Mining for açai

Açai berries are this year's pomegranates (or maybe they're last year's orange jumpsuits — Mr. Tidbit isn't hip enough to be sure). In any case they're supposed to be up there with other trendy antioxidant berries that may (or may not) have health benefits.

Be all that as it may, açai (pronounced ah-SAH-ee) is showing up all over, and Mr. Tidbit was particularly amused recently to find it featured in dark chocolate candy from Brach's, whose many products (bags of peppermints, bridge mix, chocolate stars) he never would have thought to be anywhere near trendy. (He's wrong on several counts: They also make Greek yogurt granola bites and superfruit gummies.)

Mr. Tidbit had never tasted açai, despite having seen it for a while in a candy from Brookside (a Hershey brand), and seeing the Brach's product tipped him over the edge. He decided to pop for a bag of Brach's Dark Chocolate Blueberry Açai candies — and a bag of Brookside's Dark Chocolate Açai & Blueberry Flavors candies. (Blueberries are a less exotic source of trendy antioxidants.) Contrary to Mr. Tidbit's sense that Brookside is a bit upscale from Brach's, they were roughly the same price.

He found both products to be pleasant, tasting of chocolate and something berrylike. Mr. Tidbit has read a lot of ingredient labels, so — just because it's how these things go — he suspected there wouldn't be tons of açai (or blueberry, for that matter) in either offering. He wasn't prepared for quite how little there is. Herewith the lists, as always in declining order, and omitting lists of sub-ingredients:

Brach's: sweet chocolate (sublist), sugar, corn syrup, maltodextrin, pectin, natural flavors, confectioner's glaze, ascorbic acid, malic acid, citric acid, coconut oil, sodium citrate, acacia, modified food starch, açai powder, blueberry powder, fruit and vegetable juices (for color), carnauba wax, silicone dioxide.

Brookside: semisweet chocolate (sublist), sugar, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates (pomegranate, apple, raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, lemon), maltodextrin, deionized apple juice concentrate, natural flavor, pectin, malic acid, modified food starch, canola oil, açai purée concentrate, sodium bicarbonate, ascorbic acid, sodium citrate, resinous glaze, citric acid.

(If you're thinking of spending all your health care money on açai, candy probably shouldn't be your primary source.)

Al Sicherman