MANGOULE: Senegal’s baobab sellers are reaping the rewards of the continent’s most iconic fruit becoming a “superfood” to European and American audiences, as major international brands, including the Coca-Cola Company and Costco embrace it.

The fruit, which is becoming famous for its health properties, was until recently only locally used, according to a report from Reuters. Now, a small network of producers and suppliers has succeeded in growing the product’s potential abroad, stimulating demand.

The effect of the growth in demand is that producers are making more from each stack in a growth-market. By 2025, the industry is expected to export as many as 5,000 tonnes of the fruit (in 2013, just 50 tonnes were exported), making it a $400 million industry.

European and American companies are taking note. Yeo Valley, the British yoghurt maker, began to sell a vanilla and baobab yoghurt in big UK supermarkets in January. Costco has introduced a baobab and acai ‘bowl’. Innocent (owned by Coca-Cola) released a smoothie with the fruit in 2016.

“It is the great tree of the African village”, said Thomas Pakenham, an arborist and historian. But the uptake in Europe was not, at first, strong. The EU approved imports of the fruit in 2008, but demand was limited because of the financial crisis.

Producers used the tools they had. They went to trade shows and began a Twitter campaign to #Makebaobabfamous.

Since the start of 2018, the Guardian reported in March, food delivery platform Ocado has seen a 27% increase in weekly sales. The trend has been driven, in part, by a growth in liquid breakfasts.

However, this growth is not simply plain sailing. Unlike plantation plants such as coffee, the baobab fruit tends to be harvested from existing trees, which take a long time to mature. With less rain this year, the harvest has been more difficult for producers.

“It is only when the trees are providing income that the communities themselves will…plant, nurture and protect baobab seedlings,” said Andrew Hunt, co-founder of London’s Aduna, which sells around $500,000 of baobab products from fruit suppliers in northeast Ghana.

Sourced from Reuters, The Guardian