SAMBAZON eyes growth opportunities for açaí products in Middle East

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

SAMBAZON’s line-up consists of ready-to-eat açaí bowls, a convenience format that the firm is focusing on. ©SAMBAZON
SAMBAZON’s line-up consists of ready-to-eat açaí bowls, a convenience format that the firm is focusing on. ©SAMBAZON

Related tags Acai Middle east

US-based SAMBAZON is looking to expand uptake of açaí products in the Middle East, where the firm says awareness about the superfruit still has much room for growth.

Founded over 24 years ago, SAMBAZON, which stands for Sustainable Management of the Brazilian Amazon, has continuously expanded its global footprint and is now available in about 50 countries.

In the Middle East, its biggest markets are Dubai and Saudi Arabia, with presence in emerging markets including Bahrain, Qatar and Oman. In South East Asia, the brand considers the Philippines and Thailand as fast-growing markets.

“The biggest opportunity we see is the room to grow awareness. Açaí is something that is still new for the Asian and Middle Eastern regions. It hasn’t even been 10 years since açaí entered the Middle East. In Asia, it’s usually a small local company — and not a major conglomerate — that has brought açaí into a market.

“It has really taken an entrepreneur or a group of entrepreneurs to invest money into creating awareness in the market, resulting in more trial of the product. The good news is, once people taste it, they love it and the adoption rate is very high. Also, products like açaí bowls are Instagram-worthy and because it’s healthy, it is something that can be added to one’s diet on a regular basis,” ​Ryan Black, co-founder of SAMBAZON, told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

To boost awareness and uptake of açaí products, the company is actively participating in events such as sporting and music festivals, as well as conducting in-store demonstrations and tastings.

It is also supplying to foodservice partners, including restaurants, cafes and juice bars.

“Consumers don’t just randomly go to the frozen section to buy a product that they have never heard of. There is a need to build awareness in foodservice before entering retail.

“For example, when people try it at a breakfast place, they like it so much that they want to have it at home — that’s when we need to make the product available in supermarkets. Having said that, the awareness level in Dubai is relatively high and SAMBAZON is present most of the major supermarkets.”

In its natural state, açaí does not contain any sugar. Most products in the market are sweetened through added sugar or through other fruits.

“There are some açaí products that do not have sugar added. I’ve noticed that recently, especially in a market like Japan, consumers are preferring the unsweetened version more than the sweetened version.

“In the Middle East, there are some acai brands that sell very sweet products, to the point where the balance between health and sugar is being questioned. If you are trying to consume acai as a healthy food, you want to look for things like organic-certified sugar, which we use in all our products. Things like artificial sweeteners or refined sugars defeat the purpose of going for a healthy alternative.”

Focused on convenience

SAMBAZON’s line-up consists of frozen açaí purée, ready-to-eat (RTE) açaí bowls, frozen bites, juices, and sorbet.

“Traditionally, the indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest consumed açaí at room temperature, almost like an applesauce eaten with meat, shrimp or fish. In the 90s, eating it as an açaí bowl with bananas and granola became popular in Brazil. When we brought açaí to America, we started innovating with different formats.

“We have introduced açaí juices, frozen purée that you can put into the blender and create your own smoothie or açaí bowl, and RTE açaí bowls where you can just open the top and dig in with a spoon,” ​Black shared.
He added that convenience is a “big liberator of consumption”, particularly RTE açaí bowls that resemble single-serve yoghurts cater to people who may not know how to handle frozen purée or do not have a blender at home.

In terms of product development, SAMBAZON is working on both new formats and flavours.

“We are really focused on the convenience aspect. We have been selling blocks of frozen purée, which needs to be cut with a knife into smaller blocks to be put into a blender. In the next year, we are coming out with açaí cubes, which are like frozen blueberries, that can be readily poured into the blender and easier to blend.

“In addition, we are innovating on flavour profiles. For instance, for our RTE açaí bowls, we have been selling the original flavour(açaí berry blend) and Berry Bliss (açaí berry, strawberry and banana). Recently, we released two new flavours, Dragon Fruit and Mango Passion Fruit, which include toasted coconut flakes as topping.”

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