Acai is Bowling Over Food Trends

In a day and age when it has become almost instinctual to post on social media when we see something aesthetically pleasing, food trends are no stranger to this social norm.

One of the fastest growing food trends that has continued to garner attention—particularly over social media—is the acai bowl. This brightly colored, fruit-filled, nutrient-packed concept has been abuzz all over New Jersey, as acai bowl hotspots like Playa Bowls (which currently has 40 New Jersey locations and 10 non-New Jersey locations – Visit Website), continue to expand.

With acai bowl shops popping up at an exponential rate and juice bars and health food stores adding acai bowls to their menu, a question is raised: what’s with the growing frenzy?


Due to increased media exposure, there is an overall greater cultural awareness of healthy eating—especially among millennials. The movement toward health food continues to grow, and acai bowls fall within this category.

Found in the Amazon Rainforest, acai berries are vitamin-rich and packed with antioxidants, which play a vital role in the body’s cell protection system, as they neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals. With detoxifying, energy-boosting, skin-clearing and cholesterol-supporting properties, the dark purple berry has been classified as a superfood. Its flavor has been described as a cross between a blackberry and a piece of dark chocolate, and other words associated with this berry are tart, bitter and refreshing.

Typically seen as a frozen puree topped with a combination of ingredients ranging from fresh fruit, granola and coconut flakes to honey, nut butter and cacao nibs, acai bowls serve as a healthy alternative to other cold dessert options.

Jeff Wozniak, owner of organic and raw food juice bar, SuperJuice Nation (which has locations in Ridgewood, Wyckoff and Closter, NJ – Visit Website), added acai bowls to his menu about two years ago to provide people with a healthy alternative to ice cream. Unlike ice cream, which may cause you to feel sluggish or bloated, acai bowls have energizing effects, the berry having been said to help combat fatigue.

With vegetarianism and veganism on the rise and increasingly more people making the conscious effort to eat healthier, the plant-based diet—which is acai bowl-friendly—continues to gain traction. Wozniak said, “I think people are beginning to recognize that eating poorly…has a profound negative effect on the way you feel today and the potential consequences down the road.”

Wozniak said he hopes for people to be inspired to make healthier decisions after they eat one of his acai bowls, which is the objective of many other acai shops. Skyla Charles, manager of New Milford, NJ natural juice bar, The Raw Squeeze (Visit Website)—which has an assortment of acai and pitaya bowls on its menu—said the store is aimed at promoting health and wellness.

“It’s not just like, ‘Oh, here you go. This is popular. Just take it,’ she said. “I think it’s important for people to realize that we care about everybody and we’re so informed on what we’re offering to our customers.”

Although the overarching goal is to encourage healthy choices, Charles said she thinks the initial response to the acai bowl is due in part to its picture-worthy appearance, with the arrangement of vibrantly colored fruits on top of the acai base.

“I feel like it’s the win-win situation of…having a cute picture to post on social media and also knowing that what you’re putting into your body is healthy for you,” she said.

While it may seem like New Jersey has become an acai bowl hub with its dominating presence along the Jersey Shore, the trend was initially adopted from Brazil in Hawaii among the surfer crowd and later surfaced in California.

Desi Saran, founder and CEO of acai bowl franchise, Sweetberry Bowls (Location in Glen Rock – Visit Website), said food trends typically start on the west coast and eventually make their way to the New York metropolitan area. This can be seen throughout the past 15 years with the rise of the frozen yogurt industry as franchises like Pinkberry, Red Mango and 16 Handles gained increasing popularity over time.

However, with so many frozen yogurt chains and independent self-serve frozen yogurt shops opening all over the country, the market became oversaturated.

“The frozen yogurt trend did not last that long,” Wozniak said. “It was not sustainable. There were too many players that came into the game, and it didn’t offer a fuller experience and a full education process to what we should be doing.”

With acai bowls, the goal is to not only provide a sweet and healthy treat, but to also encourage people to live a healthier lifestyle long term. In order to promote this in a creative way, customization becomes key. Charles said that because of the variety of toppings and combinations that acai bowls offer, the food trend will be long-standing.

“I don’t feel like people will really get bored with it…I think that’s what happens with the fads…people get bored and they’re onto the next new, exciting thing,” she said. “The fact that you can customize your [acai] bowl so extensively, I feel [like] that will help with the long-lasting sale,” she said.

While certain states are more populated with acai bowl shops than others, Saran said he thinks within the next 10 years, acai bowls are going to be all over the United States.

Food trends may come and go, but with more people gravitating toward a healthier lifestyle and more investments being made in health food concepts, it appears as though acai bowls are not going anywhere anytime soon.


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