A yellow fruit with a creamy, caramel flavour that can be dried and ground to a powder when ripe, lucuma is known as the gold of the Incas in its native Peru. And according to Mintel data, one third of all food and drink launches containing lucuma between 2012 and 2013 were in Europe.
"Europe has steadily increased its foothold to become the top regional user of the superfood with a 63% share in the year ending July 2015," wrote Mintel analyst Gwen Crothers in an online blog. "Here we see the rare case of an ancient food that has found a place in modern food processing."
Pam Yates, Mintel research manager told FoodNavigator lucuma's success would be fuelled by its healthy ‘superfood” reputation being communicated on social media, with its natural sweetening properties an added a bonus. “Its superfood benefits will help its acceptability as a sweetener, as its flavour is not the same as the gold standard for taste – sugar," she said.
But for some companies, lucuma’s caramel flavour and unique taste profile was its main selling point. Agnes Troszt, marketing & sales manager at UK company Raw Gorilla, whose range of organic snacks are sweetened use a blend of lucuma and coconut blossom nectar, said: “We decided to go with lucuma mainly for its natural sweetener and vitamin-rich properties. It adds a sweet, creamy touch to our products and sweetens them very naturally with health benefits. Also, we were able to create a caramelly flavour [without] using dairy at all."
Whole lucuma powder can be used in ice-cream, baby foods, yoghurts, cakes, smoothies, chocolate bars and desserts, although chocolate currently accounts for 38% of product launches – but manufacturers are beginning to look beyond this use.
The Raw Chocolate Company has a range of lucuma-coated mulberries, raisins and apricot kernels, while UK company Inspiral sells powdered lucuma online as well as lucuma, maple and pecan ice-cream in its London café.
Fresh Fruit Portal reported that exports of lucuma were expected to rise by at least 60% over 2013 and that Prolucuma, the association of Peruvian lucuma growers, were working to incentivise growers to expand production.
Yates warned that, since supply was mostly concentrated in Peru crops could be affected by natural disasters but head of customer insight at the Raw Chocolate Company, Kristopher McGowan told us that they had found supply from Peru to be secure.
According to Fresh Fruit Portal, members of Prolucuma accounted for 90% of frozen pulp exports in 2013.