Acai is a fruit which is exclusive from the Amazon! It originates from a very common palm tree in the Amazon region that produces a small round purple berry, widely used to produce food and drinks. The term “açaí” originates from the indigenous language Tupi, yasa’i, “fruit which cries earth”, alluding to the dark juice obtained from the fruit.
Acai is a very important food in the Brazilian diet. The states of Pará, Amazonas and Maranhão are the main producers of the fruit, together representing more than 85% of the world production.
Acai is widely consumed as a juice or a cream, dense and dark, in its region of origin. Thus, it can be used as functional drinks, sweets, jams and ice creams. The berry is picked in the riverside regions of the Amazon, from a sustainable extractivist system, by workers who climb up the palm trees with the help of braided leaves tied to their feet – called peconha. The harvesting is completely manual and the work is typical for the extractivist family farmers.
In order to be consumed, the acai must first be pulped, in other words, remove the pulp, in a specific machine or smashed manually (after staying in the water for some time) so the pulp comes off and when mixed with water it is transformed into a thick juice also known as acai wine. There is no consumption of the fruit in the way they are picked from the trees.
Besides using its fruit transformed into food or drinks, the acai tree has other commercial uses. Out of the leaves one can produce hats, mats, baskets, straw brooms and roofs for houses. The acai oil also has several chemical properties which cause beneficial effects to the human body.
Known as acai in the bowl, this formulation is highly enjoyed by those who go to the gyms and practice sports as its stimulating properties contained in the fruit are similar to those found in the coffee or in energy drinks. The acai also helps eliminating body residues, ensuring good health for its consumers. It is a super fruit from the Amazon and this characteristic explains the increase, never seen in the consumption, not only in Brazil but all around the world.
The consumption of the fruit from the 20th Century in mainly by the riverside population and the native peoples of the Amazon. Therefore, with the demographic growth of the cities in the northern region its consumption was spread out to the main cities of the Amazon region.
In this context, the acai market until the 1980s was based on the regional consumption with a consolidated demand. The transformation of acai from regional and rural food into a national and international projection started in the 1990s with the demand for healthier food and the demand for the amazon fruits, which started in the 1980s.
The acai productive system had, as initial role, supply for the consumption increase in the main amazon cities. But, with the increase of the external national and international demand there was the need to increase the volumes of raw material, which is very abundant along the margins of the Amazon rivers. Besides that, the external markets have become attractive for the industry, because all over the world the number of people who like functional foods, want a healthier life and welfare has grown.
Most of the acai productive chain is composed by small cooperatives which help increase the income of the families from those regions who, due to the environmental preservation and to the prohibition of deforestation, do not have the traditional agricultural activities.
In this context, with the internal and external demand increase, the production in larger scale was responsible for the inclusion of thousands of workers to the sustainable productive system, generating income and the best living conditions in a wild and inhospitable region.
Evidently, there still are lots of opportunities to improve the productive chain design, eliminating intermediaries and improving the income for those who harvest the fruit. However, the importance of acai is unquestionable to the environmental preservation besides the social and economic inclusion of the Amazon inhabitants.
The consumption boom attracted national and international investments in the attempt to improve the financial return for the acai crops. Currently, the acai consumption has a very strong regional and cultural base with a high consumption in the internal market and an international demand with variable consumption, but with the possibility of increasing, always complying to the sustainability concepts and the extremely positive image that the food product has in the main centers of consumers in Europe, North America, Middle East and Asia.
The production value has been increasing throughout time, a result from the improvements which impact positively the production and the best management of the acai trees in the forest. The sector’s governance today focuses all efforts in order to organize the productive chain, maintaining all the sustainability characteristics it already has.
With the recognition of acai as a fruit with high energy and vitamin power the national and international markets have become interested in the fruit, promoting an increase in demand, that according to the strategic plan Pará 2030 exports have grown in average 13% per year. Considering the natural lag of the offer a clear consequence from this acai consumption increase is the rise in prices.
In 2005 the exports had as destination only six countries being the United States and Japan the main importers. In 2016 already, we had an increase in exports to a total of 33 countries and currently more than 40 countries import acai from Brazil. However, the exported volume is still small corresponding to only 10% of the national production, being 30% sent to other Brazilian states and 60% consumed within the amazon region itself, as fundamental food in the local diet.
In the market the fruit pulp is the leader in exports being responsible for 97%. However, another product has been gaining space. The mix, which is a mixture of acai, banana and guarana, another amazon fruit, that in 2014 represented 0.2% and it went to 4% of the traded value.
Products and By-products
The current global market has been more concerned with its ecological footprint, wit a more sustainable consumption, creating this way a trend of adopting and habits for healthy and functional products. So, the acai is like a super fruit and, due to its high content of vitamins and antioxidants it has become a very attractive product to different industrial sectors.
With the verticalization of the production, it is possible to find the acai in its most varied forms, with several product lines, having in their composition the fruit which has won the title of “mainstream”.
Various combinations of acai were developed in the cosmetics, food and pharmaceuticals industries. Know more about some of them below.
Food and Drinks Sector:
- Pasteurized acai,
- Cereal bar,
- Energy drink,
- Ice Cream,
- Hair moisturizer,
- Skin moisturizer,
- Nail polish,
- Hair oil,
- Lip moisturizer.
- Vitamins and Supplements.
Besides the use of the fruit in the production verticalization process we also have the potential generated by the acai by-products which have as base the stones that are discarded when obtaining the acai pulp.
This discard of stones corresponds in average to 83% of the fruit’s volume that can be used to produce green biomass fuel, which has several ways of utilization, such as the generation of electrical and mechanical energy besides fuel gas; being a substitute for coal. Another use for this waste is as fertilizer made from the composting process of the organic matter as well as the production of phytotherapeutic products and animal feed.
The acai oil has a dark green color, and it does not smell so good after its extraction. However, when it goes through the refining process, the flavor and smell become much better.
The acai oil is very used for culinary purposes as well as cosmetics. As a food condiment it is widely used to season salads. Its use in cosmetics is for producing shampoos and hair creams, besides soaps and body moisturizers. It has an antioxidant concentration, 33 times more than the grapes; rich in essential fatty acids.
Consume acai from Brazil
Consume acai from Brazil, gain energy and health besides contributing to the preservation of the Amazon and for the inclusion of thousands of workers in a virtuous circle of sustainable development!