this post, Flavors of Brazil commented on the increasing popularity in the Northern Hemisphere of an Amazonian fruit called açaí. Our point in that post was that even though the fruit was totally unknown outside Brazil until just a few years ago, it had suddenly begun to pop up everywhere - in health food stores, at Whole Foods and Whole-Foods clones, for sale online and by way of multi-level marketing schemes (MonaVie). Even if scientific evidence did prove that the dark-purple berry with the earthy, almost dirt-like taste was at least somewhat nutritionally beneficial, super-extravagant claims were being made in the marketplace about açaí. It was being touted as a "superfood" and in various places was claimed to cure, among other things, obesity, attention-deficit disorder, autism, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease and erectile dysfunction.
The New Yorker magazine. Written by John Colapinto, the article is entitled Strange Fruit, and significantly subtitled The rise and fall of açaí.
Colapinto traces the rise of açaí over the course of the past quarter-century. Until the 1980s the berry of the açaí palm was a food source only for riverside dwellers in the Amazonian rain forest. During the 80s and 90s the popularity of açaí spread first to the big southern cities of Brazil, like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and then to the rest of Brazil. Its move into the USA was largely the work of two brothers from Southern California, Ryan and Jeremy Black and a friend, Edmund Nicols. They had discovered the fruit while travelling in Brazil and thought there was a market for it in the USA. They began to export açaí to the USA in the early 2000s under the brand name Sambazon (from samba + Amazon). Today, Sambazon is the market leader in the USA in açaí products, with annual sales of around $50 million.
Frieda's, a Los Angeles firm that markets exotic fruits and vegetables, and which is responsible for the introduction, renaming and eventual enormous success of kiwi fruit. Ms. Caplan pointed out to Colapinto that all food products have a life cycle, and that it had taken twenty years for the kiwi to become a best-seller. Açaí has only been exported from Brazil for about half of that time. So does Ms. Caplan think that açaí is over? She says, "No way. I walk into a produce department and see five brands that have açaí in it. And I go to the nutritional stores and I see supplements and a big banner saying 'Açaí' Then I say, O.K. it's starting to get mainstream."