Chris Brockman
As EMEA Research Manager, Chris oversees the Food & Drink Analysts in Europe, while focusing on the latest innovation, market shifts and trends in the bakery category.

Mintel has been at the forefront of predicting the trends that matter most, calling them early and accurately, over the last 15 years. In our series You Heard It Here First, we take a look at some of the predictions that we’ve made and where they are today.

Back in 2012, we predicted that purple foods and drinks would become more and more popular, after seeing ingredients like acai, purple potatoes and purple carrots pop up in foodservice. Fast forward to 2016, Whole Foods identified purple foods as a big trend to look for in 2017, gaining considerable media coverage and putting purple in the spotlight.

Colour is an important visual cue that contributes to the sensory appeal of food. It’s often added to food to engage the attention of consumers and can be one of the first elements to influence further sensory perception, such as intended flavour and aroma.

When most people think of colours associated with food, they think of red tomatoes, green vegetables, white rice; but purple? It’s a rare colour in food. But now, naturally purple coloured foods are being used more frequently, and the data confirms it. In fact, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), there has been a 126% increase in purple food and drink products launched globally between 2012 and 2018.

Instagrammable, but natural

Flavour has long been the focus of innovation, but today’s image-centric and share-focused society calls for products that engage more of the senses, according to Mintel’s 2016 Global Food & Drink Trend ‘Eat With Your Eyes’. Brands are experimenting with vibrant colours, innovative shapes, multifaceted textures and engaging aromas to make packaged products worthy of consumer praise and social media posts.

Although consumers are interested in bright colours, they also expect formulations to remain natural, tapping into the overall rise of ‘clean eating’. In general, clean eating refers to eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods and avoiding artificial ingredients and highly processed foods. That’s where naturally purple foods have a chance to stand out.

Moreover, manufacturers of purple-coloured foods have long been associating the colour with health. Many purple coloured products are being marketed as superfoods because of their antioxidant potency. Indeed, anthocyanins – the pigments responsible for the range of intense red, purple and blue hues in foods – have free-radical scavenging and antioxidant capabilities. Free radicals damage DNA in the body and are strongly believed to be a factor in the ageing process and the development of heart disease and cancer.

Using Mintel GNPD, we have selected 8 innovative and unexpected purple foods launched recently across the globe.

Cu Liang Wang Blueberry and Red Cabbage Compound Juice Drink (China): This product has double the ‘purple power’, mixing blueberries and red cabbage. While all fruit and vegetables count towards a person’s 5-a-day, the inclusion of vegetables in juices and smoothies is a way of bringing a wider variety of nutrients to people’s diets – and to help reduce sugar content.

Strong Roots Roasted Beetroot Wedges (UK): Coated in a light rice flour batter, these frozen beetroot wedges are ready to oven bake and add colour to every plate. Following increasing interest in plant-based diets, premium frozen vegetable side dishes can help recreate restaurant experiences at home with minimal effort.

Selecta Christmas Collection Ube Salted Egg Con Quezo Ice Cream (Philippines): This bright, limited edition ice cream is made with ube, also known as purple yam, a popular ingredient in Philippines’ desserts. It’s mixed with cheese bits and salted egg sauce, adding flavour contrasts and texture.

Lima Natural Black Rice Drink (Belgium): Made with wholegrain black rice, this drink is free from gluten, lactose and added sugars, and it’s low in saturated fat. It has a light purple colour which, together with its nutty flavour, gives a special touch to drinks, smoothies, breakfasts and other vegan dishes. Black rice, also known as forbidden rice, is known to be a great source of iron, vitamins and antioxidants.

Nissin Cisco Gorotto Purple Sweet Potato Premium Granola (Japan): Asian consumers are most likely to welcome vegetables as an ingredient in cold cereals, partly because they’re already familiar with savoury breakfast staples like congee, a hot rice porridge topped with salted duck eggs and vegetables. This granola features purple sweet potato, chestnut and pumpkin, as well as barley, brown rice, wheat and oats.

True Fruits Bowl Purple Smoothie with Almond-Date Topping (Germany): Smoothie bowls have been popping up all over Instagram over the last few years, but preparing edible works of art in the morning can be laborious. This vegan, ready-to-eat smoothie comprises a thick fruit preparation with hibiscus, linseed, acai, rosehip, mulberries, raspberries, pear and banana, and a separate compartment of crunchy almond and dates.

Lukulleria by Eismann Purple Gnocchi (Italy): This frozen product is prepared with Vitelotte potatoes, a purple heirloom variety with a nutty taste originally from Peru and Bolivia, but popular in France. The gnocchi can be boiled in hot water or heated up in a pan for five minutes.

Morinaga Koeda Purple Sweet Potato Chocolate Sticks (Japan): These limited edition chocolate sticks are flavoured with purple sweet potato powder, but also coloured with beet red and gardenia blue, both natural colourants. This type of snack is called Koeda, which means “short stick” in Japanese and is meant to resemble wood sticks.