The Polyphenol Powerhouse
Concord Grape Juice: The Polyphenol Powerhouse -- A white paper by Welch’s Global Ingredients Group. The Concord grape is a distinctive dark purple grape variety grown with expertise and care by Welch’s family-farmer owners across North America. It is a sweet and bold grape, perfect for creating delicious tasting, high quality products. Welch’s offers Concord grapes in an array of formats, including single-strength juices, juice concentrates, purées, and fruit bites, opening up a world of opportunities to innovate and bring excitement to the food and beverage category.
That’s not all. Concord grape juice is also a nutrition powerhouse, delivering more polyphenols than most other commonly consumed juices1,2. Additionally, a recent publication showed that Concord grape juice has a greater concentration of these health-promoting plant nutrients than several ‘superfruit’ juices3. Not only do polyphenols give Concord grapes their signature purple color, these natural plant nutrients can also deliver benefits to promote health. In fact, nearly 20 years of research shows that thanks to the Concord grape, Concord grape juice helps support a healthy heart1, 4-12. In addition, while more research is needed, preliminary studies suggest that Concord grape juice may provide benefits in areas such as cognitive function13-15 and blood sugar control16.Welch’s is one of America’s oldest juice companies with nearly 150 years of experience growing Concord grapes and transforming them into delicious and nutritious 100% grape juices. In the US today, grape is the 4th most popular 100% juice flavor17, and within the category, Welch’s is the number 1 selling grape juice brand. It is a firm family favorite that is steeped in heritage – and yet it remains on the cutting edge of the juice market, offering the kind of taste and nutrition properties that modern consumers are crying out for. Welch’s is more than a consumer packaged goods company. It is also an ingredients supplier, offering grape expertise and solutions to companies across the globe through Welch’s Global Ingredients Group. Concord grape juices and purées are available in the US and Japan, and recently became available for the first time to companies in Europe, thanks to a new distribution agreement with Netherlands-based Wild Juice. This means manufacturers across the EMEA region can now incorporate the inherent goodness of Concord grape juice into a wide range of branded and private label beverages.
A superfruit made in the USA
Welch’s is a cooperative of approximately 1,000 family-farmer owners, who for generations have planted, cared for, and harvested Welch’s Concord grapes with passion and skill. Native to Massachusetts, and today grown across North America, the distinctly delicious and uniquely sweet dark purple Concord grape is one truly American superfruit.
Just like a fine wine, the memorable taste of Welch’s juices and other grape-based products is a result of where the Concord grape is grown. Unlike many other grapes, Concord grapes thrive in harsh growing conditions and unique microclimates, such as near larger bodies of water. Because of the special conditions needed, Welch’s Concord grape vineyards aren’t found in California, but instead in areas such as New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Washington and
The window for picking for Concord grapes is fairly short – just a few weeks in the fall. The precise harvest time for Welch’s vineyards is determined by a careful evaluation of the fruit. All the grapes must meet high quality standards before they are selected for juicing. Once picked and assessed, Welch’s Concord grapes are pressed into juice within 8 hours of harvesting, locking in the grape’s perfectly ripe flavor and benefits.
The Concord grape (Vitis labrusca) is distinct from other grapes, including many table grapes, because it has a thick, dark purple skin and crunchy seeds, both of which hold the key to this grape’s goodness. That’s because naturally occurring plant nutrients called polyphenols are concentrated in the skins and seeds of the grape. Research suggests that polyphenols, like those found in the Concord grape, can play a role in promoting health.
To preserve the grapes’ natural nutrition power, Welch’s Concord grape juice is made by squeezing whole Concord grapes – skins, seeds and all – to release healthy polyphenols straight from the grape into the juice. In fact, according to a recent publication3 Concord grape juice delivers 13% more polyphenols than blueberry juice, 24% more than acai juice and 53% more than cranberry juice. Polyphenols are very much on-trend, and the market for these ingredients is expected to grow globally by 6.1% a year (CAGR) to reach a value of almost US$874 million by 2018, according to an independent analysis18. Consumers increasingly want to know that healthy food and drink is‘naturally functional’. In its report19, 10 Key Trends in Food,
Nutrition & Health 2016, respected marketing consultancy New Nutrition Business described naturally functional as “the King of Trends”. In tune with this, Concord grape juice offers product developers an authentic ingredient that delivers the taste and nutrition today’s consumers are looking for in their foods and beverages. Its inherent health benefits take it to another level, and mean it is the perfect option for creating delicious and naturally functional products that will breathe new life into the juices category.
Valuable health benefits
For years, leading researchers have been investigating the nutrition and health benefits of Concord grapes and grape juice. While Concord grape juice research has focused mainly on its role in cardiovascular health, other emerging areas are also being studied. Discover more on the state of this research below:
Nearly 20 years of research shows that Concord grape juice can help support a healthy heart. In fact, recently completed reviews of the literature concluded that consuming grapes and grape products, including Concord grape juice, can support cardiovascular wellbeing by having a favorable impact on a variety of health effects, most notably vascular health4-6.
When the lining of arterial walls is not functioning properly, this can be an early sign of cardiovascular health problems.Studies report that drinking Concord grape juice helps relax and dilate arteries7-10. And, relaxed and dilated arteries can support healthy circulation, keeping your blood pumping and energy flowing.
Concord grape juice also appears to offer a unique vascular benefit versus many other juices. For example, when compared to nearly 50 other fruit juices, Concord grape juice, alongside blackcurrant juice and a red juice blend, had the most potent positive effect on blood vessel health.This laboratory research suggests that not only is it the polyphenol concentration but also the type of polyphenols present in the grape juice that supports blood vessel relaxation and healthy circulation1.
According to researchers in the field, the vascular effects associated with Concord grape juice and its polyphenols may be linked to a compound called nitric oxide, which relaxes the blood vessels, causing them to expand and keep our blood flowing freely. Specifically, a study published in Cardiovascular
Research concluded that Concord grape juice stimulated the production of nitric oxide in cells that line the arteries11.This research complements previous work by Freedman and colleagues, which showed increased production of nitric oxide from blood platelets in healthy adults drinking Concord
Researchers have been investigating the role of Concord grape juice in cognitive health. The research in this area is emerging, yet science has begun to suggest that Concord grapes may offer certain health benefits for the mind13-15.
Early science suggests that Concord grape juice may provide memory benefits in older adults.
- A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of 12 older adults with early memory deficits (ie forgetfulness) found cognitive improvements after 12 weeks of Concord grape juice consumption. Five subjects consuming Concord grape juice experienced significant improvement in list learning and trended toward improved verbal recall and spatial memory compared to controls13.
- Building on earlier research, Krikorian and colleagues demonstrated that Concord grape juice can increase blood flow to certain regions of the brain, as well as improve memory function compared to those drinking a grape-flavored, sugar-sweetened drink (the placebo). In this study, 21 older adults with early memory decline were given either Concord grape juice or the placebo daily for 16 weeks, and were tested in various areas related to long-term memory. Those who drank Concord grape juice were less susceptible to distraction when asked to remember what they had previously learned. Test scores in other areas like learning and retention did not improve with the juice14 .
Also, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers monitored specific areas of the brain in a subset of eight study participants while they performed a working memory task. The researchers found that the group drinking Concord grape juice had increased neural activity (indicating an increase in blood flow) in two regions of the brain involved in working memory, compared to the placebo14.
A new study suggests that Concord grape juice may benefit cognitive function in younger people too, specifically those with stressful lifestyles.
- New research by the University of Leeds in the UK suggests that drinking Concord grape juice daily can benefit certain aspects of memory and everyday tasks in people with stressful lifestyles – specifically working mothers. In the study, 25 healthy, 40-50 year old working women with pre-teen children drank Concord grape juice and a placebo for 12 weeks each. Over the duration of the study, the women participated in a series of tests designed to assess their cognitive performance, including a 25-minute driving simulator challenge in which they were asked to match the speed and direction of a lead vehicle. Statistically significant improvements in a memory measure (immediate spatial memory) and driving performance were both seen when the moms drank Concord grape juice daily versus when they consumed the placebo15.
Blood glucose control
Unlike sugar-sweetened drinks with added sugars, Concord grape juice is a nutrient-dense beverage that delivers naturally occurring fruit sugars in combination with health-promoting polyphenols. Using a series of laboratory techniques, researchers, for the first time, examined how the polyphenols in Concord grapes may impact the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and possibly modify changes in blood sugar after consumption. The results of this pre-clinical study suggest that polyphenols naturally present in Concord grape juice can slow the absorption of the naturally occurring sugars present in the juice16. Therefore, drinking grape juice versus a sugar-sweetened beverage may result in a modestly lower glycemic response (blood sugar rise).
While preliminary and more research needs to be conducted, this study further reinforces the distinction between sugar-sweetened beverages and Concord grape juice.
Visit grapescience.com for more information about research on the role of Concord grapes and grape juice in healthy lifestyles. Any claimed health effects should be checked for compliance if being considered for use in the labelling or advertising of foods intended for delivery to the final consumer.
Reawakening consumers’ taste buds
Welch’s products are sold throughout the USA and in approximately 40 countries around the globe. Our experts are on hand to help you create a product that’s perfect for your customers, wherever they are. Our Grape Center of Excellence provides leadership in grape science, chemistry, formulation,process technology, research, innovation, analytical methods and new product development.
Concord grape juice concentrate is made in the USA. It is available in multiple formats, and is versatile and straight forward to use in beverage formulations. Its unique, intense color and flavor set it apart from other juices, providing an opportunity to reawaken the taste buds of consumers who have grown weary of drinking the same juices every day. Besides concentrates and single strength juices, Welch’s offers a range of ingredients made with Concord grapes, including fruit bites and purées that can be incorporated into food applications such as snacks (pictured below), baked goods, confections, preserves, frozen and cultured dairy products, sauces and dips. Welch’s Concord grape ingredients are certifiable Kosher by Circle K, OU Kosher or ISA Halal, as needed. Halal Certified concentrates can also be made available on request.
Additionally, organic options are available, in limited amounts and on request. The juice category is huge, but competitive. Incremental sales come to those who innovate with products that tap into current consumer needs. With its combination of great taste and natural nutrition, Concord grape juice offers a great solution for today’s sophisticated and discerning shoppers. Contact Welch’s Global Ingredients Group today to find out how Concord grape juice could help take your juice business to the next level and leave your competitors trailing.
Welch’s Concord grape juice is made in the USA.
For the Americas and Asia-Pacific:
Vice President International
Welch’s Global Ingredients Group
300 Baker Ave, Suite 101
Concord, MA 01742, USA
For Europe, Middle East & Africa:
NL-1043 GP Amsterdam