Babassu is a perennial palm (Attalea speciosa) native to the Amazon rainforest that produces fruit containing an oil-rich nut. The nut kernels contain between 60 to 70% fat, most of which is saturated.
Concepta, part of the Sabará Group, recently launched a toasted nut oil that is certified organic according to European, US and Brazilian standards, is solid at room temperature and has a similar melting point to coconut oil.
Concepta’s toasted babassu oil (babaçu in Portuguese) has a delicate flavor of coffee and toasted almonds, and can be used in cakes, biscuits and other baked products as a like-for-like replacement for coconut oil.
“Consumers or customers can stop using coconut oil and replace it with babassu oil. The price is a little lower than coconut oil,” Lilia Aya Kawazoe, sales manager at Concepta, told FoodNavigator-LATAM.
“The problem with coconut oil is it has a strong flavor that dominates everything else – everything tastes like coconut – but not with babassu.”
According to Kawazoe, babassu oil is relatively common in Brazil but the oil from toasted babassu nuts is a new offering with an improved flavor. Concepta roasts the nuts before cold-press extracting the oil.
The nuts are harvested by babassu ‘nut-breakers’ according to the Sabará Group’s in-house Socio-biodiversity Valuation Program.
Concepta works with a total of 69 communities in the Amazon and Cerrado who receive R$4,250 for every ton they collect. Three-quarters of its
suppliers are certified organic.
“Production happens in an agro-forestry system,” said Kawazoe. “The farmers plant some Babassu trees in the forest among other trees to pick them there.”
“We work together with the University of Sao Paolo to understand if we pay the correct price and the area that we preserve,” she added.
Babassu palms bear fruit twice a year and nut yields range from 20 kg per hectare in the wild to 1500 kg/ha in experimental stations, according to Feedipedia, an information portal managed by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and French agronomy research institutes, CIRAD and INRA.
The palm is attracting increasing attention for its use as a biofuel while the protein-rich press cakes are used as animal feed.
According to a Brazilian study published in 2017, babassu oil has anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to treat skin wounds, inflammation, and vulvovaginitis.
Concepta also supplies other exotic oils, such as sacha inchi, cupuaçu, passionflower, acai, coconut and Brazil nut, as well as sugars, caramels, emulsifiers and stabilizers.