Açai Berries Hit the Big Time
By Kevin Kelleher

(Business 2.0) – Açai may be the world's healthiest food. A berry grown in the Amazon rainforest, it has as much calcium as milk, more antioxidants than blueberries, and a coffee-like kick. Not to mention that it has more nutrients than a multivitamin and tastes like chocolate-covered cherries. Açai is also a rich business opportunity for a San Clemente, Calif., startup called Sambazon, the sole U.S. importer of the berries. Between 2000 and 2003, the firm sold $1 million worth of its bottled and frozen smoothies, and that revenue doubled last year, thanks to distribution in Whole Foods and Wild Oats. Sambazon is also hammering out deals with national juice bars and supplying berries to Naked Juice and Trader Joe's. "It's only a matter of time before the mass market wakes up to açai," says Sambazon founder Ryan Black, who discovered the berry in 1999 while bumming around Brazil. He sold Açai first in California juice bars, where it was embraced by celebrities like actor Owen Wilson and beach volleyball star Holly McPeak. "Açai is going to boom," says David Browne of organic-market-research firm Spins. And when it does, Sambazon will bring the berries. — KEVIN KELLEHER