Ryan Black is the Chief Executive of SAMBAZON, an acronym for Sustainable Management of the Brazilian Amazon, a company which he co-founded in 2000 with his brother Jeremy and friend Edmund “Skanda” Nichols. SAMBAZON is the industry leader and pioneer in Açai (ah-sigh-ee) and the first brand to bring the Brazilian superfruit from the Amazon to the United States.
After experiencing his first Açai bowl on a surf trip to Brazil, Black saw an opportunity to create and share delicious and nutritious, Açai-based products with people across the world while pioneering a socially and environmentally conscious business model.
What makes Acai more popular than the last health food trend?
Açai is a food which is super delicious AND has great health benefits for everyday people so your body loves it. Plus, Açai is like a base similar to yogurt but is super customizable so you can always experiment and try new things. If you like coconut & mango, or strawberries & chocolate, or peanut butter & banana, there are endless ways and superfood mixes to fall in love over and over again.
How does SAMBAZON counter the constant change in food trends and customer behaviors that vary on a whim?
Our marketing team does research and tests all kinds of aspects of our products. Açai may have started as a trend because it was only “discovered” by the mainstream in Brazil in the 90s and in the USA in the last decade or so, but has now become a full-fledged industry. We don’t worry too much about trends. There may be new toppings or ways to consume it but the base of Açai is here to stay!
Talk to us about your community and consumer initiatives and bringing about healthy change.
SAMBAZON uniquely works from the palm of the tree all the way to the palm of your hand. In other words, we are vertically integrated and deliver organic, fair trade and positive energy from the rainforest communities and their biodiverse environment all the way to the healthy purple smiles on our customers faces. It is through our triple bottom line business philosophy of defining success socially, environmentally, and economically that we bring about positive “healthy” change.
What is SAMBAZON’s future in the GCC?
SAMBAZON is growing our wholesale business in restaurants, supermarkets and ecommerce retailers, and are now looking for our ideal partner(s) to establish and grow SAMBAZON (retail) Bowl Shops, kiosks and carts in key locations within the GCC.
What business models have you found work best for you and why?
Almost 20 years ago we decided to verticalize our business and strengthen our relationships at the base of the supply chain, providing control and flexibility while focusing on efficiency, innovation and the highest quality and cost possible. This verticalization has proved to be successful as the world has been required to absorb additional costs in just about everything. With full control of our supply chain and strong distribution and brand, we believe Franchising will prove to be an excellent model to be successful in the GCC and beyond.
Talk to us about your sustainability projects.
From inception in 2000, SAMBAZON’s Triple bottom line philosophy has put sustainability at the core of our business model. A decade before we made profits, we were already investing in the social, environmental, and economic health of our açai grower communities. Through our Fair Trade certification program, which we developed in partnership with EcoCert, SAMBAZON channels a % of all of the açai fruit purchases we make annually into a fund which then re-invests these dollars back into the forest communities based upon their specific needs in the areas of schools and teachers, health care services, hospice and community infrastructure. Recently, we passed the $1 million mark for reinvestment in these açai communities. This wasn’t done overnight, but rather a cumulation of two decades of work and foresight. SAMBAZON is an acronym for Sustainable Management of the Brazilian Amazon, and we made it our mission to create positive socio-economic change with every açai bowl we sell. This proves the case for sustainable development in the Amazon, our goal when we founded the company.