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.
On pollination by fruit bats, this tree produces large green or brownish fruits. 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.
"Baobab fruit powder offers an easy way to not only boost the fiber profile of products, but also improve the overall antioxidant and micronutrient content," said Walter Postelwait, VP marketing & sales, BI Nutraceuticals.
"This emerging superfruit is gaining popularity here in the United States, and any new product that incorporates baobab fruit will be among the first to market, creating a unique competitive advantage,” he added.
The ingredient can be used in a variety of applications, including sports supplements and vitamin/mineral formulas, and food and beverages like smoothies and powdered drinks, breakfast cereals and cereal bars, and ice creams, yogurts and dairy products.
BI’s specific ingredient is also sterilized using the company’s Protexx HP preservation method to eradicate any potential pathogens, while preserving all of the healthful properties of the fruit powder, said the company.
Out of Africa
Baobab fruit has a long history of traditional use in Africa, but is only a recent entrant to more mature markets: Novel foods approval in Europe came in July 2008.
Market research firm Mintel predicted that the ingredient would enjoy almost instant success in the European market, but the novel foods approval was followed by limited uptake during 2009.
US GRAS approval was granted in September 2010.
Tell a story
In a recent interview with NutraIngredients-USA, Angela Dorsey-Kockler, product manager at BI Nutraceuticals, explained that larger firms could be interested in exploring its potential as a prebiotic (it is very rich in soluble fiber) although manufacturers keen to make a splash with it would need to build a strong story around it – as had been done with stevia – in order to introduce it to US consumers.
“It’s from a fruit, and that’s obviously positive, but it’s also new and foreign,” she said. “Stevia has been very successful, but you have to remember that the companies promoting it have done a lot of PR and marketing to ensure its success.”