With snack consumption on the rise and sour flavors trending up, tart cherries are a standout superfruit in the snack aisle. Snack makers are clamoring to create healthier options and have discovered tart cherries can help deliver on both taste and nutrition.
About 90 percent of Americans say they snack daily, with snacks now accounting for more than half of all eating occasions and nearly 25 percent of our daily calories. The biggest growth has been in the better-for-you category, where tart cherries have emerged as a star ingredient in a range of new snack products, especially in dried form. New innovative dried tart cherries products include energy bars, mixed fruit bars, Greek yogurt-covered tart cherries, dark chocolate dipped tart cherries, granolas and trail mixes.
"The secret to smart snacking is to choose a bite that contains a combo of protein and fiber, a power pair that will help you feel full longer. And of course, you can't forget about flavor—it has to taste good, too. That's why tart cherries are such a great pick; they offer great taste coupled with nutrition," says Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, the Today show's nutrition expert. "Dried tart cherries are fantastic on their own, but there's something magical when you combine this distinctive-tasting fruit with other ingredients, like dark chocolate, roasted edamame and almonds."
Bauer's passion for tart cherries is reflected in her snack line, Nourish Snacks. A standout product at the recent Fancy Food Show, Nourish Snacks features two products with dried tart cherries: Sweet & Salty Kapow (tart cherries + roasted edamame) and Almond to Cherries (tart cherries + roasted almonds).
The tart cherry flavor profile is rapidly growing and more in demand than ever, with a 40 percent increase in restaurant items featuring tart cherries over the past four years, according to Datassential Menu Trends. And, for good reason, as Americans gravitate toward more sour and tart tastes.
The nutrient profile of tart cherries is also impressive. Montmorency tart cherries, the most popular variety grown in the U.S., are packed with anthocyanins - natural compounds that provide the ruby-red color, distinctive tart taste and potential health benefits. Tart cherries have been the focus of numerous scientific studies, including research on exercise recovery, sleep, heart disease, arthritis and gout. Luckily, these super fruits are available year-round in dried, juice, frozen and concentrate forms.
The Cherry Marketing Institute (CMI) is a not-for-profit organization funded by North American tart cherry growers and processors. CMI's mission is to increase the demand for tart cherries through promotion, market expansion, product development and research. For more information, including research, recipes, serving ideas and product forms, visit www.choosecherries.com.