Between January to June 2020, there were 357 new products containing blueberries in East Asia alone.
In the early 2000s, there were only three such products, according to Tom Payne from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC), which supports the entire blueberry industry from growers to manufacturers and consumers through research, promotion and education.
According to Mintel’s Global New Product Database, dairy, snacks and bakery were the most popular application for products containing blueberry in Asia. This was followed by juice drinks, confectionery and desserts.
Payne said: “We also see more activity in Asia in blueberry-containing beverages, especially drinkable yoghurts and flavoured milks that use blueberry puree and puree concentrates. Asia is also a leader in blueberry beverages with NFC juice and blueberry juice concentrates.”
Payne said it was about 10 years ago when US companies began to introduce ready-to-use ingredient solutions such as dried blueberries, flakes, powders, purees and puree concentrates to the Asian food industry. “These innovations immediately opened the doors to new product development in dozens of new areas and categories.”
Firmenich had also previously predicted blueberry as the flavour of the year for 2020, citing its familiarity to consumers, versatility, nutrient profile, and associated feeling of happiness and comfort.
The USHBC helps product developers with new and unique innovations, and within Asia, Payne told FoodNavigator-Asia some innovative new applications of blueberry in South Korea he has seen include blueberry-based sauces such as blueberry BBQ sauce, blueberry mustard and blueberry bibimbap sauce.
In Vietnam, there were blueberry moon cake fillings, and in India, an Indian-style blueberry cheesecake with frozen blueberry fillings.
In Taiwan, product developers were working with blueberry powder as a natural colouring and flavour on baked goods, as well as a dairy topping.
In Myanmar, dried blueberries have been incorporated in traditional items, such as puddings, and a recent trend where pizzas are topped with dried blueberries.
Payne said Asia was a trendsetter for new applications and categories.
Beyond food and beverage, Payne added that blueberry extracts were a growing application in natural cosmetics and skincare in Asia.
The USHBC is also funding pre-clinical and clinical studies on blueberry and its effect on health such as cognitive function and metabolic syndrome.