Baobab - newest kid on the novel foods block

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Africa farmers could be set to tap into a billion dollar industry
with baobab, as the baobab fruit pulp obtained novel foods approval
yesterday, FoodNavigator.com can report.

The news could see a rush in demand for thus novel fruit, which has been building since initial reports a couple of years. "We do anticipate a rising level of demand for baobab,"​ Dr Lucy Welford from PhytoTrade Africa, the southern Africa natural products trade association that represents companies wishing to export their dried baobab fruit, told this website. The maximum sustainable harvesting potential of baobab could be just under one billion dollars, according to a report​ by Ben Bennett from the UK's Natural Resources Institute (NRI) for the Regional Trade Facilitation Programme (RTFP). "Baobab can be offered sustainably and in very large quantities,"​ Bennett told FoodNavigator.com. "[The novel foods approval] is wonderful news for the thousand or so potential products that could come out of Africa,"​ he added. At the recent Vitafoods show in Geneva, Riaan van Breda, technical director for Afriplex, told FoodNavigator.com's sister site NutraIngredients.com that approval had arrived, but the final written confirmation was expected within two weeks. PhytoTrade Africa and South African company Afriplex have been working together to ensure the ingredient's acceptance within the European ingredients market. That approval has now come and PhytoTrade Africa are moving to promote the potential of baobab fruit pulp in specific food applications. "The key things that PhytoTrade wants to focus on are the opportunities in the beverage and healthy snack markets,"​ said Welford. Baobab is the large green or brown fruit of the Adansonia di​gitata, (or 'upside-down') tree, which grows primarily in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. On pollination by fruit bats, this tree produces large green or brownish fruits. Different parts of the fruit are a traditional food in these countries. It has a long history of traditional use in Africa, but has not been commonly consumed in the EU prior to May 1997, meaning that approval must be gained under novel foods legislation before it can be used in products for the European market. The wheels were set in motion by PhytoTrade Africa, which submitted an application to the UK's Food Standards Agency in 2006. Formulation characteristics ​ According to the novel foods application, the anticipated intake of baobab pulp from products such as smoothies and cereal bars would be around five to 10 per cent. These levels were determined by preliminary work by Leatherhead Food International to determine the potential applications of the pulp as an ingredient in food and beverages. LFI's work found that the optimum level for smoothie drinks was between six and eight per cent by weight fruit pulp, while cereal bars prepared by a dry mix process showed that five to ten per cent by weight of the baobab fruit pulp "produced acceptable fruit bars with good flavour and a chewy texture.""The Leatherhead Food results clearly demonstrate that these values are acceptable for the incorporation of baobab pulp at these levels,"​ stated the novel food approval application. "Further uses include a de-pectinated baobab fruit pulp and the use of the fruit pulp in other food products such as biscuits, confectionary, and other related food products.""In time, we also want to devote some attention to research into baobab pulp's health giving properties, as well as developing new uses and applications,"​ Welford told this website. Health profile ​ The fruit pulp of the baobab is said to have an antioxidant activity about four times that of kiwi or apple pulp. 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. A study from Italian researchers last year reported that the baobab pulp had an Integral Antioxidant Capacity (IAC) 10 times that of orange pulp (Food Chemistry​, Vol. 102, pp 1352-1356). The pulp is also reported to be prebiotic and stimulate the intestinal microflora. If successful, the application will further underline the growing popularity of exotic ingredients derived from Africa.

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