Acai is only grown in the rainforests of the Amazon where it forms an important element of the local diet. To get the maximum health benefits it should be consumed in its original condition, as a berry. However, due to its high fat content it tends to go off much quicker than normal fruit, typically within 24 hours. This means that buying fresh Acai berries isn’t a viable option for anyone living outside the Amazon Rainforest and all Acai products sold outside of Brazil will have been processed to some extent.
The three most common processing methods are spray drying, removing extracts and freeze drying.
Spray drying involves heating the berry to a high enough temperature that any water within the berry evaporates. Then the dried Acai fruit residue is typically sprayed with a food additive such as maltodextrin. Not only does high temperature involved in spray drying destroy many of the original nutrients, but the use of additives results in a less concentrated Acai product and in some cases the additives can cause allergic reactions (e.g. for those with wheat allergies).
Acai Extracts are obtained by removing parts of the berry that the extract manufacturer regards as non-beneficial. So for example a 4:1 extract would mean 1 Kilogram of extract had been derived from 4 Kilograms of fruit. Now not only is there an issue over what to take out and what to leave behind but there is also the additional processing involved. In most cases, extracts are made from spray dried residue, meaning that not only has the berry undergone damaging heat treatment but also that certain, potentially beneficial, elements of the berry have been removed.
Freeze drying is currently the best method of processing the Acai fruit to retain the maximum amount of nutrients. The Acai fruit is harvested, with the skin and pulp removed and then flash pasteurized within hours of picking. It is then transported to the manufacturer where it is freeze dried (without the use of any damaging heat) and made into Acai powder, capsules, tablets etc. We use Sambazon acai berry powder in our products exclusively. As the freeze dried product is a concentrated form of the original Acai fruit, it has a much higher concentration of nutrients than the original fruit. Approximately 20.7kg of acai berry fruit go into making 6.9 kg of frozen acai berry puree, and it requires 6.9kg of this puree to make 1kg of freeze dried acai berry powder. This means that it takes over 20kg of acai berries to make 1kg of freeze dried acai berry powder, a ratio of 20:1.