This week’s New Yorker has a lengthy (well, what New Yorker feature isn’t long?) story on açaí. The headline reads “Strange Fruit: The Rise and Fall of Açaí.” This had me concerned: Did açaí completely fall from grace when I wasn’t looking? After all, the U.S. consumer market for açaí supplements was $349 million in 2010, growing 18 percent over 2009 sales, according to Nutrition Business Journal.
Turns out that the article title is a bit misleading. Sure, some bad players in the açaí marketplace got into hot water with the feds for unsubstantiated weight-loss claims among other outlandish declarations. Also, some experts in the New Yorker article claim that the high antioxidant properties of açaí—measured by the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) scale—might not lead to a cure for every ailment known to humankind.
Still, in the end, the article concludes that açaí is far from over—in fact, it’s just starting to go mainstream.
Açaí is new. Although Brazilians have indulged in the fruit for many decades or longer, the berries didn’t really hit the U.S. until this century. To determine the full nutritional value of açaí, more research needs to be done. This takes time.
But after reading the New Yorker piece, I thought: How would I respond if someone who had read the same article asked me about açaí? How can you answer customer questions about products you sell that have gotten negative press?
My first go-to: industry associations. When a negative study about a nutrient goes viral, I turn to the Council for Responsible Nutrition and the Natural Products Association. These organizations have scientists on staff who can evaluate the quality of the research and offer advice on how to respond to consumer questions about the under-fire nutrient. The Independent Natural Food Retailers Association also offers retailer support to enhance your customer education programs.
I recommend that whether you’re a manufacturer or a retailer, you lean on these associations for guidance. They are there for you.
What other resources do you use to help you respond to negative press about natural products? Discuss below.