The ingredients, derived from the African baobab tree and its fruit, contain naturally occurring vitamins and nutrients including riboflavin, niacin and vitamins C, A, D and E.
The seed oil, leaves and bark can be used in the cosmetics industry to make creams, masks, shampoos, conditioners, lotions and exfoliants.
The pulp is also reported to be prebiotic and stimulate the intestinal microflora, which has contributed to the ingredient's increasing popularity in functional food applications, including beverages, sauces, snack bars and breakfast cereals, as well as dietary supplements.
Senegal's Baobab Fruit Company claims to be the largest global harvester and producer of baobab ingredients. The African firm, which began by designing equipment capable of extracting raw materials from the tree in 1999, has recently joined forces with Canadian company BaobabTek, which is to market the ingredient in North America.
Also known as the 'tree of life', the baobab tree has traditionally provided the native population with food and medicine, and is used to help treat fever, diarrhea, dysentery, malaria, smallpox, and inflammation.
The tree bears fruit once a year. This contains naturally dehydrated fruit pulp, which contains six times the vitamin C present in oranges, as well as vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and PP. Minerals present include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, sodium, zinc and magnesium. The seed endocarp is also said to contain naturally occurring omega 3, 6 and 9.
BaobabTek, which aims to supply the cosmetic, food, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries with natural raw materials from the baobab tree, also claims to be helping to enhance the economic development of certain villages in Africa, through sourcing the ingredient as a by-product.
Products containing baobab ingredients are currently already available in Italy, France, Switzerland, Spain, the UK, Canada and the US.
BaobabTek said it is currently seeking partners and distributors to make this ingredient available and better known to the public in the North and South American markets.