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    Retailers Showcase Berries to Sweeten Summer Sales

    Berries are playing a starring role in many retailers’ spring and summer online marketing programs -- and for good reason. The sweet fruits pack in a powerful nutritional profile, while also lending a healthy boost to popular hot-weather recipes, ranging from smoothies to healthy salads.
     
    With this the case, grocers from coast to coast are generating high consumer interest, and strong, steady sales, of one of the produce department’s most indispensible go-to categories throughout the year in general, and during the fertile summer months in particular.
     
    Ralphs, the Kroger-owned chain that operates in California -- where strawberries are now in peak season -- features berries as one of “four fantastic foods for better health.” The retailer recently posted a feature article on Ralphs.com noting that berries top the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s list of antioxidant-rich fruits. Anthocyanin, the antioxidant that gives berries their bright color, helps neutralize cancer-causing substances and may help prevent gastrointestinal cancers, the article notes. Berries are also a good source of vitamin C and fiber. 
     
    A number of grocers are making the most of berries in their online recipe selections. IGA City Grocer in Tacoma, Wash., includes strawberries in one of its seasonal recipes – Strawberry Syrup Ceviche. Whole Foods’ online recipe index, meanwhile, includes Ricotta-strawberry Pancakes and Homemade Strawberry Jam, among others.
     
    Sprouts Farmers Market touts berries as an ideal ingredient to use in gluten-free recipes, such as Gluten-free Strawberry Shortcake. The chain also includes berries in an article on its Food Tips section, noting, “historically strawberries were a medicinal plant loaded with essential vitamins, folic acid, fiber, calcium, magnesium and potassium.”
     
    Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets includes berries in one of its online sections, Aprons Events Planning. The retailer offers a four-berry smoothie mix among its catering options, promoting the tasty treat as a “collection of fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries,” whirled in a blender with yogurt and ice.
     
    Research Ripe for the Taking
     
    Retailers that are interested in featuring berries in their health and wellness programs will want to make note of a new comprehensive literature review by researchers at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, which concludes that strawberries satisfy the definition of a functional food.
     
    “Strawberries as a Functional Food: An evidence-based review” examines research to support the health-promoting benefits associated with strawberry consumption, and discusses the fruit’s nutrient and phytochemical composition and bioavailability. Strawberries are a rich source of phytochemicals (anthocyanins, catechins, the flavonols quercetin and kaempferol, and ellagic acid) and an important source of essential nutrients (ascorbic acid, potassium, folic acid, carotenoids, B-vitamins). They are consistently ranked among the top food sources of polyphenols and antioxidant capacity. In fact, the preventive and therapeutic health benefits of strawberries may be attributed to the synergistic effects of these bioactives and the nutrients contained in the fruit, the research notes.
     
    The article reports results of epidemiological studies that support the protective effects of strawberries against a variety of chronic diseases and conditions, including hypertension, inflammation, cancer and cardiovascular mortality. In addition, clinical studies are reviewed that examine the health benefits of strawberries in healthy or overweight subjects and in individuals with mild to moderate elevations in serum cholesterol and with metabolic syndrome, showing favorable postprandial effects on glucose and lipid profiles.
     
    Based on the review of several lines of evidence, the authors conclude that the consumption of strawberries -- either fresh or frozen -- can be an effective disease management and health-promoting dietary strategy.
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