Article written by: Larry Aylward
Florida-based company aims to bring Brazilian superfood acaí to more U.S consumers who desire authentic wellness products
When people think of authentic cheese, they might think of Italy, which is home to a variety of cheeses that are popular around the world, from mozzarella to Parmigiano-Reggiano.
When they think of authentic fine wine, the vineyards of Bordeaux in southwest France easily come to mind.
And when people think of acaí — the small, purple berry cultivated from South American rainforests — they should think of Brazil and only Brazil, which is the superfood’s native country, says Marc Middleberg, president and chief business development officer for Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Tropical Acaí LLC, which imports authentic, organic acaí from its parent company in Brazil for distribution in the United States.
Tropical Acaí’s motto is “farm to blender.” Its parent company is located in Belém, a city in northern Brazil where the Amazon Rainforest flourishes. It’s in the jungles of Belém where the company cultivates the berries that grow on Amazonian palm trees and processes them into puree and other products at its state-of-the art manufacturing facility.
In the U.S., Tropical Acaí distributes its products to a growing list of foodservice operators (juice bars, smoothie bowl shops, restaurants, etc.), foodservice distributors and grocers (retail and wholesale), where the latter is also available for private label.
In this age of authenticity, more consumers than ever are searching for food and beverage products that are original. They want products that tout the three “Rs” of authenticity: that is, products that are “reliable,” “respectful” and “real.”
That’s why Middleberg and others at Tropical Acaí believe the timing couldn’t be better for the company’s products in the United States, especially as consumer demand grows for wellness products that are plant-based. According to a recent study by the marketing agency Slingshot, the pandemic has increased consumers’ penchant to eat healthier foods.
Roughly four in 10 people are more inclined than before to shop for natural or organic foods, while nearly half intend to place more emphasis on foods that boost the immune system, according to the study. Both figures suggest that foods once considered niche, such as acaí, are becoming more mainstream.
According to a study in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,” acaí “has been shown to be extremely powerful in its antioxidant properties.”
The website Healthline.com touts acaí for being “loaded with powerful plant compounds” that act as antioxidants that can benefit the brain, heart and overall health. Acaí also delivers healthy fats and fiber.
“The demand for healthy, antioxidant immune-system boosting foods really took off during the pandemic,” says Middleberg, whose company sells everything from acai in its pure form to acaí blender packs and acaí blender cubes to acaí sorbet.
(Click here for a full product listing.) “We have tremendous growth ahead of us.”
Companies that offer authentic products have stories behind them, and Tropical Acaí is no exception. The company began in Brazil about 17 years ago and established its U.S operation in Pompano Beach just over two years ago.
Renata Prates, CEO for Tropical Acaí in the United States, says there’s no other place in the world that has the natural conditions to produce premium acaí like the Amazonian Rainforest.
The trees that bear the berries are the product of their environment — they rely on natural rivers and their nutrients for irrigation and growth.
The people who harvest berries from July through December are locals that live near the river banks; they are skilled tree climbers and pickers, and view their work as a craft.
The manufacturing facility sits beside the tree farm in Belém. It’s crucial that the picked berries are brought to the plant quickly, and processed and pasteurized the same day to preserve freshness.
While the berries are washed by hand, they are never touched again after entering the plant, Prates explains.
The “farm to blender” process doesn’t waver, and Prates and Middleberg stress that authenticity has everything to do with consistency.
Because it’s a vertically integrated company, Tropical Acaí controls the entire process, from seed to extraction to production and packaging.
“In the food industry today, it’s critical that you offer the same product — all of the time,” Middleberg says, noting that Tropical Acaí is painstakingly diligent when it comes to the consistency of its overall operations.
The product that comes out of the company’s plant on a Friday is the same product that came out of the plant the day before and the day before that.
Making a Name
Tropical Acaí relies on several third-party certifications to help back its products’ authenticity. For starters, all of its products use only organic ingredients and are certified USDA Organic and IBD Certified (the only Brazilian certifier of organic products).
They are also Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified Kosher and Certified Vegan, and the company’s manufacturing facility is certified to meet the world’s safest food-handling procedures, including the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFIS) and Safe Food 360.
Tropical Acaí has gone to these certification lengths to not only enhance its reputation for authentic products made with minimal ingredients, but to separate it from other vendors that are selling inauthentic acaí in the U.S., which might contain purple dye for coloring or has been infused with tapioca syrup to make it appear more like gelato or ice cream, Prates says.
“So our goal at Tropical Acaí is to inform the American public about what truly real acaí is like,” she adds.
Middleberg said the company’s reputation as a dependable importer and distributor of acaí is spreading throughout the United States. Tropical Acaí is growing its business in areas where acaí is gaining in popularity, such as Florida, California and the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Middleberg says the company is also seeing growth spurts in Montana and several eastern shore states as well as Alabama, Texas and Tennessee.
Many younger adults, such as Generation Zers (those born from the mid-1990s up to the early 2010s), are no longer frequenting yogurt shops for sugar-filled dairy products. “They are going to smoothie shops to get real acaí topped with fruit,” Middleberg says.
Continued education is crucial to growing the business. Many people aren’t familiar with acaí, but Tropical Acaí is doing its part to educate them about the product’s benefits through social media and videos on YouTube, among other things. Middleberg and Prates also say the product will sell itself.
“Like many products that originate in South America — from coffee to chocolate to cane sugar — there’s something special about acaí that makes it incredibly craveable,” Middleberg says. “You just can’t get authentic acaí like this anywhere else.”
PURE AND DELICIOUS, THE TRUE NATIVE SUPERFRUIT FROM THE AMAZON
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF AÇAÍ
The Açaí is the fruit of the açai tree, it is a typical Brazilian fruit and it grows in the tropical forests of the Brazilian Amazon. Açai is a fruit rich in protein, fiber, lipids and an excellent source of vitamins such as Vitamin C, Vitamin B1 and Vitamin B2. Açaí also has a good amount of Phosphorus, Iron and Calcium.
Benefits of Açai in Cancer Prevention: The Açai berry contains anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant that play an important role in cancer prevention. Anthocyanins are present in all berries (they are responsible for the black, red and purple açai colors). Studies have shown that they can have a significant and preventive effect on cancer.
Açai Reduces Cholesterol: A published study found that people who eat high-fat diets along with açaí pulp had lower levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol than people who ate diets rich in fat, without açaí pulp. Anthocyanins in açaí can also help reduce cholesterol levels.
Benefits of Açai for Heart Health: A study published in the June 2011 issue of the journal Atherosclerosis found that açaí juice protects against atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) by inhibiting the production of proinflammatory cytokines. The cholesterol reduction benefits mentioned above also contribute to the role of açai in maintaining a healthy heart.
The Açai Berry is Rich in Antioxidants: Studies conducted on the purple Açai berry have found high levels of antioxidant activity. Antioxidants are beneficial because they fight against free radicals, which means these antioxidants can greatly reduce the risks of cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Benefits of Açai for the Immune System: Antioxidants in açaí, including high levels of Vitamin C, can help boost the immune system.
Açai is an anti-inflammatory agent: There have been some promising results in studies showing that açai can help with the symptoms of diseases due to chronic inflammation such as asthma and autoimmune diseases. A study has found that açai can be a COX-1 inhibitor and COX-2 inhibitor naturally, which means it can help to inhibit pain and inflammation without the side effects of medications containing COX-1 and COX-2 inhibitors.
Benefits of Açai in Aging Prevention: Antioxidants in Açai can help reduce the effects of aging. Flavonoids and anthocyanins protect cells within the body and can reduce cell degeneration by helping to keep the body healthy and young.
Benefits of Açai For Weight Loss: Companies that sell açai affirm that it often speeds up the metabolism. Although it contains amino acids that are believed to be essential for a healthy metabolism, there is still very little scientific evidence to prove that eating the açai berry helps in weight loss. That said, the açai berry is very rich in fiber and low in calories and any food with these qualities, when consumed instead of snacks loaded with calories, will help the person maintain a healthy weight.
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