Freeze-dried acai is a processed form of the berry. Grown in Central and South America, the acai palm produces small, round, purple-black berries of which the skin and pulp are edible. The acai berry is considered to be very nutritious and effective as an antioxidant.
Although people usually consume the berry fresh where it is grown, it has a very high fat content of approximately 30% to 50%, making it very difficult to transport before it goes rancid. Exportation therefore requires some form of processing. There are several different methods of processing acai berries so that they may be transported, including freezing, freeze-drying, spray-drying, and juice extraction. Of these methods, freeze-drying acai is considered the most ideal.
To prepare freeze-dried acai, producers first harvest the berries and remove and retain the skin and pulp, while they separate the large, central seed for other purposes. The berries are then flash-frozen within hours after harvest. No heat is used to dry the berries as this will often destroy the nutrients. Producers use pressure instead.
Processing of freeze-dried acai occurs inside specifically designed equipment. The freezing of the berries separates the water from the pulp and skin, all in solid form. A vacuum pump is used to lower the chamber pressure to below 0.6 atmospheres (ATM). A heating unit then increases the temperature inside the chamber to above 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit), causing the ice to change phase.
Due to the low pressure, the solid, frozen water undergoes sublimation and converts directly from the solid phase to the gas phase. This vapor then flows out of the chamber and condenses. The process repeats until the acai berries are completely dried out.
Freeze-dried acai is considered to be the ideal form of processed acai as it is believed to maintain all the nutritional value of fresh berry. Acai berries contain a number of properties beneficial to health, including fiber, antioxidants, and omega fatty acids three, six, and nine. They also contain vitamins, minerals, and protein. These are preserved when the berries are flash-frozen.
Other benefits of freeze-dried acai are that the product is light and easy to transport. It has an increased shelf life and a higher concentration of nutrients by weight than fresh berries due to the removal of the water content. This method also preserves the berries without chemicals and preservatives, making them acceptable for organic food consumers. Producers usually grind freeze-dried acai into a powder, which is then mixed into liquid or sprinkled over food and consumed or put into capsules.