THE SUPERIOR ANTIOXIDANT YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF , 2 Comments

Man has consumed the fruit of the baobab tree, otherwise known as the “tree of life,” far before we evolved away from our hairy ancestors. It is argued that the prehistoric tree evolved along with us as we ate the fruit and spread the seeds of the variations most beneficial to our bodies. Indeed, it appears baobab was tailor-made to benefit the human body.

Consisting of 50% fiber, Baobab has 6x the vitamin C of an orange, 6x the potassium of a banana, and twice the calcium of milk. It serves as a rich source of Vitamin C, Thiamin, Potassium, and Calcium, and is nearly a rich source of Vitamin B6 (to put that in perspective, even superfoods such as gogi and acai berries are classified as rich sources for only one or two vitamins and/or minerals.) Baobab, which dries naturally on the vine and becomes a loose powder when sifted, can be eaten whole or sprinkled onto fruit, cereal, or even milk. It has so many antioxidants that it’s often sold as an ingestible beauty product. (Impressed yet?)

With such a high nutrition profile, it may seem surprising that yogis and young mothers didn’t jump on this ages ago. However, due to the EU’s Novel Food regulation - which bans the importation and sale of foods not prominent in Europe before 1997 - and a general lack of awareness, the superfood has been kept out of most western countries. UK native Andrew Hunt plans to change that. In fact, he’s already begun. In 2008, after NGO Herbal Sciences International won a case to lift the EU’s ban on baobab, Hunt and his business partner Nick Salter founded Aduna, an Africa-inspired and baobab-centered luxury lifestyle brand. The brand met with success and enthusiasm for their entirely unprocessed baobab fruit pulp powder, largely thanks to Aduna’s volunteer-led marketing campaign.

“Everywhere people would go, they’d see us,” says Hunt of the campaign. “We did [what would have been] a 200,000 pound ($225,160) sampling campaign with volunteers. They were doing it because they believed in it.” The campaign landed Aduna’s baobab powder in the pages of Vogue, Glamour, and Red Magazine, among others, while Aduna products flew off the shelves at British health and beauty counters in Harrods, Planet Organic, and Whole Foods stores all over Great Britain.

Before creating Aduna, Hunt spent four years volunteering in The Gambia living and working with small-scale producers. He realized that if baobab could be sold in Europe and the US, the money would go directly to rural farmers with baobab trees on their land. “There’s no such thing as a baobab plantation,” Hunt explains. “Every single tree is community owned, family owned, wild harvested. National geographic estimated if there was a global demand for that crop, the existing crop could be worth as much as a billion dollars to rural Africa.”

“The purpose of the business is to create a demand for underutilized natural products from small-scale producers in Africa,” says Hunt. He also hopes the existence of an obviously African premium product will challenge westerner’s negative associations with Africa. “The association people have is with charity, corruption, poverty, and pity. It reinforces the status quo. But with our product, they get immediately that it’s from Africa and they get immediately that it’s premium. And in that moment, a little transformation happens in their mind without even noticing it.”

In the future, Aduna plans to sell baobab bars and baobab beauty products, as well as fight to bring other African foods to the west. Aduna will soon begin selling another nutrient-rich African ingredient, Maringa, and Hunt and his team are working to get Hoodia, an appetite suppressant used by the Kalahari Bushmen, taken off the EU’s Novel Food list. Hunt and his team are also working to expand into countries other than their native United Kingdom.

ShopZoeLife is currently the only retailer in the US selling Aduna’s products, with prices ranging from $13 to $40. I tell Hunt that Aduna seems poised to take over the world. But Hunt shakes his head. “Baobab is going to take over the world. Not us.” -Alison Maney