Superfoods- a passing trend or here to stay?

For some years now, superfoods have been marketed as the secret to optimum health. 

Health gurus and marketers across the globe are preaching the benefits of ‘superfoods’ and, more recently, ‘supergrains’ and ‘superfruits’, influencing people to go out of their way to get their hands on these highly desirable, medicinal foods.

Recognising that people are more concerned with their health than ever before, savvy marketers have of course jumped on this this widespread consumer trend and used it to their advantage.

But what exactly are superfoods? And are they actually as ‘super’ as we’re led to believe?

According to a number of experts[1] superfoods are essentially a group of extraordinary, natural and nutrient dense foods. They reportedly contain more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and essential fatty acids than any other ‘normal’ foods and are said to work harder to protect and invigorate our bodies, which ultimately helps us to avoid disease. Examples of foods that have garnered the superfood label include almonds, broccoli, salmon, kale and blueberries.

Supposedly, by eating superfoods we’ll become stronger, more energetic, fitter and healthier, which is why they are commonly referred to as something between food and medicine.

With that being said, there are a great number of sources within the food industry that suggest that actually, the science doesn’t really support the hype. Many insist that the evidence for these claims that ‘superfoods’ can help grant us good health are inconclusive. The European Food Safety Authority[2] for example, released a report highlighting that there is a lack of robust evidence and misleading claims regarding these foods. Leading nutritionist Dr Sarah Schenker also explored the lack of truth behind the health claims behind superfoods in her book - Myth-busting your body.

As a result of a wealth of investigation and literature similar to this, in 2007, the use of the term ‘superfood’ on food labels was banned in the EU.

However, this doesn’t apply to non-food categories, which is why more recently a large number of cosmetics brands have jumped on the superfoods bandwagon too. Popular skin care brand Elemis, for example, has recently launched a range of skincare products formulated with plant-based superfoods, which promises to ‘leave the complexion looking luminous and bright, with an outdoor-fresh glow’ with the help of these nutrient dense ingredients.

What does the future hold for superfoods?

Whilst there has been an element of skepticism in terms of the health benefits of these products over the years, there is no sign of the superfoods trend slowing down or disappearing any time soon. In fact, according to a report undertaken by Research and Markets[3] the global superfoods market is set to grow at a CAGR of 15.70% between 2018 and 2022.

A recent Mintel[4] report has also revealed that in Germany, for example, due to a growing consumer demand for these foods, sales of superfood products have grown by 9% in the last year, overtaking Australia and the UK.  In fact, retail sales of superfoods have amounted to €3.2 billion since 2016. Mintel analysts reveal that the rising consumption of superfoods and other healthy foods are likely to result in a growth of 20% within the next five years.

Ultimately, regardless of whether you believe the claims behind these foods or not, statistics show that the superfood trend is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. The question is, is it worth buying into? Food for thought….