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The European market potential for baobab

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The European market for natural health products is showing healthy growth. A major driver of growth is rising consumer awareness of the harmful effects of synthetic ingredients. As a result, natural health product companies are seeking natural ingredients that have active and functional properties for their products. This situation represents an opportunity for baobab suppliers because of its unique properties.

1. Product description

Baobab (Adansonia digitata) is the largest tree species of the genus Adansonia, from which its fruits are derived. Baobab is native to the African continent, typically found in sub-Saharan African countries. The baobab tree takes around 16–23 years to mature and produce its flowers.

Baobab is a multi-purpose tree; its fruit pulp, seeds, leaves, flowers, roots and bark can be used for human consumption. Baobab is high in vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, fibre, carbohydrates, protein, potassium and lipids. The powder is made of baobab fruit, which is the main ingredient on the European market.

Baobab has a wide range of active properties, such as anti-malarial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-microbial. The seeds are used as a thickener for meals, while its leaves are eaten as a vegetable. Baobab roots, leaves, bark, fruits and seeds can also be used in order to treat diarrhoea, asthma, anaemia, infections and skin disorders.

Baobab powder is used in food and health products because of its nutritional qualities. The British company Aduna markets baobab powder stating vitamin C and fibre on the product packaging. The company markets baobab as 'the feel-good fruit'. Golden Greens also highlights the vitamin C content of baobab, as well as labelling it 'high in fibre and antioxidants'. Many companies market their baobab powder as 'suitable for vegans/vegetarians', as consumers are looking for products without animal-based ingredients.

Table 1: Baobab fruit pulp nutritional content, in mg/100 g

Constituent

Content (mg/100 g)

Ascorbic acid (vitamin C)

280.00–300.00**

Calcium

293.00**

Phosphorus

96.00–118.00

Carbohydrates

75.60

Soluble and insoluble dietary fibres

52.00

Potassium

2.31

Protein

2.30

Lipids

0.27

** Ascorbic acid compared with oranges of 51 mg/100 g and calcium compared with milk of 125 mg/100 g

Source: sciencedirect.com

The antioxidant content of baobab fruit pulp is higher than that of berries, cranberries and pomegranate. This fact is important, since the consumer demand for antioxidant products is increasing. The global antioxidant market was valued at USD 3.5 billion in 2019; this market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6.3 percent to reach USD 5.7 billion by 2027.

Baobab powder has no unique HS code. It is traded under HS code 11063090, which refers to flour, meal and powder of dried fruits, other than bananas. In 2008, the dried pulp harvested from baobab fruit was first approved for sale in the European Union; it has seen high growth since then. This report looks at baobab and its applications in the health products industry.

Figure 1: Example of baobab products in the European health product market

Example of baobab products in the European health product market

Tips:

  • Familiarise yourself with baobab’s nutritional profile, along with the beneficial health properties it offers to the health product industry. Learning this is important, because prospective European buyers often ask questions about this.
  • Clearly inform buyers about your baobab’s nutritional profile along with the beneficial properties it offers to the health products industry, as these are its key selling points on the European market.
  • Display baobab’s nutritional profile and beneficial properties for the health industry on your marketing materials and company website. Use scientific sources, such as those available on sciencedirect.com, as this gives you credibility.

2. What makes Europe an interesting market for baobab?

Europe has an attractive market for baobab, since there is a growing demand for supplements as well as ingredients with high nutrient content and antioxidant properties. The increasing life expectancy of European consumers makes them look for products that boost their overall health. However, the demand for baobab is hampered by factors such as low consumer awareness and a lack of scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of baobab.

Baobab is a nutritious fruit, having applications in the functional food sector, including supplements and food products. Figure 2 shows the growth in the European market for vitamins and supplements.

Figure 2 Historic growth rates and forecasts for the vitamin and supplements market in Europe, 2020-2025, in billion euros.

According to Figure 2, the European market for vitamins and supplements is growing. It is expected that this growth will continue in the foreseeable future. The market is driven by increasing health consciousness among consumers. According to Bullet Line Market Research Reports, the baobab powder market in Western Europe is expected to grow by a compound annual growth rate of 6.3 percent in terms of value and 2.6 percent in terms of volume from 2019 to 2025. The global market for baobab powder is expected to grow to USD 8.5 billion in 2027.

Figure 3 shows that European imports of flour, meal and powder of dried fruits other than bananas increased in terms of volume from 2015 to 2019. Between this period, the volume of imports increased by 31.2 percent to more than 26,000 tonnes. However, figure 4 shows from 2015-2019 the value of imports decreased by 1.1 percent to reach more than EUR 130 million in 2019. This implies that the prices of these products are falling.

Baobab is wild-harvested and is manually collected by local villagers. A single baobab tree can produce over 1,500 baobab fruits per year. According to the African Baobab Alliance, the exports of baobab reached 450 tonnes in 2017. It is forecast that the exports of baobab will reach 5,000 tonnes by 2025. Baobab powder accounts for about 2% of the total imports of fruit powder with HS code 11063090.

The European market for baobab ingredients is expected to increase by about 4% in the coming years. The leading markets are in Germany, France and the UK. However, low consumer awareness and a lack of scientific evidence highlighting baobab’s health benefits are challenges to the growth of the baobab ingredient market.

In addition, some say baobab’s white colour makes it difficult for it to stand out and appeal to consumers. As a result, it can be harder for exporters to approach European buyers who would rather purchase ingredients consumers are familiar with, as well as those that are more visually appealing.

Another major challenge is the quality of baobab, particularly poor quality that can damage trust among European buyers. Robust quality standards for baobab are therefore important to raising European demand for baobab. Exporters of baobab from developing countries may also find it challenging to set a price level for their product, as there are a range of different product varieties available on the market. 

Baobab is not a plantation crop; exporters are therefore reliant on existing trees for harvest: a lack of existing trees is a challenge for exporters. Climate change and subsequent changes in rainfall pose another threat to baobab supply from Africa. However, despite these challenges European demand for baobab is expected to increase in the coming years.

Tips:

3. Which European countries offer the most opportunities for baobab?

The UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Austria are the European countries offering the most opportunities to baobab exporters in developing countries. These countries have a strong natural health product industry, as well as having some of the largest consumer markets in Europe. The UK and Germany are home to several producers of baobab products.

UK

The UK is one of the most attractive country markets for exporters of baobab. The UK has one of the largest consumer markets in Europe; total UK consumer spending reached GBP 1.32 trillion in 2018, a 4 percent increase from 2017. British consumer spending is expected to increase by 17 percent to reach an estimated GBP 1.55 trillion by 2023.

Demand for nutritional supplements is increasing in the UK. Approximately 59 percent of British consumers take supplements. The IRI estimated that the British supplement market reached GBP 424 million in 2018. According to the Soil Association’s Organic Market Report 2020, the British organic market grew by 4.5 percent to reach GBP 2.45 billion in 2019. The UK organic products market has shown strong growth for eight years, something expected to continue as the market is forecast to be worth GBP 2.5 billion in 2020.

In the UK, many new products are being introduced with baobab. In 2018, Yeo Valley Organic, a leading dairy company launched a yogurt containing baobab. In addition, between January and March 2018, the UK online retailer Ocado recorded a 27% increase in the sales of baobab products.

The UK company Aduna specialises in baobab products. Other market players include Golden Greens, Superfood Outlet, Baotic, Fit Delis, Minvita, MySuperfoods, KIKI Health and Global Product. The latter company offers supplement tablets based on baobab fruit powder. Forza Supplements also sells baobab capsules. Some of the leading traders of baobab in the UK include the Organic Herb Trading Company, Super Nutrients and Green Origins. There are some contract manufacturers in the UK that produce baobab capsules; one company is the Supplement Factory.

The UK is expected to remain an important market for baobab exports because of relatively high awareness of baobab among consumers. Thus, baobab exporters should focus on finding British buyers. In addition, sales of supplements have been increasing in the UK in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic.  

However, Brexit (Britain’s exit from the European Union) creates uncertainty for exporters, as it is very likely to disrupt international supply chains. Particularly in a no-deal scenario, where a deal is not reached with the EU, as it is likely that it will take some time to renegotiate trade deals with developing countries.

Germany

Germany has the largest consumer market for conventional and organic food in Europe. German demand for organic food and drink has been increasing in recent years. German sales of organic food amounted to EUR 10.9 billion in 2018.

Germans are considered to be health-conscious consumers who seek high-quality natural products that are environmentally friendly. According to the Organic Farming and Market in the European Union 2019 Edition Report, climate change and animal welfare are key factors behind German consumers choosing organic products.

German sales of nutritional supplements have increased by approximately 6 percent per year from 2015, to reach EUR 2.2 billion in 2019. Minerals and vitamins were particularly popular among German consumers. In addition, sales of supplements in Germany have been increasing in 2020 partly because of the coronavirus pandemic.

German demand for health products and supplements is expected to continue increasing in the coming years. Several baobab suppliers are active in the German market; they include Berlin Organics, Biotiva, Baola, Keimling, Hanoju and Govinda. Africrops is a major importer.

Germany has an attractive market for baobab from developing countries. The German baobab market is forecast to grow by a compound annual growth rate of 3.1 percent from 2020-2027. Awareness of baobab is growing among German consumers who are health-conscious; growth is expected to continue in the future.

There is growing demand for high-quality and environmentally friendly products in Germany. Germany has seen growing demand for organic products in recent years, which is expected to continue in the coming years. Thus, exporters of baobab in developing countries should consider obtaining certification for their products, particularly when organic certification is seen as a sign of quality.

France

The volume of French imports of flour, meal and powder of dried fruits other than bananas increased by 38.3 percent from 2015-2019. Intra-EU trade to France accounted for 92.3 percent of imports in 2019. In 2019, the French food supplement market reached EUR 1.9 billion, growing by 1.3 percent from the previous year. Growth has continued into 2020, and it is expected to continue in the coming years. The global coronavirus pandemic is an important driver behind this growth.

When it comes to food and health products, French consumers prefer products with high quality standards. A survey by Synadet revealed stress, digestion and vitality are three reasons behind French consumers purchasing supplements. Approximately 70 percent of French consumers perceive supplements positively and around 24 percent consume supplements more than once per year. Thus, this research suggests demand for nutraceutical products is improving consumer well-being on the French market.

There is increasing demand for organic products in France, with organic retail sales increasing by 15.4 percent to USD 9.1 billion in 2018.

Nexira and Greentech are two major importers of baobab in the French market. Several brands, such as Savanature, Soleil de Madagascar and Racines Bio offer baobab powder on the French market. Laboratoire D.Plantes produces a wide range of products containing baobab, including supplements.

France is an attractive market for exporters of baobab in developing countries. Demand for nutritional supplements on the French market is increasing, and is expected to continue growing in the coming years. Demand for organic products is also increasing. Exporters of baobab in developing countries should therefore consider getting organic certification, as it is likely to increase their chances of entering the European market.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands is a leading importer as well re-exporter of natural ingredients to Europe. Most baobab powder imported to the Netherlands is imported by traders. Exporters of baobab in developing countries should target importers who generally re-export to other European countries.

One of the leading traders of organic ingredients, Tradin Organic, imports baobab. Prebiotica supplies baobab supplements. BAO-MED, Superfruit, Spiruella, NP Natura and Pit-Pit are other Dutch companies supplying baobab powder and supplements.

Exporters of baobab from developing countries should consider exporting to the Netherlands. When doing business with Dutch traders, exporters should be prepared to supply larger volumes, as traders usually deal with such. Because of its significant position as a major entry point for natural ingredients into Europe, the Netherlands is likely to remain an important export destination for baobab for the foreseeable future.

Italy

Italy has one of the largest consumer markets for conventional and organic products in Europe. In 2018, Italian organic retail sales were worth almost EUR 3.5 billion. High-quality natural products are demanded by Italian consumers.

In Italy, baobab powder is mainly sold by specialist retailers. Baobab Fruit Company Senegal is a producer and exporter of baobab with an office in Italy. The company exports a wide portfolio of baobab ingredients, ranging from powder to extracts. Cibocrudo, Gusto Vivo and Erbavoglio are other baobab suppliers in Italy.

For exporters in developing countries, Italy is an attractive market. Organic certified baobab has good potential in the Italian market. Exporters in developing countries should therefore consider obtaining organic certification, as it is likely to increase their chances of entering the Italian market.

Austria

Austria does not have a large consumer market. However, the levels of awareness of health and wellness products are high among its consumers.

Biomega is an important Austrian producer of baobab products, with the company sourcing its baobab from Senegal. Other baobab powder suppliers in Austria include Vegamino, Anatis Naturprodukte and Dr. Ehrenberger Synthese GmbH.

Austria is an attractive market for baobab suppliers from developing countries. In 2018, Austrian organic retail sales reached EUR 1.8 billion. Demand for high quality and organic products is increasing. Austria has one of the largest per capita spending on organic sales in the world.

Austrian consumers are health-conscious and seek natural and environmentally friendly products. Baobab products are available in specialist retailers and pharmacies. Exporters of baobab in developing countries should target Austrian buyers, especially those focusing on organic and natural products, as they offer the most promising opportunities.

For exporters of baobab in developing countries, countries in Western Europe are the most attractive because they offer the most opportunities. In countries such as the UK and Germany, consumers have high awareness of the baobab fruit and its beneficial properties. This is demonstrated by many new baobab product launches in recent years. European demand for baobab is expected to continue to increase in the coming years.

However, low awareness among European consumers is hindering growth of baobab products in Europe, with one European buyer of baobab on the European market stating in an interview: “I think its (baobabs) biggest challenge is a lack of awareness”.

Tips:

  • Target Western countries when exporting baobab powder to the European market, as they offer the most opportunities.
  • Consider obtaining organic certification for your baobab powder as there is increasing consumer demand for organic products in Europe, something that is expected to increase in the coming years.
  • Focus on baobab’s nutritional profile when approaching European buyers. Particularly baobab’s high vitamin C content, which is a good selling point to buyers as consumers are looking for natural ways to increase their vitamin intake without taking supplements.

Baobab has been gaining popularity on the European market. However, its benefits are still known only to a relatively small part of the population. Most of the demand for baobab products is coming from health-conscious consumers who are willing to pay for high-quality products. This reason is why there is a growing demand for certified Organic baobab, as it is perceived to be of high quality.

Increasing demand for organic baobab

For European buyers, quality and contamination are two major concerns. In developing countries, baobab powder is traditionally obtained by breaking the baobab fruit, after which its pulp is scoped out. The pulp is then pounded by a pestle in a mortar to separate the powder. Then, the baobab powder is sieved and packed. The processing and storage methods do not meet European standards.

In addition, during its production process, baobab powder can be contaminated by dirt, stones, nuts and other foreign matter. Furthermore, inadequate storage facilities can lead to contamination by pests and insects along with causing mould growth. As a result, buyers are increasingly demanding certified organic baobab, as it is a sign of quality and reliability. At the same time, there is also a growing market for organic products in the European market, a trend expected to continue.

Key factors driving increasing consumer demand for organic products on the European market include consumers perceiving organic products as being of higher quality, safer and free of synthetic chemicals. One European buyer revealed in an interview: “better customer awareness [that] fits in with health trends in the food market” was another driver. Organic product sales in Europe have been increasing since the COVID-19 outbreak; consumers are buying organic products as they look to boost their personal immunity.

To capitalise on the opportunities offered by this trend, exporters of baobab in developing countries should consider obtaining EU organic certification because certified organic products are a sign of quality and reliability. Furthermore, having organic certification in a competitive market gives exporters an advantage, as it makes them stand out from their competition.

To further capitalise on this opportunity, exporters should display the organic certification logo as well as documentation they have obtained on their company website and marketing materials, such as their product portfolio. In a joint venture between EcoProducts and Bayoba, Baobab Exports is an example of a company in a developing country exporting organic baobab powder to the European market.

Figure 5: Logo of EU Organic certification

The official Organic label for organic products in Europe

Source: ec.europa.eu

Tips:

  • Visit the IFOAM website for further information on EU organic certification.
  • Prepare and be ready to provide European buyers with a Certificate of Inspection; failure to do so means your natural ingredient cannot be traded as organic on the European market.

Increase in health-conscious consumers

Despite having high spending power, European consumers are faced with a range of chronic diseases. The European Society of Cardiology’s 2019 annual report revealed that cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of mortality and disease in Europe, with it causing 45 percent of all deaths in Europe and 37 percent of all deaths in the EU.

Thus, European consumers are seeking preventative health options as well as products representing healthier options, something that is becoming increasingly popular. According to International Nut & Dried Fruit (INC), around half of Europeans look for some kind of wellness benefits from the food they purchase.

Demand for superfoods that are a rich source of nutrients and those adding flavour is increasing due to this health-consciousness trend. Manufacturers are introducing superfoods to increase their presence. This trend presents exporters of baobab opportunities due to baobab being a rich source of nutrients along with adding flavour.

To capitalise on the opportunities, exporters of baobab from developing countries should familiarise themselves with baobab’s beneficial properties for health. Specifically, baobab’s nutritional profile, such as it being a rich source of vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, fibre, carbohydrates, protein, potassium and lipids. To further capitalise on this opportunity, exporters should promote baobab’s beneficial properties on their company website and marketing materials as well informing European buyers about this. Baobab Fruit Company Senegal is an example of a company that has capitalised on this trend.

Tips:

  • Familiarise yourself with EU health claim legislation. Do this by reviewing permitted health claims under EU law. 
  • When using the word ‘superfood’, you have to support your claim with scientific evidence under EU law, so be prepared to substantiate your claim with scientific data.
  • Create a nutrient profile for your ingredients and products to make claims. Use scientific research and data to support claims you make, as this gives you credibility.
  • Do not make medicinal claims when approaching European buyers working in the supplement industry.
  • Review the CBI study what requirements must natural ingredients for health products comply with to be allowed on the European market, as it provides information about mandatory requirements and additional buyer requirements to enter the European market.

Awareness about baobab products is slowly increasing

Although there have been many baobab product launches in Europe in recent years, there is still a lack of consumer awareness of the African fruit. European consumers are still not fully informed about baobab’s health properties. This was confirmed by a European buyer of baobab who revealed in an interview, baobab’s “biggest challenge is a lack of awareness”.

According to a 2018 survey conducted by The Grocer, only around 23 percent of British consumers had heard of baobab. Around 26 percent of those who had heard about it had also tasted it. This research highlights the low level of awareness of baobab among European consumers. Awareness of the baobab fruit is expected to grow in the future. Marketing activities from companies with baobab products are likely to raise awareness. An example of one such campaign is #makebaobabfamous. There also various websites and blogs dedicated to raising awareness of the baobab fruit.

Low awareness of baobab is an obstacle for baobab exporters in developing countries. However, awareness of baobab is expected to increase in the coming years. This increase is most likely in countries with sophisticated consumer markets for health products, such as the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden and Denmark.

To prepare and counter this challenge, exporters of baobab in developing countries should acknowledge that consumer awareness of baobab varies according to each European country market. Following this, exporters should target countries with the most sophisticated consumer markets along with those with high levels of baobab consumer awareness.

It is expected that the awareness of baobab products will slowly increase in the future, as new product launches continue to enter the market. An importer of baobab products in the UK stated that the demand for baobab increased in 2020, as “…people are more exploratory with their palates and new flavours…”.

In addition, baobab exporters should develop a good level of knowledge and understanding of baobab, particularly baobab’s beneficial health properties, as these are its key selling points on the European health product market. Following this, exporters should inform prospective European buyers and be willing to devote time on training and educating them on the benefits of baobab powder as well as its potential use in products. Doing so is likely to increase their chances of success in entering the European market, as a buyer with a greater level of awareness is more inclined to buy products.

Tips:

  • Spend enough time familiarising yourself with the beneficial health properties that baobab offers the health product industry. Doing this properly is important, as prospective European buyers often ask questions about this. In addition, being able to answer questions well gives you added credibility.
  • Consider joining the African Baobab Alliance to receive support when marketing baobab products.

Increasing demand for immune boosting supplements

From spring 2020, there has been increasing consumer demand for health products in Europe, in particular supplements boosting immunity. This is a trend that is expected to continue in the foreseeable future. This presents opportunities to exporters of baobab in developing countries due to baobab’s beneficial health properties, which boost the immune system. 

The global coronavirus pandemic is driving this trend, as consumers are looking to boost their immune systems. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, consumers have started to pay greater attention to their diets and health as they try to increase their personal immunity. Consumers are therefore turning towards vitamins and supplements.

Natural ingredients for health products such as baobab contain beneficial health properties that can help to boost levels of immunity as well as strengthen it. For example, baobab’s high vitamin C content helps the body fight infections. 

To capitalise on this opportunity, exporters of baobab in developing countries should ensure their products contain the highest levels of active nutrients, as well as being prepared to send high-quality samples to prospective buyers. To further capitalise on this opportunity, exporters should inform prospective European buyers about their products’ beneficial health properties, particularly baobab’s high vitamin C content. In addition, this should also be highlighted on marketing materials and the company website.

Tips:

  • Inform prospective European buyers about baobab’s immune boosting properties. Ensure this is always supported by scientific studies and evidence, because doing so gives you credibility. 
  • Always send buyers samples of your product that are of the highest quality, as this improves your chances of doing business with them. Following this, always continue to send buyers a high-quality, consistent product, because this is what they expect all the time. Failing to do so may result in your business relationship with them ending.
  • See CBI Study on Entering the European market for baobab, as it outlines quality parameters buyers look for in baobab.

This study has been carried out on behalf of CBI by Ecovia Intelligence.

Please review our market information disclaimer.

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