Could lucuma be the next superfood?
- Popularity of the lucuma fruit, known as an Incan favorite, is growing on a global level and could be the next big superfood, according to FONA International. The orange-hued fruit, which looks like a mango stretched into a teardrop shape, is native to the highlands of Peru, Chile and Ecuador.
- Lucuma is full of beta carotene, iron, zinc, vitamin B3, calcium and protein. In addition, it’s said to be good for improving cardiovascular strength, skin, and digestive health.
- While it’s most widely available in powder form, there are a number of recipes on social media with lucuma as a featured ingredient. The fruit has a maple-like flavor, and its powder can be an easy addition to smoothies, baked goods and ice cream.
The search seems to constantly be on for the next big superfood. More common foods have this designation — like blueberries, avocados and salmon — but they’re relatively familiar and easy to find in a supermarket. For an ingredient to reach peak status, it would appear it has to be exotic and relatively unknown to U.S. consumers, in addition to packing a impressive nutritional profile.
Lucuma checks all of those boxes. While the fruit is popular in it’s native Peru, most shoppers in the U.S. wouldn’t be able to pick it out of a lineup, let alone pronounce it. It also is a powerhouse of nutrients. Plus, it tastes like maple, which is a trendy flavor-of-the-moment right now. It could appear lucuma may be able to knock kale off its superfood throne.
The greatest challenge lucuma faces is its scarcity on U.S. soil. Even if an eager foodie wanted to try out a lucuma ice cream recipe spotted on Pinterest, that person would be hard pressed to find a fresh fruit to dice up. The powder form, which is widely available, may be where the ingredient ultimately finds its niche.
Kale, in contrast, was often sold at farmer’s markets when it came into its popularity. It’s easy to grow in a variety of U.S. zones, and relatively cheap. When consumers started clamoring for kale, it wasn’t too tricky for U.S. farmers to swap out some crops to meet the demand.
While lucuma may be more versatile in a variety of sweet and savory recipes, it may prove to be too difficult to grow on U.S. soil or too costly to import to give it a chance for consumers to become obsessed with it.
Other potential superfoods — like tiger nuts and moringa — also meet the criteria to gain that coveted status, but have struggled to do so. While both foods have impressive nutritional profiles, they simply haven’t caught on. This could once again be a case of lack of availability, or perhaps the flavor simply didn’t resonate with consumers. Like most highly desired accolades, "superfood" is not an easy one to come by.
- FONA International Flavor Insight: A Look at Lucuma