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Is Aronia the next Elderberry? An interview with Tohi Ventures CEO
Fieldcraft had a chance to talk with CEO and Co-Founder Shari Coulter Ford of Tohi Ventures, a supplier of aronia berries, powder and juice, to learn more about her vision and the significance of Aronia as an ingredient in food and beverage products.
Q: What made you decide to launch a line of healthy beverages?
A: I was on a personal quest to find the perfect ready-to-drink, healthy afternoon refreshment. I wasn’t satisfied with what I found on the shelf – so I thought I should create my own. I was a little obsessed with the Quantified Self / Precision Wellness space and thought there was an opportunity to create something unique.
Q: Why did you choose Aronia berries?
A: As I was doing the initial research, I quickly realized how under-utilized Aronia berries are in consumer products. I found that surprising since their nutritional metrics are astoundingly high – especially the antioxidant content. We believe we’ve just scratched the surface of how to capture and communicate the nutritional value of the Aronia berry. Tohi Ventures wants to be at the forefront of innovation around this core ingredient and we want to be a partner and a catalyst for emerging commercial farmers.
Q: The pandemic has brought even greater interest in functional ingredients. What do you see as Aronia’s role now and beyond?
A: Blueberries, pomegranates and cherries have been well-known for their high levels of polyphenols, but the lesser known Aronia berry is the real superstar of polyphenol power with the highest polyphenol levels of anything else available today. Aronia contains 277 different polyphenols known and used by humans, more than any other fruit, berry or vegetable.
This is significant because polyphenols exhibit a range of biological activities beneficial not only to the immune system but also to cognitive and cardiovascular health, diabetes, aging and athletic performance. Depending on the structure, polyphenols interact with proteins and have characteristic radical-scavenging capacity involved in antioxidant activities.
Q: How does Aronia stack up to Elderberry?
A: Our immune system must meet the specialized challenges of rooting out and defending against billions of daily encounters with microbes, tiny pathogenic germs such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. The strength and effectiveness of the innate or adaptive immune force is critically determined by nutrition and the intake of energy, macronutrients and micronutrients.
Aronia has the most powerful, concentrated antioxidant capacity of any natural food combined with other attributes, including natural nitrates, making it a functional ingredient powerhouse.
Q: What is the history of Aronia?
A: The Aronia berry is native to North America and was highly prized by indigenous people for its nutritional properties and as an herbal remedy. As a supplier of aronia berries, powder and juice, the re-discovery of Aronia and its health benefits is an exciting addition to our ingredient portfolio as well as our dietary choices.