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Exporting baobab to Europe

Takes about 26 minutes to read

Baobab is widely available in sub-Saharan Africa, where supply outstrips demand. Europe offers opportunities to build the demand for baobab fruit powder, based on its potential to support immune and digestive health as well as to increase energy levels. Brands and associations are trying to raise awareness of and demand for baobab, offering opportunities for suppliers to tag along. Baobab is increasingly popular on the European market for food supplements and functional food products.


1 . Product description

Baobab, Adansonia digitata, grows in a wide area of sub-Saharan Africa. This species is the only variety allowed on the European market. Madagascar is home to several other species as well, such as A. grandidieri and A. madagascariensis, but they cannot be sold in Europe. From the baobab tree, fruits are collected. Fruit weight consists of the shell (45–48%), seeds (38–40%) and pulp (12–16.5%). Mature trees (over 60 years old) produce between 160 and 250 fruits (more than 30 kg).

The main product used on international markets is dried fruit pulp, as baobab powder. Fruit pulp in ripe fruits is naturally dehydrated and little or no additional drying is required after collection. Still, proper drying, grinding and storing is needed to ensure a consistent quality (in terms of colour and mesh size).

Scope of this study

Baobab powder is mainly used in food supplements and to fortify foods, while baobab seeds yield an oil which is used in cosmetics. This study focuses on dried Adansonia digitata (baobab) fruit powder and its use in food supplements. European legislation does not allow the use of baobab seed oil and powder in herbal medicinal products, nor the use of baobab seed oil in food supplements. As a result, this study does not cover such applications of baobab.

Baobab seed oil for use as food or food supplement is considered a Novel Food. In other words, before baobab seed oil can be sold in European food supplements, companies need to apply for the Novel Food Regulation 2015/2283.

Tips:

Classification of baobab

Baobab is marketed as a “superfood” on the European market for food supplements. The term “superfood” is a marketing term and not a regulatory category. A single and legal definition of superfoods does not exist. Commonly, these types of foods have high concentrations of certain beneficial nutrients. Moreover, the term superfood is not an authorised product or health claim in Europe. European companies can only use this term on their product label if it is part of their brand name.

In trade data, dried baobab powder is recorded under Harmonised System codes (Trade helpdesk):

  • 1106.3090 – Flour, meal and powder of dried fruits, other than bananas;
  • 0813.4095 – Other dried fruits.

Baobab fruit powder contains a variety of nutrients and has a high level of antioxidant activity. According to several studies, baobab fruit powder contains:

  • a high share of vitamins, especially vitamin C;
  • minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium, iron and phosphorus;
  • dietary fibre (almost 50%, soluble and insoluble);
  • protein (2–3%) .

Based on this composition, baobab is commonly marketed as a food supplement that:

  • increases energy levels;
  • supports immune health;
  • improves general health;
  • supports digestive health.

Baobab is mostly sold as a fruit powder on the European market; for example, Aduna and Minvita (both from the United Kingdom). Some companies, such as Mediceuticals' Bao-Med (the Netherlands), sell baobab powder in capsules.

Producers who make use of baobab in their food supplements cannot legally make any medicinal or health claims. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has not yet evaluated botanical health claims and it is uncertain when it will do so. Examples of non-medicinal claims that are used within Europe are included in Table 1.

Table 1: Examples of claims used by European brands on supplements with baobab

Increasing energy levels and supporting an active lifestyle Supporting immune health/improve general health Supporting digestive health

This exotic tasting fruit is high in Vitamin C, Fibre, Calcium and Potassium. Vitamin C contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.”

“Baobab fruit reportedly contains high levels of iron, magnesium, vitamin C, potassium and calcium which has led it to becoming a firm favourite with dieters enhancing their nutritional intake, with its power to slowly release energy…”

“Ideal … sports drink after workouts.”

“[Baobab powder] contains more antioxidants than any other whole fruit. 

As it is a natural source of these nutrients, it is more bioavailable than manufactured vitamin supplements, meaning our bodies can absorb the nutrients more easily, ensuring a greater uptake.”

“The baobab tree is often referred to as 'The Tree of Life'.” 

“Baobab pulp, which when dried produces the powder, contains more Vitamin C than an orange, more Potassium than a banana, more Calcium than milk and even more Magnesium than spinach.” 

“[Baobab powder] is also almost 50% fibre (two thirds soluble and one third insoluble, making it a powerful prebiotic)”

“Baobab promotes a healthy digestive tract, by aiding the absorption of micronutrients such as Iron into the digestive system.”

“Insoluble fibre helps keeping your bowels healthy and acts as a natural prebiotic supporting healthy gut bacteria.”

Tips:

  • Do not make any medicinal claims for your baobab in your product documentation or marketing materials. Food supplements are not allowed to carry medicinal claims. See our study of Buyer requirements for natural ingredients for health products for more information on claims.
  • Allowed claims may differ between the European countries; please check with the national bodies or with consultants about the actual claim situation.
  • Look for credible literature sources on the benefits of baobab. Use these references in your product documentation and marketing materials.
  • If you make an official EFSA vitamin claim for the vitamins contained in baobab, make sure that the daily dosage of the vitamin in your baobab product is at least 15% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). An example of such a vitamin claim is “Vitamin C contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue”. See the European Union Register on nutrition and health claims for more information on authorised health claims for various vitamins.

2 . What makes Europe an interesting market for baobab?

Underdeveloped European market for baobab

According to industry sources, the supply of baobab outstrips the demand on international markets, including the European market. This situation has led to price pressure on the market, with some suppliers offering baobab at below-market prices.

The European market for baobab is underdeveloped. After an increase in demand, the demand stagnated over recent years, according to industry sources. Most consumers still need to be educated on the benefits of baobab before they will consider buying products that contain baobab. Consumers are not yet accustomed to the taste of baobab either.

There are various food companies with brands on the market that are trying to increase the market for baobab. The newly formed African Baobab Alliance, an alliance of baobab producers, aims to develop marketing campaigns in order to accelerate the demand on European and north American markets. Some companies have been successful in increasing the potential of baobab, such as Aduna (the United Kingdom) and Matahi Juice (France). Aduna aims to take baobab to mainstream “markets” with a new herbal tea range.

Food companies are also taking up baobab as an ingredient for food fortification, which can stimulate the demand for baobab. For example, Yeo Valley in the United Kingdom produced a limited-edition yogurt with baobab, while Innocent Smoothies includes baobab extract in one of its smoothies.

Tips:

  • Stay up to date with trends and developments on baobab by checking online magazines such as Nutra Ingredients. Check out Aduna’s #MakeBaobabFamous campaign for inspiration, or learn from Matahi Juice’s experience.
  • Educate potential buyers on baobab applications to help them effectively promote baobab and widen consumer interest in baobab on the European market. Show the traditional uses of baobab powder in your country; for example, by sharing stories on how baobab is used and for which health benefits. Provide samples of baobab-based products to show the type of final products in which baobab can be used.
  • See our tips on Finding buyers and Doing business for more information about building and maintaining relationships with European buyers.

Growing demand for baobab due to changing perception of health

Trade statistics specifically for baobab are not available. As a result, this section focuses on global and European data (if available) on the markets for products that use baobab.

A changing understanding among consumers of what it means to be healthy is driving the demand for health products. European consumers use health products to prevent diseases and to feel good; for example, by adding supplements to their regular diet.

This trend translates into a growing market for food supplements. Future Market Insights expects the European market for food supplements to increase 7% annually from 2015 to 2025. In 2025, the market is to reach over $ 60 billion. Calculating this figure back to 2017, its value should be around $ 37 billion.

Demand for products that increase energy

The changing perception of health leads consumers to use energy products in support of an active lifestyle. There is a growing demand for these products worldwide, which offers opportunities for baobab. Especially energy drinks and food supplements that offer an alternative source of energy to caffeine are increasingly popular among European consumers.

In addition, consumers are increasingly aware that physical wellness and fitness help to be healthy. Globally, the market for sports supplements is expected to grow by 9.1% annually from 2014 to 2020. The European market for sports nutrition and supplements is expected to grow by 6% annually from 2018 to 2025. However, this market covers a wider product group than baobab alone.

Products such as baobab, which are used to increase energy levels, have good potential in sports supplements specifically. For example, brands are including baobab powder in energy bars and protein powders.

Globally, the market for sports nutrition and high-energy supplements is expected to grow by 10% annually from 2014 to 2020. In 2020, this market is expected to reach $ 66 billion (€ 59 billion).

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Demand for food supplements that support immune health

There is a growing demand for food supplements that support the immune system. European consumers link the immune system to preventive health. This development opens up opportunities for baobab supplements.

Globally, the market for food supplements that support immune health is expected to grow by 7% annually from 2017 to 2025, reaching $ 25 billion (€ 21.5 billion) in 2025. Vitamin supplements took up a third of the market in 2017 ($ 5.3 billion), while supplements based on botanicals accounted for the second-largest market share.

Tips:

  • See our study of Superfoods in Europe for more information on the market and trends. Be careful how to frame the superfood status in your marketing materials. Some countries may not even allow this term; check with local authorities on the market that you are targeting.
  • For more information on research into the health benefits of baobab, access scientific resources; for example, through Elsevier Science Direct (not for free), Google Scholar or Examine.com.
  • See our study of Immune support for more information on this market.

Demand for food supplements that support digestive health

The global market for digestive health products is expected to reach $ 83.5 billion in 2022. Europe and North America dominate this market, according to Transparency Market Research. The European market is expected to grow by 3.2% annually from 2017 to 2022, reaching $ 20.6 billion in 2022. This figure implies that the market value in 2017 was approximately $ 17.5 billion.

More and more, consumers connect digestive health to other health issues such as anxiety, stress and lack of energy. Digestive health products are increasingly marketed with additional health benefits, including immune support and nutrient absorption improvement. This trend offers opportunities for baobab, which boasts several health benefits due to its nutritional composition. Probiotic supplements are a strong product category in this segment, which are used for both digestive health and immune support.

Tips:

  • Refer to the digestive health and immune support properties of baobab in your product documentation.
  • See our study of Digestive health products for more information on this market.

Interest in Organic and Fairtrade certified baobab

According to industry sources, there is hardly a sizable market for non-organic baobab in Europe. Consumers of food supplements are health-conscious. As they look for products which support a healthy lifestyle, they generally prefer natural and organic products, which they believe to be healthier. As a consequence, many consumers prefer to buy baobab food supplements that are organic.

Fairtrade certification can also help to show your buyer that the production of your baobab is generating rural income and does not harm local communities.

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3 . Which requirements must baobab comply with to be allowed on the European market?

Your baobab needs to be sustainably sourced. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you can ensure a stable supply of baobab to your buyers, in terms of both quality and quantity.

You can only export your baobab to the European market for food supplements if you comply with the legal requirements for natural ingredients for health products. For food supplements, these requirements include:

Baobab for supplements must be safe for human consumption in order to enter the European market. Suppliers must have a food safety management system in place to become successful in Europe. Importers demand proof of your product’s safety and proof that your product meets their quality requirements before they will buy from you. If European authorities or importers find out that the safety of your baobab cannot be guaranteed, they will take the product off the market.

Specifically, food safety requirements cover:

Tips:

  • Establish a traceability system and keep samples for each of your suppliers to trace the origin of the baobab, in the event that a problem with quality occurs.
  • Keep your facilities clean by setting strict operating procedures, such as cleaning schedules for your processing equipment. See the Codex Alimentarius for detailed information on food hygiene.

Additional requirements

Many buyers have additional quality requirements, which can go beyond legislation and standards. For baobab specifically, these requirements include colour, mesh, moisture content and microbiological composition.

Additional requirements are established in buyer specifications. Examples are requirements related to:

  • nutrient or active ingredient content;
  • moisture content;
  • contaminants;
  • residues.

To show that you meet the specifications of buyers, you need to develop well-structured company and product information. This information includes detailed Technical Data Sheets, as well as process and product certifications.

Tips:

European food industries increasingly demand compliance with quality and food safety management. Examples include:

Requirements for niche markets

Standards and requirements for social and environmental sustainability include:

Tips:

  • Verify with your buyer which of the above standards they require.
  • See the Sustainability Map for additional information on voluntary standards.

Quality requirements

According to the African Baobab Alliance, a large share of low-quality baobab powder is sold globally at very low prices. In addition, baobab powder can be adulterated with cheaper powders such as maltodextrin to drop prices. One baobab buyer confirms that quality is a strong issue in baobab powder, especially due to microbiological contamination. To change this situation, the African Baobab Alliance is developing a quality standard for baobab powder, as well as an efficient authentication method. The current quality of baobab is often measured against the standards from the Novel Food application in 2008.

The use of baobab is based on its composition. As a result, European buyers have specific requirements on composition and nutritional profile. Buyers will usually request a Certificate of Analysis to verify that your baobab meets their quality requirements. Harvesting, processing and packaging all influence the nutritional profile of baobab powder.

Tips:

  • Standardise and minimise significant variations in your baobab’s quality. Monitor collection and postcollection practices. Develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and train collectors and processing staff. Use incentives to ensure that they follow your specifications on harvesting and post-harvest processes, such as a better price for higher-quality raw materials.
  • Consider becoming a member of a Baobab association. Examples include Phytotrade Africa and the newly established African Baobab Alliance, but there might also be a group of companies in your country which are cooperating.
  • Work together with a local university or laboratory to test your baobab. They can help to determine the chemical composition of your product, which needs to be included in your product documentation. Various studies have been conducted on the chemical composition and activities of baobab, which you can use as a reference.
  • Inform your buyer if you add any substances to your product for preservation. Clearly indicate this fact in your product documentation. If you fail to do so, buyers may see it as adulteration of your baobab.
  • Invest in the quality of your products before entering the market. You must have at least an HACCP system in place for food safety management. You need to show compliance of your product with international standards, supported by a Certificate of Analysis. Many European buyers lose their interest when a new supplier delivers a lowquality product, so you have one chance to convince these buyers of your company and product.

Labelling requirements

  • Set up a registration system for individual batches of your baobab, whether they are blends or not. Mark them accordingly to ensure traceability.
  • Label your products in English, unless your buyer wants you to use a different language.

To get your baobab on the European market, you must comply with the following labelling requirements:

  • product name;
  • batch code;
  • place of origin;
  • name and address of exporter;
  • date of manufacture;
  • best-before date;
  • net weight;
  • recommended storage conditions.

If you supply organic baobab, your label needs to include the name and/or code of the inspection body and the certification number.

You also need to give your buyer the following documentation:

  • Technical Data Sheet (TDS) (check this example for organic baobab powder);
  • Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number;
  • Certificates of Analysis (check this example of organic baobab powder);
  • GMO certificate (if requested);
  • Certificate of Origin.

As baobab leaf powder is not classified as hazardous, no hazard symbols are required on your label.

Packaging requirements for bulk packaging

Packaging requirements may differ per buyer. However, there are some general requirements that you will have to take into account, which are incorporated in standards.

Tips:

  • Always ask your buyer for their specific packaging requirements.
  • Reuse or recycle packaging materials. For example, use bags or containers of recyclable material (such as kraft paper).
  • Package your baobab powder in waterproof material. For example, use paper bags that are lined with plastic. Preferably use an eco-friendly lining (such as biodegradable or recyclable lining).
  • Store bags or containers in a dry, cool place to prevent quality deterioration.
  • If you offer Organic certified baobab, physically separate it from baobab that is not certified.
  • See our study of Buyer requirements for natural ingredients for health products for more information.

4 . What competition do you face on the European market for baobab?

Market entry barriers

Market entry barriers for baobab powder are low. This fact also means that you can expect a lot of new entrants. The main barriers are maintaining sufficient quality and preventing microbiological contamination by ensuring proper drying. Industry sources indicated that a Malawi company went bankrupt when its entire stock of baobab powder was found to be contaminated.

Access to raw materials should not be a strong market entry barrier, as industry sources indicate that baobab is widely available. As a result, you will need to secure sufficient market for your product, as the European demand for baobab powder is lower than the supply. You will also need to secure sufficient budget in order to identify potential buyers and invest in establishing a relationship with them.

Moreover, most European buyers on the food supplement market demand Organic certified baobab. Organic certification is expensive, especially when inspectors have to travel far to visit your production site and collection areas.

Tips:

  • Set aside enough money for marketing and public relations (PR). Obtain market information through desk research and interviews. Develop promotional materials and a website, or a social media presence. Look for European examples of promotional materials to find out what buyers are looking for in marketing. This process may be expensive, but it is essential to promote your product.
  • Visit or participate in trade fairs to test whether the market is open to your product, get market information and find potential buyers. The most relevant trade fairs in Europe are Health Ingredients Europe, Biofach (for organic products), Vitafoods and SANA.
  • See our tips for Finding buyers for additional information.

What are substitute products for baobab?

Many substitute products exist for baobab powder, which vary according to the use of these products.

Table 2: Substitute products for baobab powder
tabel_2_13.jpg

It will be difficult to compete with synthetic products such as vitamins on price, as they are much cheaper than baobab powder and completely standardised. However, you can compete by emphasising that baobab powder is a natural source of a wide range of nutrients and has a high level of antioxidant activities.

You need to build a marketing story for your baobab that shows how it is different from competing products. To this end, you can focus on the composition of your product or the way that it is traditionally used to support health.

Tips:

  • Do market research into the potential substitute products mentioned above. Find out, for example, how your baobab compares in terms of chemical profile, price, supply security/sustainability and ease/cost of substitution. Make sure that you have these results ready when you talk to potential buyers in order to answer their questions.
  • Diversify your product portfolio to reduce risks. Products marketed as superfoods have a higher risk of being replaced by other superfoods. Sales of these products greatly depend on what is trending at the moment, which can change when a new superfood comes along.
  • Combine baobab with other superfoods to make a proprietary blend. Develop your own data on this combination, which shows why and how it is better than the single product.
  • Demonstrate that you have a good insight into developments among your competitors in your communication and promotional materials.
  • Find studies and research on the potential of baobab to support the immune system and digestive health or to improve energy levels. Use this information in your product documentation and promotion materials. You can use sources such as Google Scholar for this purpose.
  • See our study of Competition on the European market for natural ingredients for health products.
  • See our Tips for doing business with European buyers for natural ingredients for health products.
  • See our studies of Immune support, Superfoods and Energy products for more information on sources of product competition.

Company competition

As baobab grows in a wide range of African countries, you can find competitors from various countries; for example:

You need to develop a Unique Selling Point (USP) for your baobab. You can do so as follows.

  • High quality: European buyers are having problems finding high-quality baobab sources. These baobab sources have a high concentration of nutrients (such as antioxidant activities and vitamins), no microbiological contamination and a good taste profile.
  • Marketing story: for example, if you aid rural communities or work with women collectors, check the Aduna website to see how you can tell such a story. Aduna shows how harvesting and processing baobab fruits provides a much-needed source of income for women in Ghana during the dry season, when little alternative income is available.

European processors play a relatively small role in the baobab value chain, as most processing takes place in the country of origin.

European companies supplying baobab powder and products include:

Tips:

  • Ensure the traceability of your product. Be open about the quality and quantity that you can deliver, as well as at what price.
  • Help manufacturers to build their story; for example, by documenting and visualising your product’s and company’s unique value proposition. Final product manufacturers which position themselves as a sustainable business can use this information to market the final product in Europe.
  • See our Tips for doing business for more information.
  • See our study of Competition on the European market for natural ingredients for health products.

5 . Through which channels can you get baobab on the European market for health products?

Market channels

Figure 1: Market channels for baobab powder for food supplements
figure_1_24.jpg

Source: ProFound

The figure above shows that baobab raw materials are collected. This gathering is commonly done by female collectors in rural communities. In addition, processing of baobab fruits and exporting activities are commonly combined in the same company. Processing of baobab fruits is limited to shelling the fruit; separating seeds, fruit pulp and fibrous material; cleaning and milling.

Baobab powder needs little further processing in Europe. For the health market, European importers confine processing to packing the powder in consumer packaging, under their own label or under the label of their customer.

Importers are key on the current baobab market in Europe. The market is still quite small, consisting of many small retailers and manufacturers. These companies are generally not interested in importing themselves. They need small volumes and prefer to purchase from reputable importers, which can offer low prices and reduce risks.

As a result, importers and distributors are your most important entry point on the European baobab market. They may trade in up to 500 natural ingredients, together with other, synthetic ingredients. They focus on:

  • global sourcing;
  • analysis and quality control;
  • standardisation;
  • packing;
  • product documentation;
  • sales to processors and food supplement manufacturers.

Direct trade with retailers and manufacturers will only become more feasible when the baobab market grows and these players scale up their baobab sourcing. You can then use economies of scale to realise lower prices.

Some manufacturers, such as Aduna in the United Kingdom, import baobab powder themselves. This company has set up a processing centre in Ghana, from where it sources baobab. Aduna uses its direct sourcing activities in its marketing story on the social impact of their baobab.

Tips:

6 . What are the end-market prices for baobab?

According to industry sources, baobab is subject to significant price pressure on international markets due to strong competition. There are sufficient supplies, while the demand on the market has been stagnant in recent years. Prices for baobab vary between $ 8 and $ 10.50 per kg of organic baobab powder.

However, due to the price pressure, there are also suppliers that offer baobab at lower prices. It will be difficult to compete with baobab suppliers at such low prices. You need to make sure that you can back up your price with a good, documented quality of your baobab as well as certification.

Tips:

  • Ensure that your price reflects quality levels and delivery conditions.
  • Monitor harvests in major production countries. This process will help you to anticipate price developments for your baobab. You can request such information from importers.
  • Check whether the prices that you can offer reflect your cost calculation, including a decent price to your suppliers.

Please review our market information disclaimer.

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