Focus on OPIC Impact Award winners: Sambazon
During the 2016 OPIC Impact Awards for excellence in development, OPIC presented the President’s Award to Sambazon, Inc., for a project that has excelled in multiple areas from innovative thinking to support for American small business to creating local jobs and advancing sustainable development.
Sambazon, a San Clemente, California company, whose name stands for “Sustainable Management of the Brazilian Amazon,” was formed after a surfing trip to Brazil, when a couple of friends noticed the local popularity of the antioxidant-rich açaí berry and saw an opportunity to introduce it into the U.S.
They started by purchasing a container of frozen pulp and peddling it to juice bars in southern California, but as sales took off in retail stores around the United States, they began to look into more reliable and efficient ways to collect and process the açaí berries, which grow in the wild in the Brazilian Rainforest.
Sambazon used OPIC financing to build an environmentally sustainable, organic açaí berry processing facility in the rainforest, which has served multiple purposes. It has made it possible to process the berries before they spoil, it has generated income for about 10,000 local farmers, and, as a result, it has supported conservation of the rainforest. Sambazon likes to say it has made the rainforest “too valuable to cut down.”
Sambazon uses sustainable processes and distributes açaí juice to the U.S. and beyond. This burgeoning global market for açaí has created financial incentive for rainforest preservation in Brazil and generated income for more than 10,000 family farmers.
Sambazon works with more than 30 different communities in the Amazon and supports them by building of schools, community centers and medical centers. The company has repaid its $3.7 million OPIC loan in full. Today, Sambazon sustainably processes and distributes açaí juice to the U.S. and beyond.
During the July 7 OPIC Impact Awards for excellence in development, Corwin Karaffa, Chief Operating Officer at Sambazon, spoke about why the owners decided to move the environmentally sustainable processing facility to the rainforest and how OPIC was able to support the venture.