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Baobab goes for GRAS ahead of 2010 World Cup

By Sarah Hills , 30-Sep-2008
Last updated on 30-Sep-2008 at 17:30 GMT

A trade association has prepared a GRAS notification dossier for its baobab fruit pulp powder in the hope that products could become available in time for the 2010 soccer World Cup in South Africa.

PhytoTrade Africa is already promoting the potential of baobab fruit pulp for applications in the beverage and healthy snack markets after baobab fruit pulp obtained novel foods approval in Europe in June.

Now Cyril Lombard, of PhytoTrade, said the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) dossier for the US market would be submitted “shortly”. They are also considering additional dossiers for derivatives of the baobab fruit - a common food and flavor in Africa that has been heralded as a new superfruit.

Baobab is tipped to become a billion dollar industry as there is increasing interest in more exotic flavors and fruits with added benefits. In the US in particular, analysts have also identified a trend for African cuisines.

Dr Lucy Welford, spokeswoman for PhytoTrade, said baobab was a good flavor enhancer and described the taste as tart, very citrusy and similar to grapefruit.

She told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “If GRAS status comes through, we could be looking at products launches in the US in 2009.”

Dr Welfod added: “The World Cup is a huge opportunity to market this as a new kind of African beverage ingredient in particular.

“It brings an interesting and exotic flavor to food or beverage products and at the same time it does have interesting nutritional properties.

“It has a high pectin and fiber content so it is useful in slightly thicker drinks such as smoothies, as well as in cereals, jams, biscuits and other applications.

“Now that we’ve had a lot of interest in Europe, I think there might be a knock-on effect in the US.”

She said the plan is to submit the GRAS dossier first, then follow this up with an application for NDI (new dietary ingredient) status.

Health benefits

Baobab is the large green or brown fruit of the Adansonia digitata, (or 'upside-down') tree, which grows primarily in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Different parts of the fruit are a traditional food in these countries.

The fruit pulp of the baobab is said to have an antioxidant activity about four times that of kiwi or apple pulp. The main nutrients include vitamin C, riboflavin, niacin, pectin and citric, malic and succinic acids, while the oil also contains the vitamins A, D and E.

The pulp is also reported to be prebiotic and stimulate the intestinal microflora.

The maximum sustainable harvesting potential of baobab could about $1bn, according to a report by Ben Bennett from the UK's Natural Resources Institute (NRI) for the Regional Trade Facilitation Programme (RTFP).

PhytoTrade, which represents companies wishing to export their dried baobab fruit, worked with the South African company Afriplex to ensure the ingredient's acceptance within the European ingredients market. Now PhytoTrade Africa is researching the regulatory requirements in Japan.

African inspiration

A recent Packaged Facts report called Food Flavors and Ingredients Outlook 2008 predicted that the cuisines of several African nations such as Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt were particularly likely to gain in popularity in the US.

An example of this is the influence of North African cuisine which includes ras el hanout spice blends and harissa, a chile-caraway seed condiment.

In some areas, such as Washington, Minneapolis, New York and Chicago, the African trend is helped by large immigrant communities of Ethiopians and Somalians, according to Elaine Tecklenburg who authored the report.

This year Bell Flavors & Fragrances paired the Moroccan spice ras el hanout with apricot on toasted pine nuts. It also used spicy African ginger for use in a sorbet with the Aisan citrus fruit yuzu.

Similarly Symrise is offering an African theme to the alcoholic beverage market with the launch of its “African Inspirations” such as cacao liqueur which uses a blend of cacao from the Ivory Coast and typical African spices such as cardamom. Also there is a cider which has a rooibos flavor note. Rooibos, or red bush, is a plant commonly used in tea in South Africa.

However, the beverage concepts have mainly been developed for the EAME region (Europe, Africa, Middle East).

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