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Sambazon: Protecting Acai, Protecting The Amazon

It's not often we steer away from our favourite African super-ingredients, but when we do we make sure they are ethically sourced and are just as nutrient dense and delicious as ours! Enter Sambazon, the champions of acai in America, whose mission is to spread the incredible health benefits of acai berries whilst preserving the Amazon rainforest along the way. They are big believers of higher consciousness both socially and environmentally, and currently provide over 10,000 jobs to local communities, preserve countless acres of rainforest, and spread the feel good acai vibes across the world.


In fact, their business model is so inspirational, we used Sambazon as a case study before starting Aduna! 

With the launch of Sambazon products into the UK, which are now available in Wholefoods as a refreshing take-away bowl of acai smoothie, we thought it was the perfect time to speak to the co-founder and CEO Ryan Black to find out more about the company, their social impact in South America, and just how good acai berries are for your health:

Where did you first discover acai?

Back in 1999, I ventured to Brazil on a surfing trip with my close friend Edmund Nichols, in search of great waves and adventure. We fell in love with the country; the energy of the place was so positive and it really resonated with us. It was in Brazil that we had our first Acai Bowl and we were blown away by its amazing taste and superior health benefits. We knew that this was something that the world would love, and that we could share the superfood globally in a way that mattered and added value to everyone involved.

When you founded Sambazon was there much awareness of acai? How did you go about creating demand?

When we returned from our trip we started Sambazon acai with my brother Jeremy. We had a vision for using it as a vehicle to promote sustainable development in the Amazon Rainforest and we knew we could engineer a business model to do exactly that. From that day onward, Sambazon has operated with a Triple Bottom Line philosophy, which measures success economically, socially and environmentally.

While acai was an overnight phenomenon in the south of Brazil, no one had heard of it in the US. Our dream was to have every juice bar in America serve açai, but we started locally - with juice bars in Southern California, where we’re from. We started with a real grass-roots approach, selling packs to natural food stores and targeting consumers making juices and smoothies at home in their blenders.

Luckily, our idea worked. People fell for açai, just as my brother and I did when we first tried it on the beach.

Sambazon Founders

Sambazon Co-Founder Ryan Black with his brother Jeremy and Ed Nichols.

How do you ensure that your açai berries are the highest quality and farmed sustainably?

Unlike any other company doing a direct business with the river people population in the Amazon, we go to them and employ Amazonian farmers directly. We take the time, care and initiative to go out to the forest and see the people and make sure they know they are significant to us. The word used to describe this by one of our local partners was “prestigious”. We make the people of the state of Amapa feel proud for the hard and honest work that they do.

I remember over 14 years ago when we were working on the skeleton of this supply chain and learning that through a direct relationship, by eliminating middlemen, providing funds directly to these small family farmers and allowing them to plan their harvest and work better, we would give them economic freedom, which would enhance their lives. Economic freedom is a big idea… not from charity but by essentially teaching people to fish and work for themselves and feel proud for doing so. 

What is the social impact of Sambazon?

We started Sambazon based on a philosophy called the Triple Bottom Line, which not only measures success economically, but also socially and environmentally.

When a Triple Bottom Line business makes a profit, it’s a positive experience for everything and everyone involved, from the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest which provides amazing superfoods and botanicals, to the farmers who work the land and earn a healthy living, to our employees who translate this Amazon magic into next level products; and finally, to our customers who ultimately use these delicious powers to help further their own health and wellness missions.

What are the main health benefits of acai?

There are so many! It’s an amazing berry. The key health benefits are:

  • Superior levels of antioxidants, 10X that of blueberries
  • Healthy omega fats 3, 6 & 9
  • Virtually no naturally occurring sugar
  • High in protein and fibre

What goes into your favourite acai bowl?

My favourite has to be a Sambazon açai bowl with a delicious vanilla bean cashew butter!

    You can read all about Sambazon's social impact and see more tasty recipes on their website.

    Wholefoods London (Piccadilly & High Street Kensington stores) are now selling ready-to-eat bowls of fresh Açai every hour, which will be topped with healthy ingredients such as granola, berries and coconut shavings. The perfect cooling snack this summer! For your chance to win Sambazon vouchers to use at Wholefoods (London stores) head over to our Instagram

    Sambazon acai bowls and juices can also be found in Sambazon Acai Cafes across the US