Cupuaçu is the next native fruit to watch, says Frutos da Amazonia

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

Cupuaçu fruit pulp is used in juices and sorbets while the seeds contain a cocoa-like butter. © GettyImages/VanessaVolk
Cupuaçu fruit pulp is used in juices and sorbets while the seeds contain a cocoa-like butter. © GettyImages/VanessaVolk

Related tags: Native ingredients, superfood, Sustainability, Sourcing

Acai's popularity is well established in Brazil but watch out for cocoa-like cupuaçu, says Frutos da Amazonia, which uses native ingredients from the Amazon in its range of premium products.

Frutos da Amazonia was founded by Iolane Tavares, who comes from Belém do Pará, the port city in Brazil’s northern state that is known as the gateway to the country’s lower Amazon region.

“When I arrived in Sao Paulo in the 1990s, I started with friends a homemade production of chocolate candies just as a hobby​,” said Tavares. “I missed the flavors of the fruits of my land, Belém do Pará, and I couldn't find products that used the ingredients of that region in the local market.”

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© Frutos da Amazonia

This “affective and cultural bond​” led Tavares to explore business opportunities in bringing native ingredients of the Amazon to wider Brazil and she created the company in 1994.

It produces a range of jams, chocolates, and cookies made with native Amazonian ingredients such as cupuaçu, acai, taperebá, and Brazil nuts.

Cupuaçu (Theobroma grandiflorum​) is a tropical Amazonian tree ​related to cocoa. The fruit pulp can be used to make juices and sorbets while the seeds contain a sweet-smelling, white butter that can be used to make white chocolate. Taperebá (Spondias mombin), ​meanwhile is a yellow fruit with a sharp, acidic flavor.

When Frutos da Amazonia began production, consumers were not always receptive to the new ingredients, Tavares said.

At first it was very difficult, because [apart from] Brazil nuts, the fruits were unknown mainly in the southeast and south regions of the country and people often refused to try the products. Nowadays things have changed, the acai berry is very popular and cupuaçu is on its way.”

Source of inspiration

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© Joana Lira

According to Tavares, the Amazon is a source of inspiration not only for the company’s product formulation but also its colorful branding.

“The Amazon region has a variety of fruits with very particular flavors, which provide a unique sensory experience. But it goes beyond the flavors,” ​she told FoodNavigator-LATAM​ “The forest is also a plantation of symbols.”

Brazilian artist and illustrator Joana Lira designed the company’s packaging, which depicts mythical characters from Amazonian folk tales, and produced a series of special edition paintings for the company’s 15th​ anniversary.

“This​ leads to an aesthetic [that depicts] the imaginary elements [and] enchantments that populate the deep universe of the Amazon, such as the legend of the curupira, the bird uirapuru, and the river dolphin, among others," ​said Tavares.

Frutos da Amazonia is not certified fair trade or organic but it sources most of its raw materials through traditional small farmers cooperatives. This supply chain provides a steady income for the farmers, Tavares said, and the company works to educate the cooperatives to avoid clearing forested areas.

Niche but growing

The growing interest in ‘superfood’ ingredients among health-conscious Brazilian consumers has boosted the company's sales.

“This is a trend that has shown strong performance and has helped open the doors to our products,” ​said Tavares, although demand is starting from a small base, she added.

“[Although] you can find new stores that specialize in these products, let us not forget that it will still take time to consolidate this trend here in Brazil. So far, we see this as an important niche market."

The bulk of the company’s sales come from Brazil but it has exported some products to Europe, the US, and the Emirates and it sees exports as one the biggest potential sources of growth.

The company also has a few new products in the pipeline but Tavares did not reveal details.

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