Berries have a dedicated following among fans of healthy eating. From the humble blueberry and elderberry to the more exotic acai berry, small but antioxidant-rich fruits seem to feature heavily in many health foods and drinks. Now there’s a new challenger in town: the Aronia berry. This little purple fruit is the star player in a new beverage: Tohi, a soft drink that claims to pack a bigger antioxidant punch than your average fruit juice.
What is Aronia?
The Aronia berry is perhaps better known by its less appetizing common name: chokeberry. Chokeberries are native to North America, although they can be found in Europe too. The dark purple fruit with its vivid magenta juice has been used as a nourishing and tasty food source since time immemorial. More recently, chokeberries have attracted attention from nutritionists because of their unusually high levels of antioxidants. As well as being very rich in vitamin C, chokeberries contain riboflavin, anthocyanins, and other powerful antioxidant ingredients. Some analyses place them above even the popular acai berry as an antioxidant source.
Why Drink Tohi?
Tohi’s main selling point is its high level of Aronia juice. The manufacturers claim that Tohi’s formulation makes it an excellent source of antioxidants and vitamins. In theory, one can of Tohi could count as one of your recommended five portions of fruit or vegetables per day (although only one portion — the other four need to consist of whole fruit or veggies). It’s also touted as offering a good source of hydration.
Taste is another critical feature. The unusual fruity taste of chokeberries is a point in the drink’s favor, offering jaded consumers something new to try. With flavors like dragon fruit, ginger-lime, blackberry-raspberry, and the original Aronia berry, Tohi is aiming for a more sophisticated market as well as a health-conscious one. Tohi’s marketing includes suggestions for mixed drinks using the beverages, although spirits might undermine any health benefits.
Are Tohi’s Claims True?
As far as they go, the claims made for Tohi aren’t unreasonable. The drink is touted as being a healthier alternative to conventional sodas and soft drinks, which is arguably the case. Conventional sodas tend to be light on nutrients unless fortified with vitamins. Plain fruit juice is undoubtedly healthy and full of vitamins but can be rather dull. Tohi, on the other hand, offers a tasty beverage with lots of nutritional benefits.
Most of Tohi’s health claims rest on the high antioxidant content. While antioxidants are certainly important, they aren’t a panacea. You can actually have too much of a good thing, with high intakes of some antioxidants being linked to health problems. The amount in a can of Tohi is unlikely to offer any drawbacks, however, and might be a useful addition to a diet low in fresh fruit. Suggestions that the drink might ‘boost your immune system’ and similar claims are unproven.
Tohi also claims to offer hydration. This is also true since the juices are blended with water. It’s unclear whether Tohi offers better hydration than a similar amount of juice or plain water, but it’s definitely a refreshing way to boost your fluid intake a little.
On the whole, Tohi seems like a positive addition to the world of health drinks. It’s tasty, unusual, refreshing, and generally a good choice if you’re looking for a drink that’s better for you than soda or juice. It makes for a sophisticated soft drink or a classy mixer. Whether or not it’s really healthier than fresh juice and water is unclear, but it’s certainly worth seeking out.
According to Jim Tonkin, Founder & President of Healthy Brand Builders and a board member of Tohi, “As a 46 year veteran of the food and beverage world, not often do opportunities come to fruition based on the perfect storm of a unique and ubiquitous product like Aronia Berries, a company ready to build a business around the use of same, and a team ready to make it happen.”
Sounds like some good opportunity in front of Tohi, but remember while some fruits certainly do contain more antioxidants and nutrients than others, no single berry can keep you stay healthy. So-called ‘superfoods’ like the Aronia berry can only be helpful when consumed as part of a balanced diet, with plenty of nutritious foods from all food groups. Even the best health products are no substitute for a varied diet.