everything from ice cream and yogurt to jams, snacks and baked goods.
“The pandemic has changed how customers shop,” asserts Paul McClean, chief merchandising officer at Stew Leonard’s, a Norwalk, Conn.-based Northeastern specialty chain. “They want great taste. They also want immunity-boosting foods. We’ve seen huge growth in mood-lifting citrus flavors, and spices packed with anti-inflammatory properties.”
Honey has long been used as both a food and a topical remedy. According to WebMD, honey protects against damage from bacteria. Honey’s anti-inflammatory properties also ease pain and inflammation.
Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco is credited with introducing Convita’s manuka honey to consumers. Produced in Australia and New Zealand, manuka is made by bees that pollinate the native leptospermum scoparium bush, or tea tree. Catherine Armstrong, brand ambassador, Melville, N.Y.-based Comax Flavors, describes it as “sweeter and thicker” than other honey varieties, with “some floral notes.” Adds Armstrong: “It’s used in many ways in New Zealand. Health foodies have been talking about it, particularly during COVID, on social media.”
Comax developed a manuka honey flavor that it showcases in a gummy bear. According to Armstrong, the flavor could work well in yogurt, cereal, ice cream or powdered drinks.
Chile is known for sea bass and the tons of produce it exports to the United States annually. Most of its produce exports are fairly basic. The country also produces many organic products, however, including ulmo honey, which is made by bees pollinating the hierba azul plant. Marketed by Chilean brand Terra Andes, ulmo has a light, clean taste with a floral bouquet.
The honey — and other Chilean products — carry a Fairtrade stamp and international organic certification, “giving consumers a clear idea of where it comes from and how it’s processed,” points out Christophe Desplas, trade commissioner of Chile and director of ProChile in New York.
Continues Desplas: “It’s loaded with nutrients that help our immune system, fighting allergies and infections, improving skin, bones, etc. Many grocers are putting these type [of] products in special displays highlighting functional ingredients. Producers are communicating storytelling more than product descriptions on their websites and social media platforms. Education is key.”
Newly popular superfruits include Chilean maqui berries, according to Desplas. The antioxidant fruit is said to reduce inflammation, lower “bad” cholesterol and control blood sugar. Another antioxidant fruit grown in Chile, passion fruit, is a good sauce of fiber and may help prevent cancer, support heart health and reduce anxiety.