‘How bad can the economy be if people are buying acai?’
That was the question posed by Washington Post columnist Jennifer Huget in a March 31, 2009, article about the growing popularity of the Brazilian wonder berry. The article noted that sales of acai have been skyrocketing—Americans spent more than $108 million on acai products in the 52 weeks ending Feb. 21, 2009, up from a little over $62 million during the same period in 2007, according to SPINS research. But the piece also questioned—as it should—the the validity of many of the health claims that are coming out about the acai super fruit. As Huget writes: “Who’d have believed that this modest product of Brazil’s Amazon rain forest could do everything from speed weight loss to correct sexual dysfunction—while bolstering your immune system, too?”
Huget also warns consumers against enrolling in the “free” trials of acai products that are showing up with increasing frequency on the Internet and in people’s e-mail in-boxes. “After sharing credit-card information to cover shipping and handling, consumers are being hit by surprise monthly charges, often before they even receive their trial shipment,” Huget writes.
What is happening right now with acai is another example of how a few bad berries can contaminate an entire industry. Stepping up against nutrition-related Internet scams (which acai product maker Sambazon is doing) and backing products with serious research that can stand up to scientific scrutiny (such as Proprietary Nutritionals Inc. has done for its cranberry Cran-Max ingredient) is becoming increasingly important and will be essential in helping individual companies—as well as the entire industry—weather the negative press that is being fueled by fraudulent acai and other nutrition-related companies.