Yangmei – super yummy superfruit

Superfruits are still hot, in spite of the growing criticism on the excessive promotion of some of them.

China is well-positioned to gain from the superfruits craze (also see my post about the seabuckthorn). Yumberry, for example, is unique to the country, and produces good quality, clarified not from concentrate juice, but also excellent concentrate. China is good for 90% of the global yumberry production, with sporadic occurrence in Japan, India, Vietnam and Thailand. China produced 832,680 mt of yumberies in 2016, from 745,600 mt in 2012. Zhejiang province is the largest production region, with more than 570,000 mt in 2016.

Yumberry is the commercial name for the yangmei berry, a fruit of the wax myrtle; also known in English as waxberry (Myrica rubra), the fruit has a high antioxidant activity and high vitamin and mineral content. Yumberries look a little bit like a raspberry with a sweet-sour flavour similar to cranberry and pomegranate juice. Their texture is unique – slightly stringy like the flesh of citrus fruit – with a pit in the centre.

Super healthy

Yumberry juice is rich in antioxidants like proanthocyanidins and contains many vitamins including vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, and carotene. Yumberries are also said to help clear up hard-to-digest food in your stomach, cure stomach aches and “dispel summer heat.” They have been used since ancient times in China for medicinal purposes, and as early as the 16th century, the well-known herbal pharmacologist Li Shizhen said that yumberries could:

“Eliminate sputum, stop vomiting, helpful to digestion and alcoholic drinking … quench thirst, conciliate the five internal organs, cleanse stomach and intestines, remove the muddleheaded … and be efficacious to cure diarrhoea.”

Further, because the trees have a high tolerance to pests and diseases, they are often grown organically or with few pesticides applied to them.

66% of the output of 2016 was consumed as fresh fruit. 15% was processed into juice or concentrate, 5% was exported and 20% was wasted in various stages of processing. The latter is high for such a valuable product, but offal is unfortunately still a major problem in China.

Juice production is hampered by its short season which lasts only one month, in which processors struggle to process all the fruits on time. However, its rising popularity in the health beverage boom will certainly benefit the industry.

International interest

The international superfruit industry discovered the value of yumberries before health drinks started to get popular among Chinese consumers.

  • US juice supplier SunOpta has entered into an exclusive supply agreement with China’s Zhejiang Yumberry Juice Co., Ltd to market yumberry juice concentrate in North-America. The harvested fruit is carefully selected, pressed, de-pectinised, filtered, concentrated and pasteurised, before being shipped to North America.
  • Bombilla and Gourd, a US tea drinks company, has moved into the fruit juices sector. Its new Super Fruits line, launched last April, comprises four blends: orange/ mango, yumberry/lime, açaí/blueberry and pomegranate/lemonade, in 600 ml plastic bottles.
  • Fruttzo, another US fruit juice maker, has introduced a yumberry juice range. The ruby red, 100% juice has no preservatives, added sugars or added colours and comes in pure 100% yumberry form, or blended with pomegranate, blueberry or cherry. It is packed in 12 oz recyclable glass bottles and is on sale nationwide.
  • In the UK, Uren Food Group‘s innovation division Juicevibe has developed a yumberry juice blend, claimed to be the first in the country. The 100% juice blend has been listed by a major retailer. Endorsed by Heart Research UK, it has secured approval from the Food Standards Agency so the fruit will not be subject to review under EU novel food regulations.

At this moment, it is still uncertain if the yumberry has a future in Europe. While the supermarkets in my home country are flooded with blueberries, which are often rather tasteless, perhaps because the growers want to cash in on the superfruit image, instead of concentrating on making a tasty product, I have never seen a yumberry of yumberry product, outside China. Whenever I do, I will add my finding to this post.

Eurasia Consult Food knows the Chinese food industry since 1985. Follow us on Twitter.

Eurasia Consult Consulting can help you embed your business in Chinese society.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975.

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