“We are at an inflection point where we have seen the acceleration over the last two years” of startups and small to medium sized brands formulating a wide variety of products with baobab, “and now you are just starting to see some bigger retailers and manufacturers out there that are interested in putting it in finished products,” Stephen Broburg, general manager of Baobab Foods, told FoodNavigator-USA.
For example, he noted Whole Foods recently began carrying 365-branded trail mixes with the ingredient, Sam’s Club next month will launch a nutrition bar featuring the superfruit and Kroger will include it in its private label cereal. This is in addition to existing drink mixes from Bumbleroot Foods and Left Coast Raw that include the ingredient; cookies and nutrition bars with it from One Bar, Mammoth Bar and My Super Foods; and a plant-based protein blend from Garden Of Life with baobab, among other finished products.
The new and old launches combined will bring the number of products in the U.S. featuring the ingredient to 30 to 40, which is significant considering the ingredient only became a cash crop for South Africa about nine years ago and Baobab Foods only began shipping it to the U.S. four years ago, Broburg said.
Indeed, since Baobab Foods launched in 2011, demand for the ingredient has increased from “a couple of tons in the first year to 100 tons this year,” Broburg said.
He also noted sales of the supplier’s own-branded Baobest Baobab Superfruit Powder, which is available on Amazon for end users in 16- and 7-ounce bags, have more than tripled in the last year, and that is without any couponing or promotions.
A key driver of the ingredient’s growth is its nutritional profile, which exceeds that of other well-knonw superfruits, Broburg said. He noted that baobab fruit powder has a higher antioxidant ORAC value, fiber, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and calcium than goji berries, acai, blueberries, chia seeds, pomegranate and bananas.
In addition, he said, the antioxidants and nutrients in baobab are 10 times more bioavailable than that of acai, and it has an alkalizing effect that can help rebalance the pH levels in the body.
The ingredient also is gaining popularity because it is versatile and can be formulated in a range of different products, Broburg said.
He explained the ingredient is “a freak of nature in that the pulp dries inside the pod” so it is “naturally dehydrated and nutrient dense” so that manufacturers and suppliers do not have to worry about processing the ingredient beyond milling.
The powdery pulp is easy to add to baked goods with little change in how the dough behaves.
In addition, because the fruit is high in pectin it acts like a thickener, but a gelling agent, which is ideal for smoothies and shakes, Broburg said. However, he acknowledged, that the high fiber content of the ingredient is self-limiting in juices and liquids because it will “fall out in about five minutes” and resemble pulp at the bottom of a drink.
Finally, is ideal for many flavor profiles because it has a mild taste that does not need masking. Plus, because of its high level of acid, Baobab “brings other flavors into focus – adding brightness and making the finished product perkier,” Broburg said.
Accelerating future growth
In the next year or two, Broburg expects baobab to go from a mere component of finished products to a main ingredient that is touted on packaging.
To help elevate the fruit’s profile, Baobab Foods will launch a fruit snack next moth that will highlight the fruit’s flavor and nutrition benefits. The Baobest Baobites will be sold directly to consumers on Amazon, but also will be primarily available as an inclusion for manufacturers to use in trail mixes, cereals or in baked goods, where the bites will not melt.
Broburg added that Baobab Foods’ intention is not to compete with the manufacturers that it supplies with baobab, but rather its finished products will be sold in the background online and not in retail stores unless under other brand names of it manufacturer clients.