Updated: Jan 4, 2022
The race is on among ingredient suppliers to find new flavors and taste sensations to satisfy consumer demand for something more exciting and diverse. Exotic fruits are standing out in the food industry as new flavors for products not only for their purported health benefits, but for their aroma and texture as well.6 Surprisingly, not all exotic new fruits are tropical fruits (Table 1), nor are they classified in the same category by botanists (Table 2). These new and non-traditional fruit flavors are starting to make an appearance across food and beverage categories and are typically derived from fruits not native to the United States. For example, yuzu, a citrus fruit native to Asia, is predicted to be a trending new flavor in high-acid sports nutrition beverages.5 Other ingredients that are gaining popularity in the food industry include passionfruit, soursop, lychee, jackfruit, and açaí.3
However, bringing new flavors to market is not just a matter of finding unique and untried fruits, there will be bumps in the road resulting from the taste acceptability, availability, and importation of these nonnative ingredients.
According to Demetrakakes (2018), authenticity (i.e., how close the flavoring agent is to the food on which it is based) is an issue with fruit as a flavor category. However, many exotic juices are unacceptable for use as a pure product as the result of a particular characteristic of the fruit; for instance, a highly acidic fruit (e.g., passion fruit) can create a flavor that is unpalatable unless diluted and sweetened. Also, fruit juices can have visual flaws due to the cloud or sediment that fruit contributes to beverages; for instance, pulp content (from the fruit component) can form an unsightly plug in the neck of the container due to the incorporation of air during mixing.1 The flavor and texture of an ingredient varies depending on the fruit; dragon fruit is mildly sweet with a delicate texture, while açaí has a nutty flavor with a creamy to slightly oily texture (Table 3). Fruits also have varying nutritional profiles; yellow and purple passion fruit are good sources of provitamin A and riboflavin, whereas lychee is a poor source of these nutrients (Table 3). Knowing the nutritional, flavor, and texture composition of these uncommon ingredients, as well as how well ingredients pair together are a few determining factors in choosing the right exotic fruit or blend of fruit flavors for a product and whether additional food substances (e.g., sweeteners) are necessary.
Even though a new fruit flavor is deemed acceptable, its availability might be curtailed if there is not a steady market to ensure a steady supply. Other cost implications include high production costs, suitability and availability of containers for fruits in remote and less develop countries and, logistical issues – getting the fruit from grove to the point of embarkation.1 Another factor that can influence how fruit is imported is the perishability of the fruit. For instance, assaí liquid, locally called açaí, is highly perishable and must be imported into the United States as a dehydrated liquid form or as a frozen pulp;7 which increase costs because of processing, something that can be very expensive when performed in a remote location.
When a fruit is added to a product (usually in the form of fruit juice), the product becomes vulnerable to the growth of spoilage organisms such as yeasts and molds, especially in products that do not contain very acidic juices (e.g., lime or lemon juice) 1 and may require pasteurization. Unfortunately, the flavor of the juice can be negatively affected during pasteurization due to the loss of delicate, volatile flavor notes. For example, the heat pasteurization of passionfruit can cause the loss of 35% of the volatile components and, although the effect can be minimized when diluted or blended with other juice,7 some of the flavor notes of the passionfruit are obscured.
Finding new and diverse flavor sources is only half the battle, because if the natural source cannot be processed in the host country, getting the sourced fruit into the US is the next issue. When importing fruit from another country, there is always the possibility of introducing a plant pest that may find new hosts in this country. These pests can disrupt the ecosystems, threatening to push out and eliminate native species,11 much like Asian citrus canker and the Mexican fruit fly which threaten US citrus crops or the blights which have decimated American chestnut and American elm trees. One way this is being prevented in the United States is through federal regulations (7 CFR §319.56-1 through §319.56-64) which prohibit or restrict the importation of fruits and vegetables into the United States from certain parts of the world.12
Another way to prevent importation of undesirable insects in or on exotic fruits into the United States is by irradiation, which decreases the need for other pest-control practices that may harm the fruit.4 According to FDA (2016), “irradiation does not make foods radioactive, compromise nutritional quality, or noticeably change the taste, texture, or appearance of food.” However, FDA requires that irradiated foods bear the international symbol for irradiation4 which can be off-putting to consumers. It is also important to keep in mind that any substance (including any substance intended for use in producing, manufacturing, packing, processing, preparing, treating, packaging, transporting, or holding food; and including any source of radiation intended for any such use) intentionally added to beverages and other conventional foods is a food additive which require premarket approval based on data demonstrating safety. These data are submitted to the FDA in a food additive petition, which can require years before an FDA response.
Overall, there are many variables to consider when choosing ingredients for a product that is both acceptable to consumers and justifies the cost of development. As consumers are becoming more open to trying new flavors and anxious for products with more than just taste, Burdock Group can help companies with any safety or regulatory challenges that may arise when incorporating new flavors with added value ingredients into food.
Ashurst, P.R. and Hargitt, R. (2009) Soft Drink And Fruit Juice Problems Solved. CRC Press LLC, Boca Raton, Florida.
Dembitsky, V.M.; Poovarodom, S.; Leontowicz, H.; Leontowicz, M.; Vearasilp, S.; Trakhtenberg, S. and Gorinstein, S. (2011) The multiple nutrition properties of some exotic fruits: Biological activity and active metabolites. Food Research International. 44(7):1671–1701.
Demetrakakes, P. (2018) Current Trends in Flavors are Trending Toward the Exotic. (site visited on May 22, 2019).
FDA (2016) Food Irradiation: What You Need to Know. (site visited on May 24, 2019).
Grebow, J. (2019) 2019 Flavor trends for food and beverage. (site visited on May 21, 2019).
Gunn, L. (2019) Flavor trends: Discoveries, sophistication and connections among Innova Market Insights’ latest tips. (site visited on May 21, 2019).
Janick, J. and Paull, R.E. (2008) The Encyclopedia Of Fruit & Nuts. CABI Publishing, Cambridge, MA.
Nelson, B. (2016) 16 fruits you’ve probably never heard of. (site visited on May 24, 2019).
Sinha, N.K.; Sidhu, J.S.; Barta, J.; Wu, J.S.B. and Cano, M.P. (2012) Handbook Of Fruits And Fruit Processing. 2nd Edition. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Ames, Iowa.
USDA (2018a) Food Composition Databases Show Foods — Dragon Fruit Bite Size Fruit Cubes. (site visited on May 24, 2019).
USDA (2018b) USDA Warns Dangerous Pests are Emerging, Adds Cherry Fruit Fly to Alert List. (site visited on May 24, 2019).
USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (2014) Importation of Jackfruit, Pineapple, and Starfruit From Malaysia Into the Continental United States. Federal Register. 79.
Wolke, R.L. (2005) Above the Fruited Plain. In What Einstein Told His Cook 2. W.W. Norton & Company, NewYork, NY p. 147–201.