Decades of dieting have left health-conscious consumers ravenous for foods that are close to nature and teeming with flavor.
And Wild Blueberries are perfectly poised to satisfy that hunger.
“Consumers want to be able to look at a menu and a grocery-store item and recognize the ingredients,” Nicole DeBloois, Director of R&D with JMH Premium, a Salt Lake City, Utah-based company that manufactures flavor concentrates, soup bases, sauce concentrates, and RTU sauces. “When consumers see something like Wild Blueberry on an ingredient list or on a restaurant menu, they think fresh, they think clean, they think non-GMO. There’s also a perception that there’s more flavor intensity.”
Just look at the research. According to the Power of Wild, a groundbreaking national study of consumer attitudes, 63% of consumers prefer ingredients that are closer to nature; 67% of consumers consider foods that are labeled “wild” closer to nature.
These preferences are even stronger among Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) consumers, —a $290 billion market that represents1 in 4 adult Americans, or 41 million people. Among LOHAS consumers, 72% believe wild foods are healthier and that they taste better; 74% of LOHAS consumers said that they would buy more wild foods; 65% of LOHAS consumers said they would be willing to pay more for wild foods.
The powerful cache that wild carries is rare.
“When you think of other silver-bullet phrases used with food, there aren’t a lot of terms like ‘wild’ that have so much legitimacy out of the gates,” said Chris Clegg, President and Senior Analyst a Portland Marketing Analytics LLC, which conducted the research.
And “wild” isn’t just another health halo.
The Wild Blueberry delivers on the nutrition that its name suggests. One cup of Wild Blueberries has 25% of the recommended daily allowance of fiber, which promotes gut health and may lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. The antioxidants that give Wild Blueberries their rich blue hue fight off free radicals that have been linked to cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and other conditions. One cup of Wild Blueberries has more antioxidant power than 20 other fruits and vegetables, including cranberries, and even cultivated blueberries, according to a report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
But it’s great taste of the Wild Blueberry that makes it such an enduring ingredient.
"With Wild Blueberries, you get so many flavors going on at once,” said DeBloois. “You get astringency from the skin, plus tartness, sweetness and floral notes. You can taste all of it. That’s what’s cool. And when you combine Wild Blueberry with other ingredients, the flavor of the Wild Blueberries with their more intense flavor still comes through. And, they are able to stand up to and pair even better than ordinary cultivated blueberries with the bold flavors that are resonating so well with today’s adventurous authentic flavor seekers.”
The appetites for foods that are pure, nutritious, and delicious, is a response, in part, to decades of weight-loss fads and diet foods that were filled with artificial ingredients, and fell short on flavor. Consumers are no longer simply looking to avoid fat or calories. They are actively seeking out foods with perceived health benefits, said DeBloois.
“I think that there’s now an understanding that you can make really delicious foods that are also very good for you,” she added.
It’s part of why, at Panera Bread, the Wild Blueberry Scone has remained a bestseller, even as seasonal items were rotated off the menu.
Tom Gumpel raking Wild Blueberries on the barrens in Dresden, Maine.
“That one scone – I couldn’t get rid of it – there would be a backlash from our customers,” says Tom Gumpel, former head baker and Vice President of R&D at Panera, which has 2,000 bakery-cafes across North America. With its simple list of recognizable ingredients, the Wild Blueberry Scone became an emblem of its “clean commitment” initiative.
“Cleaning up the menu, and driving out artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives was really critical,” said Gumpel, former Dean of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park,
“The term ‘wild’ is beyond clean,” he added. “It’s mother nature handing something to you directly with no processing of any kind.”
Perhaps the most powerful part of the cache Wild Blueberries carry is the emotional connection with the food that people have.
“Everyone has a story or memory about Wild Blueberries often involving childhood family dinners and generations of parents and grandparents,” said Clegg. “You don’t see a lot of food categories or products that elicit that emotion. It’s kind of special.”