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Acai (pronounced a-see-ah), a Brazilian rainforest berry with a “super fruit” reputation, first emerged as a beverage and smoothie flavor, but it’s finding a new niche as a nutrition-packed base for bowl breakfasts.
The mashed berries, which have a deep purple color, sour flavor and pulpy consistency when harvested, are stripped, pulped and flash frozen for export to the U.S. market. Topped with more fruit, honey, nuts, coconut flakes and exotic extras like hemp, bee pollen and spirulina, the finished results are as beautiful as they are healthful.
While this gluten-free, dairy-free ingredient is emerging in health food-forward places like coastal California, Colorado and the East Coast, many see acai as a trend with both long-term and national potential. The San Francisco-based Bowl’d Acai food truck offers a Green Goliath bowl with acai, spinach, hemp protein, strawberry, banana and coconut water blended for the base. Then it’s topped with One Planet custom-made granola, strawberry, banana, coconut shavings, goji berry and honey. At Blue Hawaii Acai Cafe, also in San Francisco, spirulina powder is a magical acai add-on that provides 300 percent more calcium than milk and 2,300 percent more iron than spinach.
Vitality Bowls, a superfood cafe expanding throughout California and in other states like Texas, Florida and Indiana, serves up a thick blend of organic, sustainably grown acai berries that can be topped with anything from organic granola to less familiar ingredients like aronia berries, caffeine-rich guarana fruit and maca root.
Vitality Bowls’ vice president of operations, Uriah Blum, sees his staff as educators who are trained to discuss nutritional benefits with customers. “American consumers have come a long way in eating for better health, and they want to know more,” notes Blum. “People understand that eating for better health isn’t just about cutting calories or taking fat and sugar out. It’s about quality calories, and they want better foods if we make them easy to find and convenient. That’s our goal.”
- Acai as a smoothie ingredient or yogurt topping
- Acai promotions that highlight the berry as a gluten-free, allergy-friendly alternative to yogurt bowls and parfaits
- Tropical “super fruits” at the salad bar with informational signs