African companies plan fruit ingredient launch in U.S.

by Jeff Gelski
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HARARE, ZIMBABWE — PhytoTrade Africa and Afriplex, its commercial partner and a plant extract company, plan to launch baobab powder in the U.S. market in early November. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently ruled it had no objections to baobab’s Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status for use in foods and beverages.

PhytoTrade Africa, Harare, and Afriplex, Paarl, South Africa, will make the healthy drinks and snacks market, including smoothies and cereal bars, a key target.

"Dozens of companies have shown interest in baobab since we submitted the application," said Gus Le Breton, chief executive of PhytoTrade Africa. "Many have already conducted initial research. Now that approval has been given, they can progress to full scale product development."

The baobab tree (Adansonia digitata) grows in southern Africa and also is known as the "upside-down tree" because of its root-like branch formations.

"With innovative formulations, baobab fruit could enable food and beverage formulators to develop products naturally high in fiber and vitamin C," said Cyril Lombard, who heads up market development at PhytoTrade Africa, while adding baobab dried fruit pulp contains a high level of antioxidants.

P.L. Thomas, Morristown, N.J., already offers an extract from the baobab tree that may be used as a flavor enhancer in beverages, smoothies, snacks, fruit fillings, desserts, cereals, nutrition bars and supplements. The extract comes with at least 150 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams and also is a source of B vitamins, calcium, amino acids and fiber.

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