The deep red juice of the pomegranate seemed to pop up out of nowhere, suddenly occupying space in my grocer’s produce section. During a seminar on flavor trends presented at FONA International, formerly Flavors of North America, I learned that new flavors tend to first hit the market through beverages. Consumers seem to be more adventurous with what they drink as opposed to what they eat. I had no idea I’ve actually known the fruit for quite some time.
That syrup is, in fact, flavored with pomegranate, and now, like fruit falling from the tree, pomegranate is everywhere I aim my eyes.
The taste depends on the variety and state of ripeness. Ranging from very sweet to very sour, the characteristic taste is laced with notes of tannin. My only first-hand taste experiences with pomegranate, beyond the kiddie cocktails, touched on both extremes of the fruit. Starbuck’s offers an iced pomegranate tea that is fairly tart and plays up the tannins. Upon tasting, my 8-year old son simply declared it “nasty.” The sweet side of the fruit was an eye-watering slap in a pomegranate sangria. I’m not one to dump libations, but I felt that the alcohol and aggressive sweetness were already battling within the glass and my stomach was no place for continued hostilities.
Even though I think the taste is most often a disaster, I can’t deny the prominence pomegranate is gaining across store shelves.
I met David Fondots, Extracts & Ingredients’ vice president of sales and marketing, at the show, and he supplied me with the data behind the skin of the fruit. He also gave me pomegranate headlines of the week, including a USA Today article that declared “We’re in a pomegranate population explosion.”
Pomegranates have been used extensively as a traditional medicine in various cultures around the world for centuries. The fruit contains a wide range of polyphenolic compounds—including ellagic acid, flavonoids, anthocyanidins, tannins as well as vitamin C—and various components of pomegranate are reported to be bactericidal and antiviral. It is one of approximately six plant sources known that contain conjugated fatty acids, and no other plant oil commonly known or readily obtainable contains such compounds. These fatty acids inhibit eicosanoid metabolism, meaning they are significant natural anti-inflammatory agents and appropriate as an antiaging ingredient.
Ellagic acid from the peel, juice and seed extract, and punicic acid, found in the seed oil, are key ingredients to Extracts & Ingredients’ Pomegranate Seed Oil. According to company literature, the product imparts excellent moisturizing and nourishing properties—including boosting the restoration and repair of skin, evening skin tone, aiding in collagen production and acting as a natural SPF booster.
Does the flavor of pomegranate have staying power? That’s to be seen. It is clear, however, that pomegranate has made solid strides onto shelves in personal care and cosmetic aisles and into consumers’ collective conscience. And the data supporting pomegranate’s benefits in personal care products should ensure that it continues to proliferate as an ingredient regardless of how the Sybil-esque sweet/tart fruit fairs as a flavor.
Jeff Falk is the associate editor of GCI magazine and avoids pomegranate flavored drinks. His son, however, is taken with grenadine-laced lemon-lime soda and waxes poetic about the day he opens a kiddie cocktail stand.