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Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Wall Street Journal On The Acai Berry

The Wall Street Journal April 18, 2003.

Açaí Replaces Wheatgrass In Blenders at Juice Bars

By TATIANA BONCOMPAGNI

Wheatgrass, protein shakes -- so 2002. At juice bars and health stores around the country, the hip new taste is açaí, (pronounced ah-sigh-EE) a grape-size, deep-purple berry that grows atop palm trees in the Brazilian jungle. In the two years since it hit the U.S., sales have jumped fivefold to $2.5 million, says Ryan Black, founder of Sambazon, the fruit's main U.S. importer, while at Juice It Up, a California chain, açaí drinks and dishes account for 10% of sales. "People drive out of their way to get it," says Brandon Gough, the company's vice president of marketing.

Fans say the fruit (which comes to the U.S. as frozen pulp) not only tastes good, but also is good for you -- packed with anthocyanins, the same antioxidants that give red wine its health benefits.

And, in a hat trick of health-bar chic, it's good for the Amazon, too, because it's collected by local families who can earn as much as $1,000 during the December-to-August harvest season (twice as much as they can usually make). "It gives them income and another land use besides cutting down the trees and raising cattle," says Chris Kilham, who teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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