(This article covering dragon fruit is part of a series we’re calling Ingredients on the Rise, where we’re tracking emerging consumer interest in healthy and functional food, beverage, and supplement ingredients through a mix of social listening and online research. Read further for insights on the commonly understood benefits and use of dragon fruit, its formulation considerations, and the broader cultural lens that marks its rising popularity.)
The Year of Magenta
This year’s Pantone color is Viva Magenta, and the flavor of the year is dragon fruit. What do these two things have in common? They’re bold, exotic, vivacious, and adventurous, playing perfectly into consumer desires to put the last three years in their rearview mirror. Consumers are eager for new flavor combinations, and product experiences that send them around the world with a sunshine aesthetic. Tropical fruits, neon and jewel tones, citrus, fantasy flavor names, and anything else that brings out the dopamine. Understanding the macro-trends of this cultural moment gives CPG companies and brands the opportunity to anticipate demand and formulate products with a competitive edge.
Dragon Fruit Composition and Origin
Dragon fruit, or pitahaya, is the fruit of a cactus native to Central America that is now cultivated in tropical and sub-tropical areas worldwide. This whimsically named fruit has a bold pink, red, or sunny yellow skin, and is leathery with slightly spiked scales. It has an internal flesh ranging from white to gold to a berry red, all dotted with small black seeds. The flavor of the white-flesh is mild and delicately sweet. The dark red and yellow-fleshed fruits are more vibrant on the palate with a sweet, tart berry-like flavor derived from the much higher ester count in their biochemical makeup.
With both a unique, exciting look and a dreamy flavor profile, it’s no wonder that dragon fruit product launches are accelerating. Presently, it occupies the sweet spot where exotic novelty and customer awareness intersect, with 88% of consumers indicating that they have heard of it (and have a positive impression), while only 56% have actually tasted it.
Researchers have found that adding 8% red dragon fruit peel to ice cream as a fat substitute increases the viscosity and decreases the overrun to 38%, making for a rich and decadent product that is liked as much as conventional ice cream in side-by-side comparisons.
Health Benefits of Dragon Fruit
The health benefits of dragon fruit are many. It is rich in fiber and magnesium, low in calories, and contains several types of antioxidants. Additionally, the pulp of the dragon fruit provides an excellent prebiotic, nourishes the immune system, and contributes to a healthy insulin response. Its seeds are very nutritious as well, containing fatty acids, omegas 3 and 9. Interestingly, even though the dragon fruit peel is 22% of the total weight and contains a host of phytonutrients, most discard it. CPG companies, producers, and formulators are only recently recognizing the massive upcycle potential inherent in the waste.
More on Dragon Fruit Peel
Dragon fruit peel, as a byproduct of the fruit and juice industries, contains significant amounts of bioactive compounds. There are betacyanin pigments, phenolic compounds, and dietary fibers in the peel of dragon fruit. So, adding powdered dragon fruit peel as an ingredient to cookie dough increases the nutritional profile and antioxidant content. This offsets heat-induced toxicants in the formulation. Additionally, dragon fruit peel significantly lowers the glycemic index and is expected to prolong shelf life by interrupting the breakdown of natural oils in the product which falls rancid over time. The additional fiber makes for a thicker, moister, softer cookie as well. It’s pretty easy to see the opportunity for a refuse-to-riches story and the industry has barely begun to explore the upcycling potential.
Applicable Cultural Trends
The aesthetic vibes of 2023 are bold, bright, playful, and have a sense of exploratory adventure, of broadening horizons, and connecting to the earth but in vibrant, saturated ways. These trends play well with eco-friendly upcycled food, functional ingredients, “free-from” colors and flavors trends, fanciful names, exotic taste profiles, and reduced sugar labels we’re seeing within the functional food and beverage and supplement industries.
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If you have any questions or would like to request more information about our study, please contact us at email@example.com. If you’re working to launch a supplement or food brand or to expand your brand offerings and distribution, we do that too—let’s talk!