The rise of the baobab fruit in food and beverage applications has been predicted for some time, but the fruit pulp only gained Food and Drug Administration (FDA) GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status in September 2009. So far, uptake in the US has been slow, and analysts have blamed a combination of factors, including a longer than expected GRAS process for the ingredient, as well as recessionary effects, meaning that major food manufacturers’ R&D was minimal.
Sold as a powder, the baobab is said to have an antioxidant activity about four times that of kiwifruit 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. Baobab Foods said intends to distribute the ingredient in North America under the BaoBest brand name for incorporation into foods and drinks such as teas, jams, cereals and juices.
Company founder David Bruck said: “Baby boomers have already been pre-sold on the benefits of products high in antioxidants like pomegranate…Baobab offers significantly more antioxidants as well as a multitude of naturally occurring vitamins and nutrients such as calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. The organic baobab fruit consists of 50 percent fiber and is considered a prebiotic, significantly aiding digestibility.”
Baobab pulp powder is an off-white color and looks like sherbet; it is said to have an unusual tart and sweet ‘caramel pear’ taste and potentially could be used as a flavor enhancer or to help food and drink manufacturers reduce sugar in some applications.
Baobab has been 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.
Baobab Foods said it also intends to offer baobab-containing foods directly to consumers, including fruit bars and a drink mix.