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Market seeing potential in acai

If pomegranate is the new blueberry, acai is shaping up as the new pomegranate. The tropical Amazonian berry has been getting good press in consumer and trade publications and is exciting product developers around the world, especially in the juice category.

Acai anthocyanin levels are 30 times greater than those found in red wine, and the resultant antioxidant activity is up to six times greater than blueberries. Acai is also a good source of omega-6 and omega-9, iron, fibre and other vitamins and minerals.

An acai smoothie debuted in Australia last year and California-based Bossa Nova Beverage Groups Acai Juice launched Original, Mango and Passionfruit juices recently. Other acai beverages are available by mail order and online from various start-ups.

In Europe, ingredients supplier and fresh produce importer J.O. Sims has signed a UK distribution deal with New Zealand-based tropical fruit pulps and extracts specialist Fruits of the Amazon. "This is a significant milestone on our march to expose other markets to the wealth of natural and functional products from the Amazon," said Fruits of the Amazon general manager Jon Wisniewski.

"We are well positioned to introduce food and drink manufacturers to the benefits of using this exotic, healthy fruit," said Doug Mackay, ingredients general manager at J.O. Sims.

"Acai is a hot thing with a very high antioxidant content," Tom Vierhile, executive director of New York-based market analyst Productscan Online, told Beverage Industry magazine. "It has followed in the footsteps of POM Wonderful [pomegranate juice], which proved there is a market for high-end fruit drinks."

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