Baobab Foods, the Seattle-based firm created to drive the exotic fruit powder's introduction into the North American market, has been working with a range of food and drink manufacturers from small firms to Fortune 500 companies interested in taking products containing its Baobest-branded powder to market, said vice president, product development, Stephan Broburg.
“Some firms are asking about it, some are experimenting with it and others are at an advanced stage of the product development process and working on packaging concepts. I’m expecting new products in the marketplace in the third and fourth quarter of this year and the first and second quarter of next year.”
While customers liked the fact that it was creating work for people in rural communities in Africa, what made baobab really stand out from the crowd was its phenomenal nutrient density, he said.
“Weight for weight, it has a higher ORAC value, more fiber, vitamin C, iron, potassium and magnesium than any other fruit powder available on the market. It’s also one of the very few plant sources of calcium [64mg per 20g of baobab powder]. It has more vitamin C than kiwi fruit or oranges, more potassium than bananas and more than 50% fiber, most of which is soluble.”
Ice cream, tea, cereals, juices, smoothies, yogurts …
It was also surprisingly versatile, he claimed. “The straight Baobab fruit powder can be mixed 6g per 16oz water so you get an idea of what it tastes like by itself, sort of like watered down lemonade. Because Baobab does not have much flavor, it is easy to mix with other ingredients.
“We have found that if more than 6 grams of Baobab powder is mixed in 16 oz of water, tea or single strength juice, you will begin to feel a slight grittiness from the high fiber content of the fruit. But the pectin in baobab can serve as a gelling, thickening agent or stabilizer in other applications.”
Adding 50g of the powder to a gallon of juice would provide 25g fiber (19g of which is soluble fiber), 990 mg of potassium (32% of DV) and 73 mg of magnesium (23% of DV), he said.
“More dense liquids such as smoothies, yogurt, ice cream or oatmeal can absorb higher levels. As for energy bars, the rule of thumb is 6g of Baobab powder per bar. It also works well in a yogurt coating.”
As for baked goods, several firms including his own were conducting tests to see how well the powder responded to heat, he said.
The pulp, which dries naturally around the baobab fruit’s seeds and is then sieved and milled, did not need further processing, he said. “Baobab remains a raw, whole food with all its nutrients intact because there is no heat extraction, concentration or pasteurization.”
The off-white, fruit pulp powder looks like sherbet and has a delicate taste, and could be used in multiple applications in jam, ice cream, frozen desserts, yogurts, smoothies, juices, powdered drinks, cereals, cereal bars and ready-to-drink teas, said Broburg.
“We’re also developing baobab fruit chunks and cubes for use in cereals and cereal bars.”
Afriplex, the South African manufacturer of plant extracts supplying the baobab powder, was able to scale up production significantly in the event of a major contract with a top-flight player in the food sector, said Broburg.
Angela Dorsey-Kockler, product manager at BI Nutraceuticals, which has just started to offer baobab powder to North American customers, said 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. 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.”