Kale 'reinvented' with health, quality and availability focus
Kale, or borecole, part of the Brassica family of vegetables, is currently riding high in markets such as the USA and the UK.
Its nutritional benefits and attractive colourful appearance are attracting a whole new range of consumers, boosted still further by rising levels of usage as a vegetable accompaniment by celebrity chefs.
In line with this, the use of kale in a wide range of packaged food and drink products has also risen markedly in recent years, with a consistent increase in launch activity recorded by Innova Market Insights and the total number of global introductions more than trebling over the five-year period to the end of 2012.
Lu Ann Williams, research manager at Innova Market Insights, reports that kale, while a traditional vegetable of long standing in many parts of the world — including Europe, Africa and China — declined in popularity as a wider range of alternatives started to appear.
"More recently," she said, "rising interest in healthy eating and winter-time availability have regenerated interest in its use, supported by a growing presence on restaurant menus and ongoing promotional activity by TV chefs."
The US has seen a particularly high level of activity, accounting for over 60 per cent of global 2012 introductions featuring kale recorded by Innova Market Insights, with activity across a wide range of product types, led by supplements, fruit and vegetable products, soft drinks and snacks.
Launches over the year varied from Pasta Prima's Superfood Spinach and Kale Ravioli to Bex Brands' Suja cold pressed juice blends, where the Glow and Green Supreme variants both feature kale in combination with other ingredients.
Even leading soup company Heinz got in on the act with its Mediterranean-style Parmesan, Kale and Seared Italian Sausage Soup introduced during the year.
Launch activity has continued in 2013 with Fresh & Easy's Eatwell range extensions including Kale Caesar Salad, Kale & Edamame Saute and Super Soup Mightily Green Vegetables (with kale, spinach, peas, green peppers and garlic).
The UK has also seen rising interest in the use of kale as a vegetable and an increase in household penetration and this has also been reflected in launch activity in prepared foods, particularly in seasonal launches in the soups sector.
Chilled soups market leader New Covent Garden introduced its Winter Broth with Bacon & Curly Kale in early 2013, followed by free-from brand Soupologie's inclusion of a Spinach & Kale with Roasted Garlic variant in its six-strong spring season range.
A more unusual application is kale chips, made with dried organic kale by Inspiral and now marketed under the Raw Kale Chips name in a range of savoury flavours, including Wasabi Wheatgrass, Baobab & Onion and Cheesie Purple Corn, all made with fresh, British kale, rich in antioxidants, calcium and vitamin A.
They were joined in 2013 by the first sweet variants, Cacao & Cinnamon and Raspberry Maca. Kale chips are also available in the US from companies such as Rhythm Superfoods, a natural foods brand specializing in raw, vegan and gluten-free foods.