(Jan. 6, 12:08 p.m.) “Superfoods” may not have caught on as a produce marketing concept as much as some people would have liked, or predicted, a few years ago, when high-profile books thrust the term into the limelight, but some shippers have jumped on the “super” bandwagon — or are thinking of doing so.

Dole Food Co. Inc., Westlake Village, Calif., may do more with the “superfoods” slogan than any other fresh produce company. Dole even has a Web site devoted to the category — www.dolesuperfoods.com.

Dole’s approach to defining just what is and is not a superfood — never an easy task — rests on quantified nutrient groups supporting particular health categories, such as heart, bones, eyes and antioxidants, said Nick Gillitt, a scientist with Dole’s Dole Nutrition Institute.

“For each category a qualifying fruit or vegetable must contain a minimum level of certain nutrients which have been grouped together because they have the same health benefit,” Gillitt said.

For instance, to earn the designation of Dole heart superfood, a fruit must contain certain levels of any three of the following heart-healthy nutrients: potassium, fiber, folate, vitamin B6, magnesium, vitamin C and antioxidant phytochemicals such as carotenoids or polyphenols.

When it can, Dole will put one of its Superfood logos (e.g. “Superfood for your Heart”) on its packages, Gillitt said. For unpackaged commodities like bananas (heart), the company uses stickers. And pineapples get “superfood” hang tags (“Superfood for your Joints.”)

Bananas and pineapples are the company’s top two superfood-tagged items, Gillitt said.

Several retail customers have asked Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc., Greencastle, Pa., to look into using “superfood” to market the company’s sweet onions, said co-owner Kurt Schweitzer.

Before it does so, though, Schweitzer wants to make sure Keystone does its homework.

“The advice my father always gave me was, ‘Make sure you know what’s around the corner,’” he said. “We want to research it before going out in public with it.”

A scientist at Penn State University is working with the company to determine what exactly is a superfood and if sweet onions meet the definition.

If they do, consumers could see “superfood” signs on retail displays of this spring’s Vidalias, Schweitzer said.

NewStar Fresh Foods, Salinas, Calif., introduced Super Spinach in October. The mix of spinach and kale comes in a 9-ounce clamshell and is designed to be used as a cooking base for other foods, said Cindi Dodd, NewStar’s marketing director. A tag line, “the nutritional superstar,” appears on the package as well.

Slow to accept terminology

Dick Spezzano, president of Spezzano Consulting Services, Monrovia, Calif., said that in contrast to Pom Wonderful fruit juice and other processed products, fresh produce hasn’t used “superfoods” in many marketing efforts. Nor have retailers used the term in point-of-purchase materials.

Where Spezzano has seen the word pop up is in retail newsletters circulated by Safeway, Albertsons, Stater Bros. and other chains.

Bill Bishop, chairman of Willard Bishop LLC, Barrington, Ill., frequently sees spinach, broccoli and other fruits and vegetables under the “superfood” heading in consumer magazines.

What surprises him is how little he sees the term used in fresh produce marketing.

“This industry is conservative and slow to make changes,” he said.

Dole’s ‘Superfood’ moniker holds promo potential
To earn the designation of Dole heart superfood, a fruit must contain certain levels of any three of the following heart-healthy nutrients: potassium, fiber, folate, vitamin B6, magnesium, vitamin C and antioxidant phytochemicals such as carotenoids or polyphenols.