If Oprah Winfrey pushes baobab, we're ready!

Gus Le Breton, known on YouTube as The African Plant Hunter, is a Zimbabwean entrepreneur and researcher who studies the traditional uses and commercial potential of African plants. As chairman of the African Baobab Alliance, he wants to help baobab products achieve a global breakthrough.

Gus Le Breton, African Baobab Alliance
Gus Le Breton, African Baobab Alliance
corporAIDThe World Economic Forum recently reported on baobab as a new superfood and predicted a market potential of one billion dollars for Africa. Are you as euphoric as the chairman of the African Baobab Alliance? 

Le Breton: There is no doubt that baobab has huge potential and I think it is realistic that the market will develop very well. However, we are still a long way from a billion-dollar market. In addition, it is desirable, but unrealistic, that most of the added value would take place in Africa itself. 

Baobab powder is considered a healthy food, while the oil is valuable for cosmetic products. So what is missing for the global breakthrough?

Le Breton: Our biggest problem is the lack of awareness. In the 21st century, however, it only takes a hype on social media to change everything. If a celebrity like Oprah Winfrey were to say “Baobab is amazing”, the market would be prepared in one fell swoop. So we have to worry more about marketing. In the meantime, we would have been prepared for a demand boom on the producer side; honestly, we would have had difficulties with it five years ago. Today the quality is right, we are coordinated and organized. And ready for the big breakthrough! 

Where are the main baobab markets today?

Le Breton: Globally, baobab is still in the "early, early stage" phase. In Europe, the first food, namely a gin, came onto the market around ten years ago. The range of baobab powder has been growing since 2012/13. Great Britain has developed particularly well here, and demand is also increasing in Italy, France, Germany and Austria - this is mainly thanks to the commitment of individual providers. The largest market is the USA, which is known to be the home of superfoods. The powder is not yet approved in the Asian markets. We as the African Baobab Alliance want to take care of the approval in markets such as India, China, Japan and Korea in the next one to two years, because we expect high sales volumes there. 

What special advantages do you see in a greater demand for African countries?

Le Breton: Baobab is a wild tree that takes between 80 and 125 years to bear fruit. No large agricultural company will ever invest in commercial plantations waiting decades for the first harvest. The offer will therefore always come from people who live in mostly very poor areas and thus achieve an additional income. Incidentally, the majority of the fruit is not used today, but rots! Nature would also benefit from a strong baobab market: If you use baobabs commercially and sustainably, you protect them at the same time. And the trees are essential as a key species for a functioning ecosystem. Thousands of species such as elephants, giraffes, birds, insects and plants live on and with them. Buying baobab means win-win on all levels! 

Many thanks for the interview!


Photo: Gus Le Breton