Out of Africa: Novel botanicals enter market

By Stephen Daniells in Geneva

- Last updated on GMT

Functional food and beverage makers could soon be turning to Africa
for more and more novel plant extracts, Vitafoods attendees heard
yesterday.

While some extracts, like Devil's claw, honeybush, and rooibus extracts are currently available in Europe and elsewhere, novel products like extracts from the iconic baobab tree could be hitting European shelves sooner rather than later.

The southern Africa natural products trade association, PhytoTrade Africa, in collaboration with South African company, Afriplex, look set to introduce baobab fruit pulp products to industry.

Negotiations with several European companies are on-going, and Donnie Malherbe, Afriplex's operations director, told NutraIngredients.com that he expects baobab-containing products to be available in Europe "within the next year."

"We've been working for some time with Afriplex on the baobab fruit,"​ explained Cyril Lombard, market development manager, PhytoTrade Africa. "With its long history of safe and traditional use on the continent, this is one of Africa's most exciting species.

Its nutritional profile and properties, as well as its inherent market appeal, make it an interesting novel ingredient for the food and beverage industry. Through this partnership, we will shortly be able to offer baobab fruit pulp to industry in a range of qualities and formats,"​ said Lombard.

Dr Joerg Gruenwald from Germany-based Analyze and Realize told a packed auditorium at Geneva's PalExpo centre that the fruit pulp of the baobab has an atioxidant activity about four times that of kiwi or apple pulp.

The fruit has a "good and long track record [of safety] amongst indiginous populations,"​ said Malherbe, and was used in ancient Egypt as a treatment of fevers, dysentery and blood wounds.

The main nutrients include vitamin C, riboflavin, niacin, pectin and citric, malic and succinic acids, while the oil also contains the vitamins A, D and E.

As if a wealth of nutrients wasn't sufficient, the pulp is also reported to be prebiotic and stimulate the intestinal microflora.

Possible applications as a functional ingredient range from beverages, jams, sauces, snack bars and breakfast cereals, as well as in dietary supplements, said Gruenwald.

Although the baobab fruits are to be wild-harvested, concerns about sustainability are unfounded. "The volumes are there,"​ said Malherbe. Indeed, Gruenwald told attendees that sustainable harvest could yield as much as 900,000 tonnes per year.

Accreditation as a novel ingredient in Europe is coming this summer, said a PhytoTrade Africa source, with demand already "huge".

Afriplex and PhytoTrade Africa are also collaborating on Kigelia africana, the African sausage tree, which has been interesting both nutraceutical and cosmetic industries.

Related topics: Science

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