Consequences of Açaí

Jessica E. Zerrer

Açaí: The Local Consequences of a Food Gone Global

Walk into your grocery store. Go to the juice section, the frozen section, the energy bar section. It’s there. It’s a “Superfood”, it’s “antioxidant rich”, it’s “healthy”, it’s purple, it’s açaí! Chances are you’ve already had it, or at least heard of it. The United States loves ‘tropical’ fruits and is now in the midst of an “Açaí Craze” as a result of massive marketing companies touting the natural powers açaí products derive from the Amazon. Once a fruit consumed by the peasantry of Amazonia, açaí has gone global. Although the globalization of açaí might be perceived to be a benign event, it has engendered various consequences for the inhabitants of Amazonia. These consequences include differential access to industry expansion opportunities among açaí producers and processors, change in the symbolic and real value of açaí, and the adoption of marketing strategies for selling açaí as a form of ‘alternative consumption’ which revitalize and validate images of the Amazon and its people as exotic and primitive. Due to the implications of these consequences, it is important to take a critical look at the commercialization of açaí and what the corollaries of your next purchase of any açaí product might be.

Açaí in the Amazon Estuary

The Açaí palm (Euterpe oleracea) grows naturally in the shady rainforest canopy of the Amazon and is especially prevalent in the Brazilian state of Pará (Embrapa.com; Raintree.com).[i] The açaí palm produces an edible fruit which, for the rural inhabitants of the Amazon estuaries, has been a basic staple food and key cultural symbol for quite some time. Traces of açaí seeds have been found in archeological sites dating back to ca. 800-1100 AD (Brondízio 165).[ii] The rural inhabitants of Amazonia have long praised açaí, especially the fresh juice that it makes. The juice is regionally known as wine, o vinho de açaí.[iii]Açaí vinho is a purplish liquid of varying consistencies depending on how it is prepared. Açaí is a good source of calories, protein, antioxidants, fiber, vitamin E, and minerals (Bowling 1; Nappo-Dattoma 2).

During the main production season, açaí fruit represents 15%-30% or rural households’ caloric intake and is a necessary component of daily meals.[iv] In rural areas, a meal is not considered complete without açaí. Siqueira (1997), uses the concept of “validator food” to describe the centrality of açaí to the diet and offers a local saying “sem açaí continuo com fome” (without açaí I’m still hungry) as a testimony of the local importance of açaí.

Vinho de açaí is most frequently referred to as “poor-man’s juice,” however, as açaí has become more popular within Brazil and internationally, consumption across classes has increased. Due to its expanding popularity, açaí is now the foremost product of the Amazon estuary and the most significant production system of the eastern Amazon (Brondízio intro). Beginning in the 1970’s, Ponta de Pedras became one of the main açaí fruit providers, and now leads in national production (Embrapa.com).[v] Some 90% of the communities in this region are now involved in açaí production (Brondízio 159, 160).

Açaí Goes Global

Expansion of the açaí economy first started within Brazil when surfers discovered it as a healthy and natural source of energy.[vi] Soon açaí became popular with other athletes and beach-goers, and found its place among other snacks available at a variety of vendors. Export to the United States began in 2000, when a group of American friends sampled açaí with carioca surfers and became ‘hooked’ (Sambazon.com).[vii] They immediately began to formulate a business plan to import and market açaí to the United States. They found success selling to juice bars in southern California, and within a year had expanded sales to South Beach, New York City, Boulder and Oahu’s North Shore (Sambazon.com).  In order to meet the demands of new markets in both Brazil and the United States, production in Amazonia needed to increase. The production of açaí fruit in Pará grew from 92,021 tons in 1997, to 122,322 tons in 2002, 160,000 in 2003, and in 2010 açaí fruit production in Brazil was estimated at 480,000 tons per year (Embrapa.com; Brondízio 265; Rogez 76).  According to the New York Times, the international market for açaí has increased 20% annually over the past three years and spending on açaí-based products by Americans doubled to $104 million last year (Kugel 4).

As the industrialization system evolved (and continues to evolve), new products, new symbols, new participants, and new transactions in the industry emerged. New technology has allowed for pulp processing and freezing in larger quantities, enabling greater export to international markets and creating new forms of commercialization. All of these changes in the açaí market in Brazil are a response to what might be termed the ‘Açaí Craze’ in the United States. Expensive marketing programs have proclaimed açaí to be the new mysterious, power fruit of the Amazon – the new ‘superfood’. Açaí derivatives range from juices, yogurts, freeze-dried or powdered juice extracts in capsules and tablets, ingredients in natural energy bars and snacks, to hair and body cleansers. One need only walk into their grocery or health foods store to experience the açaí craze.

Local Consequences for a Global Food

As mentioned earlier, there are various consequences felt by Brazilians, as a corollary of the globalization of açaí. These consequences include differential access to industry expansion opportunities among açaí producers and processors, change in the symbolic and real value of açaí, and the revitalization and validation of images of the Amazon and its people as exotic and primitive due to the adoption of marketing strategies for selling açaí as a form of ‘alternative consumption’.

Even as açaí export continues to increase, the benefits of industrialization and expansion are asymmetrical and inequitable. The interactions between international markets and local Brazilian communities are embedded in historical and cultural dimensions including ethnic identity and class and how these are expressed in access to resources, labor and economic development. Those most exposed to inequalities are rural inhabitants, especially those of the Amazon River estuaries, particularly the caboclo communities.[viii] Of mixed Indian blood, caboclo communities, also known as “Amazonian peasantry,” are generally considered to be backwards, uneducated, lower-class, and lazy by urban Brazilians (Brondízio 23).  The peoples of the caboclos are the traditional, small-scale producers of açaí; while one might anticipate that their knowledge of açaí cultivation would situate them well in the expanding açaí industry, prejudice against small-scale producers works to position them negatively in terms of agency in the regional agrarian economy.

As açaí moves through different development phases, both the production sector and market chains for açaí have changed hands. The emergence of new markets, including international ones, tends to reinforce the differential access to opportunities already present in the region. Translating this into terms for açaí, re-creation of local prejudices means that traditional producers of açaí have limited access to the different phases of the globalization of açaí, namely control of product stock, export, and commercialization. Although açaí is still grown and harvested by many small holders and sharecroppers, an increasing number of farms are coming under the control of large landowners, leased farms, cooperatives and more recently, corporate farms (Brondízio 249).  Instead of being integrated into açaí expansion, small-scale producers are being excluded as restructuring of Brazil’s agrarian economies for international business appears to dismiss the small-scale producers. Traditional producers have reduced opportunity to engage and profit from successive phases of expansion. As a  number of complex commercialization ‘paths’ emerge, the number and type of processors multiply while corporate brokers replace market brokers and middlemen, and corporate farms replace small-scale producers (Brondízio 249). According to Brondízio (278-279), formation of and access to transformation industries and different forms of commercialization will continue to define who benefits from expanding opportunities of the açaí economy. Brondízio (289) estimates that açaí fruit generates annually US$15 million for producers, while those involved in processing and commercialization profit US$55 million. Unfortunately, in the current açaí craze, the largest share of profits shifts to new processors, exporters and transformation industries.

Change in Symbolic and Real Value of Açaí

Açaí just recently (1970’s) entered into the daily diets of middle and upper class Brazilians, and was totally unheard of in the United States until 2000. Now not only are new people consuming açaí, but açaí has taken on new symbolic value through its consumption and marketing practices. Advertising involves complex  meaning processes – the marketing of açaí to Brazilians and Americans would not only have to demonstrate the inherent qualities of açaí, but also the way in which they could make those properties mean something to new consumers (Williamson 17). As a product, açaí became a sign of health, trendiness, and ‘alternative’ consumption for its consumers.[ix]

Açaí has been transformed dramatically beyond any similarity to its regional forms of consumption in order to accommodate the preferences and demands of new consumers. Moreover, the new forms of consumption of açaí sold in Brazil and abroad are largely unacceptable to the long-time consumers of açaí in the Brazilian estuaries (Brondízio 2008; Crane 2-3). For example, the content of açaí pulp in many products has diminished from 100% (as consumed by estuary residents) to less than 5% in many of the fashion-food açaí derivatives (Sabbe et al. 2). Be that as it may, the economic value of açaí fruit is dependent not only on the amount of açaí in the product, but also on the symbolic transformation attached to its marketing and consumption. Brondízio (178) writes, “The iconic value of açaí palm fruit as represented by its name, origin, health claims, color and marketing images underlies its transformation from a staple food to a fashion food in national and global markets.”

Efforts to transform the symbolic value of açaí have also worked to increase the cost of açaí across all sectors of the açaí economy. The price per unit increased 50% from 1990 to 1995, and continues to increase dramatically (Brondízio 251).[x] [xi] As açaí undergoes transformation from raw fruit to commercialized derivative, its value changes significantly. From the producer, to national, and eventually to international markets, one hectare of açaí fruit may change in value up to 50 times (Brondízio 275). Processors are willing to pay incredibly high sums for açaí, since cost can easily be passed onto consumers.  I offer an example to better show the change in absolute value of açaí: the cost/value of one hectare of raw fruit picked in Pará is approximately US$500-$1000. The value of that same hectare of fruit transformed into juice (or other products) and sold at retailers in the United States can reach US$80,000 (Brondízio 276). This is an 80%-160% increase in value, and on average a 90-95% decrease in actual açaí pulp content. Whereas one liter of açaí generally costs US$4.00-$6.00 in Pará, in the United States one liter of açaí juice ranges from US$16 to US$40, depending on the company and product.  Additionally, as the market for açaí strengthens, its role as a staple food for low-income and rural populations is increasingly threatened. According to the Bloomberg Report, the fruit’s wholesale price in Brazil has jumped about 60-fold as a result of increased U.S. demand and the prices Americans are willing to pay for the product (Bloomberg.com; Embrapa.com). Those families with the lowest income consume the majority of açaí, generally twice daily, and regrettably they will be the ones affected most.[xii] Oscar Nogueira, an açaí specialist employed by Embrapa (Brazil’s agricultural research company) claims that data shows rising prices are a direct result of commercialization and commoditization which undermines the staple-food role açaí has traditionally held (Bloomberg.com).

The Power of Images and Discourse: ‘Alternative Consumption’ Reifies Exotic and Primitive Brazil

Advertisements have currency and represent values emanating from any given society. Advertisements create a ‘mirror world’, with whose inhabitants we are invited to identify or to imagine that we are interacting (Messaris 266). Jean Baudrillard described advertising as “pure connotation”, adding that it provides nothing to the production or to the direct practical application of things. However, Baudrillard was also aware that advertising forms a crucial process in the dissemination of meaning: affirming, reinforcing and transforming cultural beliefs and values (Messaris 1997). Lebassco and Naccarato state that advertising gains its power through its sheer quantity and ubiquity, thereby legitimizing the images it sells (152).  These acts of identification and imaginary interaction have real-world consequences (Messaris, 266).

Analysis of food advertising is becoming more frequent, although analysis of food packaging has been consistently overlooked (Lebasco and Naccarato 180).  Food advertisements and packaging provide a rich text for analysis, as both the surface and the contents are consumed. The rhetoric of food representations has implications for perception of one’s own and other cultures. To better understand the power of the images and discourse that surround the marketing of açaí to the United States, both the contextual origins and implications of açaí advertising will be addressed. By looking at specific examples, it will be evident that the adoption of marketing strategies for selling açaí as a form of ‘alternative consumption’ revitalize and validate images of the Amazon and its people as exotic and primitive.

‘Alternative’ Consumption

‘Alternative’ consumption is the consumption of products based on their political, social or environmental overtones. Now, more than ever, consumers want to purchase products that are ‘fairly’ or ‘ethically traded’, and grown organically under environmentally and socially conscious conditions Bryant et al. 347).[xiii] Consumers rationalize their consumptions based on environmental and ethical assumptions about the products they are buying. Pred (1998) writes, “The nature of consumption at this precarious moment needs to be re-cognized…in such a manner that its inseparability from nature becomes every bit as explicit as its deep entanglement with politics, the economy and culture” (151).  Purchasing an ‘alternative’ commodity is no longer simply an act of consumption, but also a form of activism (Bryant et al. 344). Purchase is an expression of the consumer’s concern for environmental and cultural themes including (but not limited to) tropical conservation and social justice. The purchase of açaí as an ‘alternative’ commodity allows consumption-intensive but conservation-minded Americans to feel as though they can make a ‘difference’ in the world.

‘Alternative’ consumption is typified by ‘fairly’ or ‘ethically’ traded, and ‘organically’ or ‘sustainably’ grown products marketed as a way of helping to maintain producer livelihoods, rebuild communities and to protect threatened biodiversity (Bryant et al. 347,357). While these efforts are certainly commendable, the movement’s dependency on consumption requires that ‘alternative’ commodities actually sell. According to Bryant, et al., ‘ alternative’ commodities must display to customers the socio-natural relations under which they were produced through carefully wrought images and texts, invoking ‘fecund’ tropical natures, hard-working Southern producers, and exotic peoples (348). This practice inscribes and disseminates specific understandings of the environments and peoples to be protected or ‘saved’, thus conservation-seeking commodity culture is predicated on Edenic myth-making, inescapably associated with historical ideas of tropicality and the ‘Other’. The Amazon and the Indian are the two main eco-cultural icons employed in the representational practices (Edenic myth-making) surrounding the ‘green’ consumption of açaí.

I offer three examples of açaí products in order to elucidate the three marketing strategies in consideration.

Fair Trade: In order to stress their relationship to the producers and their commitment to the well-being of local farmers, vignettes and biographies of producers and/or farmers are often included in the packaging.

Steaz Iced Teaz with açaí. On the front, a happy, smiling worker named ‘Miguel’ is pictured carrying a basket of açaí. The back of the can reads “We brew this tea with the finest organic ingredients for a healthy and delicious refreshment that will elevate your senses…açaí adds layers of flavor and natural antioxidants. and because our farms are fair trade certified, we ensure equal pay, better health care, and educational opportunities for our farmers – so they can reach new heights as well.”


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Amazon: The Amazon is often alluded to by way of fetishisizing the jungle. Zola presents its juice in brightly colored bottles. The focal point of the bottle is jaguar peering through the overgrowth, emphasizing the exotic allure of the jungle.

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Indian: ‘The Noble’-cum-‘Ecologically Noble Savage’

Sambazon products not only suggest a connection with the Indian, but every Sambazon product displays an Indian with ornamental headdress. Sambazon portrays the Indian as a noble warrior but also appears to claim that by consuming açaí, the consumer can become a warrior (see far right image). The left-most image states “warrior up” a call to arms to a more powerful you.  Their website reads, “Join our tribe of Sambazon Warriors, individuals making positive change in the world. Make your own warrior headdress, and show the world your true colors” (Sambazon.Com).

Companies for ‘alternative’ consumption are not the first ones to employ exotic, primitive, and thoroughly romantic images of the Amazon and the Indian. Beginning with Pero Vaz de Caminha in 1500 and continuing through to the present, people have written about, painted, photographed, and videotaped images of Brazil’s landscapes and peoples for foreign audiences.[xiv] Sadlier (2008) writes,

For the entire span of its existence, Brazil’s imagined identity has been strongly affected by at least two importance concepts. The first of these is race, which becomes an important issue from the moment European colonizers encounter indigenous peoples…The second theme is nature, meaning in this case the flora and fauna of the place, and its value as a “natural resource” (4). From the European ‘discovery’ of Brazil, the land was described as an exotic Eden. The Portuguese and the Dutch produced a rhetorical technique called ufanismo, or the use of superlatives and glorification to describe the land and forests they encountered (Sadlier 4). In his letter to King Manuel, Pero Vaz de Caminha presents the prototype for ufanismo, describing at length the land and the people. He praised the bountiful forests, the sweet and plentiful waters of the rivers, the macaws and brilliantly colored parrots (Sadlier 11).  Caminha also described at length the Indians, whom he called comely, curious and innocent. Despite Caminha’s general fascination and valuation of their innocence, he regarded the native inhabitants as primitive and ‘Other’ (Sadlier 13). Sadlier writes, Caminha lays the foundation for subsequent descriptions of Brazil as a tropical Eden – an idea that would become a major trope in future representations of Brazil (14).

During the Dutch occupation of Brazil in the seventeenth century, images portraying Brazil as a paradise or locus amoenus returned. Prince Johan Maurits sought to market “seductively bucolic” images of Brazil in order to attract more Dutch settlers (Sadlier 63). Paintings done by Dutch artist Frans Post support the image of Brazil as a vast tropical paradise while paintings done by Albert Eckhout were primarily large portraits of Tupi and Tapuia Indians, giving the public the first pictorial documents of the various indigenous types living in Brazil. With the arrival of the royal court in the early 19th century, artists like Jean Baptiste Debret would return to the image of the Indian. Debret’s paintings focused on the ‘harmonious’ relationship between the jungle and the Indian, now given the traits of beauty, character and reserve (Sadlier 114). Sadlier writes, Debret’s valiant Indian figures in the epic wilderness were undoubtedly forerunners of the popular ‘noble savage’ of the nineteenth-century Brazil romantic literature (115).  The Indian would again be taken up to serve the discursive needs of nationalist sentiments at the end of the 19th century. Poets like Gonçalves Dias and José de Alencar firmly established the image of the Indian as the ‘Noble Savage’ (Sadlier 142). Their works elevated the Indian to national symbol, highlighting honor, ceremony, bravery and rich, proud heritage. However, the Indian represented no longer existed in Brazil. In crossing the centuries, the rhetoric of the Amazon as Paradise on Earth and the Indian as ‘Other’, primitive, and ‘natural’ has changed emphases, styles and tropes, but it has maintained the tone of fascination for the exotic.

These images make up the ‘referent systems’ upon which marketing for açaí is based. The systems which provide advertising with their basic ‘meaning’ material are called ‘referent systems’. They are ideological and draw their significance from areas outside of advertising (Williamson 19). The way in which this material is used and is made to mean is significant in understanding the implications of its use.

‘Alternative’ consumption uses the image of the rainforest to sell açaí because it is a powerful symbol due to  the immediacy with which is evokes not just vivid images but a whole array of cherished beliefs about the natural world (Slater 2002). The rainforest is believed to represent the original state of nature, beauty and vulnerability. Images of rainforest motifs are naturally colorful and vibrant, including lots of vegetation, exotic wildlife. As a result, the products it represents are inferred to be rare, wild, organic, natural, healthy, and pure. The Amazon has come to be an object to be fetishisized and protected. A quote by Prince nicely summarizes American attitudes toward the Amazon: “In modern American harvesting nature for psychic yield has become a defining middle-class pastime. We graft meanings onto nature to make sense out of modern middle-class life, and then define ourselves by what we think nature means. Authenticity, simplicity, reality, uniqueness, adventure, the exotic, innocence, solitude, freedom, leisure, peace” (Price 190). Additionally, tropical conservation becomes central to ‘product placement’ in the conservation-seeking commodity culture. The perceived goal is rainforest preservation, and the ‘right thing to do’ is to consume ‘rainforest products’. Nature represents a sense of place as well as a set of practices that are not modern, while anti-consumption consumption serves as a way to reconnect to nature (Bryant et al. 354).
The Indian, like the Amazon, also carries a heavy semiotic load. The symbolic capital (Bourdieu 1997) of the Indians’ cultural identity is one of Brazil’s most important marketing resources. Positive symbols of indigenous identity achieve a “profit of distinction” which offer strategic advantages in international marketing (Bourdieu 1984).  A consumer wants to feel as though what they are buying is authentic – in the case of açaí, authentically Amazonia. The concept of authenticity evokes a range of meanings – that which is original, genuine, real, true – and is generally defined against that which is modern or ‘mass’ culture (Pratt 293). Although authenticity as a concept is a social construct, this does not mean that it isn’t meaningful. Western notions of cultural identity privilege exotic body images as an index of authenticity as a consequence of the ‘referent system’ from which they derive their understanding of ‘Indian’ (Conklin 712) . Environmental imaginaries are closely linked to notions of indigeneity and  Edenic discourse proclaimed the imaginary Indian as the enviable representative of Paradise on earth (Bond et al. 74). The Indian is an important marketing tool as the representative of the Amazon – the proof of the authenticity of the product. However, the Indian must look the part of the ‘Noble Savage’ imprinted on consumer imaginations – read: headdress, feathers, body paint, etc. The Indian as an eco-cultural icon is also significant in that he/she is thought to be a “natural conservationist” or the “protector of the rainforest” inherently connected to “Mother Earth” (Conklin 723). These qualities are based upon the presumed ‘naturalness’ of the Indians, supposedly born into a way of life that effortlessly embodies the principles of Western conservationism (Conklin723). In sum, in constructing the ‘Ecologically Noble Savage’, ideas about native ecology merge with exoticism – which emphasizes the attraction of the ‘Other’ and primitivism – which values qualities of ‘primitive’ cultures as superior to Western or modern cultures.

Critiquing the Discourse: Why Fair Trade May Not be so ‘Fair’ and Why the Images of the ‘Amazon’ and the ‘Indian’ are Problematic

Marketing has tangible consequences. Landscapes and livelihoods are being fashioned out of the globalization of açaí and  ‘alternative’ commercial practices. For this reason it is important to take a critical look at both these processes. As discussed earlier, marketing for açaí, as an ‘alternative’ commodity, emphasizes its relationship with fair trade practices. However, there is no way to check the veracity of these claims. There is little sense of the reality of labor practices or how much companies actually pay their employees, let alone whether or not these incomes are sufficient. In looking at Brazil, there appears to be a disconnect between the rhetoric of fair trade and local reality. Globalization has worked to disenfranchise traditional small-scale producers from the açaí economy. As a  number of complex commercialization ‘paths’ emerge, the number and type of processors multiply while corporate brokers replace market brokers and middlemen, and corporate farms replace caboclos and other small-scale producers. Additionally, it is important to acknowledge that fair trade re-works the fetish surrounding fair trade commodities into new types of alternative ‘spectacle’ for western consumers (Bryant 359). Moreover, the figurative and literal power of the success of fair trade lies in the hands of consumers and perpetuates unequal power relationships between producers and consumers established in colonial times.

In addition to the ambiguity surrounding the actuality of fair trade claims, it is also necessary to assess critically the primitive and exotic representations of the Amazon and Indians. Lévi-Strauss (1970) describes the cultural transformations of natural objects (in this case the Amazon and the Indian) as a process of ‘cooking’; images are ‘cooked’ in culture so that they may be used as part of a symbolic system. Once cooked , in other words, turned into a network of romantic symbols,  natural objects are made available for our consumption. A romantic symbol of nature now replaces the actual form allowing for exploitation of these ‘cooked’ products through consumption. Images of the Amazon and its inhabitants have been ‘cooked’; they tend to combine artistic performance, aesthetic taste, design preferences and scientific learning to stage ‘tropicality’ and ‘authenticity’ for western consumers. These representation practices shape our cultural appreciation for and understanding of the Amazon and its inhabitants. Regrettably, these images are essentializing and reproduce Western popular perceptions of the Amazon and Indians, leaving little room for what these might be on their own account. Edenic narratives obscure local conditions of inequality, violence, oppression, individuality, opportunity and change.  Not only are the ‘Amazon’ and  the “Indian’ conceived to be wild and exotic, but these images also tend to reinforce the idea that they are continuously plagued by social and environmental crises in need of Western assistance. The ‘Amazon’ and the ‘Indian’  thus becomes simplified and embedded in Western understanding in a particular way, amenable to appropriation by ‘alternative consumption’ networks. In essence, ‘alternative’ consumption is  presumed to lead to the economic and social salvation of Amazonian inhabitants. The idea of ‘Eating the Other’ appears to be yet another form of colonialism.

Conclusions

This paper has considered the implications of the globalization of açaí. As has been discussed at length, the globalization of açaí has engendered various consequences for the people of Amazonia, including, but not limited to differential access to industry expansion opportunities among açaí producers and processors, change in the symbolic and real value of açaí, and the adoption of marketing strategies for selling açaí as a form of ‘alternative consumption’ which revitalize and validate images of the Amazon and its people as exotic and primitive.  I would like to conclude this paper with a quote from Cook and Crang (140): “Foods do not simply come from places, organically growing out of them, but also make places as symbolic constructs, being deployed in the discursive constructions of various imaginative geographies”.

One could, and should, replace “food” with “images” as a constructive way to evaluate the power and consequences of the marketing of açaí. I don’t mean to suggest that ‘alternative consumption’ is wholly negative and that it does not indeed have positive consequences. In fact, I support the environmental and social motives behind the movement. However, this discussion is outside the scope of the paper. Rather, my objective  is to encourage people to maintain a continuing engagement with the representational politics of commoditization, and to problematize the ways in which marketing informs our consumption and understanding of ‘tropical’ products, places and peoples.

Notes


[i] Açaí is extremely common throughout the lowland flood areas along the Amazon River as well as in the transitional forests where it forms large groves (Brondízio 114).
[ii] The açaí palm (and its various derivatives) has many uses, including material for construction, feed for animals, base for organic soil, medicinal use as an anthelmintic and most importantly, a food source (Embrapa.com, Brondízio).
[iii] Although the word wine or vinho is used, the juice contains no alcohol.
[iv] In some areas, individual consumption of up to 2 liters daily has been recorded (Crane 6 ).
[v] In order to keep up with demand, areas of cultivation devoted to açaí increased from around 1,100 ha in 1985 to 3,500 ha in 2005 in the 10km surrounding Ponta de Pedras
[vi] There is no scientific evidence which validates this claim.
[vii] Carioca refers to a resident of Rio de Janeiro.
[viii] Caboclo refers to the population that originated from the detribalization, depopulation and miscegenation of the indigenous peoples that inhabited the Amazon floodplain (Brondízio 21; Siqueira 456).
[ix] A sign consists of the signifier, the material object, and the signified, its meaning. In practice, a sign is always simultaneously the object and its meaning (Williamson 17).
[x] Unit= açaí basket
[xi] Unfortunately, a comprehensive trajectory of price augmentation from the 1970’s to the present is complicated to produce because of the many currency changes and enormous fluctuation of the U.S. dollar exchange rate over the past few decades
[xii] In 2004, a study showed that 61 percent of those making minimum wage or less in the Belem area ate açaí daily but that only 16 percent of the highest-income groups did so(Kugel 2010).
[xiii] Although this paper does not consider the role of class in looking at purchasing/consumption decisions, it should be noted that those consumers seeking ‘alternative’ commodities are generally well-educated and people of some means.
[xiv] Pero Vaz de Caminha was King Manuel of Portugal’s official scribe. He was on the voyage, under Pedro Cabral, which ‘discovered’ Brazil in 1500.

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