Only in the past 20 years have açaí
bowls and smoothies made their way
down to Brazil’s southern cities, especially Rio de Janeiro, where it is the
snack of choice along the beaches of
Ipanema and Copacabana. And only
in the past 10 years has açaí started to
be consumed as a healthful beverage
outside South America.
That’s where Sambazon comes in.
Nichols decided they would bring
sustainably harvested açaí to the attention of the world, along with some of
the other Amazonian “superfoods”
they were learning about (such as the
juice of the acerola cherry, which has
10 times the vitamin C of orange juice).
Wanting to do this in a way that
would benefit the people harvesting
the berries, they initially thought of
creating a foundation to support sustainable agriculture in the Amazon.
When this did not pencil out, they
decided to develop a business, but one
that would have a triple bottom line
that, as Black tells The Connection, “not
only measures success economically,
but also socially and environmentally.”
CONTINUED ON PAGE 24
Just a few hundred
yards from the
baskets of açaí
berries are unloaded
factory—once in a
while, even by
Ryan Black and
(left to right, bottom).
AÇAÍ ;AH;SIGH;EE; is the dark
purple berry used to make a growing
number of fresh juices, sorbets,
smoothies and other high-energy,
organic, healthful delights throughout
the world. Its health benefits are
uncontested, starting with the fact that
açaí has two times more antioxidants
by weight than blueberries and pomegranates and also healthy omega fats
like those found in olive oil.
The berries have been a staple for
Amazonians from time immemorial,
and more than 75 percent of the harvested berries are still consumed in the
villages and small towns dotting the
banks of the river and in Belém, the
city of 2. 1 million near the river’s delta.
Owners of small shops along the busier
roads in the Amazon raise a red (not
purple) flag so motorists know they
can stop to get a quick bowl of açaí,
freshly processed on the premises.