Baobab Foods, one of several US companies importing the African ingredient, is making a push into the nutraceutical space with a depectinized extract.
The ingredient has been touted by Baobab Foods and others as the latest ‘superfruit.’ Baobab is the pulp of seed pods from the epynomous tree, a species that grows across southern and eastern Africa. The ingredient is high in fiber, has six times more vitamin C than orange juice and is high in antioxidants.
In addition to the extract, Baobab Foods offers raw powder, fruit cubes and a fruit drink.
Long lived tree
The baobab tree, adansonia digitata, is long lived and is notable for the massive, barrel-like trunks of the older specimens that allow the plant to store water and survive in the arid savannas in which it thrives. The fruit itself is a gourd-like pod that dries on the tree and drops to the ground. Inside are seeds, masses of tendrils and blobs of pulp, which is the basis of the ingredient. By the time its harvested, the pulp has the consistency of packing foam.
One of the selling points of the ingredient, Broburg said, is how close to nature both the raw powder and the extract are.
“Straight baobab powder is minimally processed. Mother nature does 98 percent of the processing,” he said. “The extract is just a concentrate form of the powder.”
Baobab Foods uses fruit harvested in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The fruit is processed, and the extract is essentially a straight concentrate of the raw ingredient. The extract is made by a South African partner, Broburg said, that does not use harsh solvents or high heat to concentrate the powder.
All of the fruit is wild harvested, and Broburg said the company trains pickers to ensure consistent product quality. Pods are harvested from the trees, not picked up from the ground, and the color of the rind is matched to make sure the pod is at the right stage.
Broburg said the extract has a variety of applications.
“It can go in capsules; primarily we see on the nutraceutical side being added to protein powders and omega 3 type powders both in exercise recovery, sports nutrition or active lifestyle-type products,” he said.
“Both powders are very light but the extract is more concentrated so you are using less of it. It just depends on the application.”
And the product’s attributes can have some markting advantages, Broburg said. In addition to besting some familiar antioxidant polyphenolic powerhouses on the ORAC scale, he said baobab beats them on bioavailability, too.
“If you compare it to things like grape seed extract or acai extract it has much higher bioavailability than those types of extracts,” he said.
Baobab is one of those ingredients that seems poised for prime time, but hasn’t yet quite taken the leap. It’s a matter of building the buzz, Broburg said, and he thinks Baobab Foods is just about there.
“We’ve seen a difference in the last six or nine months. We started in 2011 in getting the word out,” he said.
“I think it’s just a matter of baobab has been in Europe for five or six years and then we brought it here. Then people evaluate and play with it and then they start to put it into products. Nobody wants to be the first,” Broburg said.