How Three Hot Surfer Dudes Basically Invented the “Acai Bowl”
Acai Bowls Courtesy Sambazon
Trends come and go as frequently in food as they do in fashion. One day paleo’s the thing, then nutritionists are warning that a diet high in red meat and low in whole grains may lead the cancer. Experts tell us to shovel kale into our mouths by the metric ton, then we find out there are potentially lethal metals in it. But one little fruit that’s evaded the boom bust cycles of trends is the acai berry. It’s been on the radar for a while; Absolut even created an acai-flavored vodka back in 2010. Of course that’s not the healthiest way to consume this nutritionally-packed berry; that honor would go to the acai bowl, a smoothie made from the berry and other fruits topped with granola and banana slices. This was introduced to the States from Sambazon, a company producing and supplying ample amounts of acai-flavored products, from bowls to smoothies to juices.
We asked two of the founders of Sambazon, Ryan Black and Jeremy Black, about how they got into the acai business, why people should be eating acai bowls, and other uses for acai, like making jewelry.
How did you first learn about the acai berry?
Ryan Black: After an afternoon surf in Porto de Galinhas in the northeast of Brazil, my local friends took me to a little beach shack called Chiquita Bacana where I experienced my first acai bowl with bananas and granola. It was refreshing and energizing!
Jeremy Black: My brother and our good friend Skanda went to Brazil to celebrate the new millennium and while there they started eating acai every day—by the end of their trip they were inspired to start Sambazon to bring acai to the world.
What made you want to go into a business together?
Ryan Black: I always looked up to my brother’s intuition and integrity which are great qualities in a business partner. When Ed and I started the business we were fresh out of college and Jeremy was already a successful businessman so we poached him!
Jeremy Black: We felt like we could change the world by starting a business the follows a triple bottom line (social, environmental and financial).
Sambazon founders Ryan Black, Ed Skanda and Jeremy Black, courtesy Sambazon
Why do you think people should be eating acai bowls?
Ryan Black: acai is a fantastic source of whole food vegan nutrition with plant-based omega fat, fiber and antioxidants, three things that help your body run clean and healthy. Plus as a light meal it fills you up but doesn’t weigh you down. And if it is from Sambazon it directly protects Amazon biodiversity and supports Fair Trade certified, small family farmers.
Jeremy Black: They are good for you, they taste amazing, and they make you feel a lot better than most foods you eat. That’s why they became so popular on the beaches of Brazil with athletes like surfers, volleyball players and jiu jitsu fighters.
What are some of the health benefits of acai?
Jeremy Black: Powerful antioxidants, like in blueberries, healthy omegas, like in olive oil, and low sugar. Antioxidants help fight free radicals which lead to premature aging. Good fats are important for blood and brain health.
How would you describe the flavor for the uninitiated?
Jeremy Black: Red wine and chocolate.
Acai Bowls courtesy Sambazon
What are some other uses for acai?
Jeremy Black: Like any fruit it can be used a million ways from juices and smoothies to ice creams and other desserts, savory sauces for cooking, supplement powders, energy drinks (our Amazon Energy is the best one out there if you haven’t tried it), beers (eel River), spirits (Veev, Çedilla), facial serums (Pangea Organics makes a great one), and the seeds make beautiful bracelets and necklaces.
What are some small changes people can make to their habits for a healthier lifestyle?
Jeremy Black: Understand that every purchase you make supports a business, and gives that business an order make more of what you just consumed. Basically you “vote with your dollar” every day. You eat a chicken from a factory farm, that farm will keep producing chickens in the grotesque ways you may have seen in movies like Food Inc. or Baraka. Your dollar is driving what’s happening in the world, so understand where your food, clothing and other resources are coming from and how they are affecting the people and the environment to produce what you consume. Be conscious about your capitalism.
Ryan Black: And eat an acai bowl or smoothie instead of a big lunch or dinner 🙂