Midpeninsula Post

From craving to creation: Palmettos’s journey to redefining açaí bowls

Palmetto Superfood's Palo Alto storefront. (Kensie Pao)

Since Palmetto Superfoods, an açaí bowl store, opened in Town and Country Village across the street from Palo Alto High School in April, it has quickly become a go-to spot for nearby students.

What is Palmettos, exactly? A simple answer: fruit.

Palmettos is dedicated to serving fully customizable açaí fruit bowls with the same amount of nutrients, quality and taste as regular fruits. Only, these bowls have a special flavor and presentation.

The iconic Palmettos açaí bowl started from a simple craving, Palmettos CEO Charles Lee said.

In 2015, Lee met his business partner, Amanda Moreira, who owns a Brazilian cafe — Cafe De Casa — in San Francisco.

“They have a great Brazilian menu, but I really fell in love with her açaí, probably just because it was really refreshing,” Lee said. “I just kind of came and went back and kept eating [the açaí] over and over, thinking, ‘Why is it so good?’”

From there, Lee was inspired to find the right açaí bowl recipe, which proved to be challenging because these bowl bases tend to lack the quality of fruits. Pre-packaged açaí bowls also come with many preservatives.

“Açaí is a very tart fruit,” Lee said. “It’s like a giant blueberry and it’s very hard to eat it raw.”

To tackle this, Lee explained that the açaí is naturally sweetened using various fruits such as strawberries, blueberries and bananas. These fruits all work together to create a creamier texture for the bowl.

“That’s [Moreira’s] formulation,” Lee said. “So when you’re eating an açaí bowl, you’re really eating açaí. The other berries just enhance the açaí flavor.”

From this formula of using different fruit blends, Lee developed Palmettos’s current base menu of nine flavors.

“We’re literally just scratching the surface of what açaí can be,” Lee said. “We want to help bring better balance to your regular diet on a daily basis, that is the approach.”

To do this, Palmettos seeks to ensure freshness in every bite of an açaí bowl. Each fruit and topping comes from different farms and suppliers around the world and is delivered fresh to every store. The fruit Palmettos uses, for instance, comes from places such as Brazil, Thailand, Mexico and more.

For Paly sophomores Sunday Ahn and Christina Gu, Palmettos serves as a small treat after tiring school days.

“We usually go sometimes after school on Fridays,” Gu said. “It’s just really refreshing and there’s nothing quite like it around here.”

In the future, Palmettos hopes to open new stores, develop new flavors and create a new line of packaged products.

“If you go down to the [grocery store freezer] section, you’ll see our product along with ice creams,” Lee said. “We’re doing a packaged version of the açaí, a little bit different formulation because it has to survive the shelf life of a grocery store.”

Most importantly, Palmettos strives to help share açaí with people around the world.

“We think everyone should have açaí, it shouldn’t be just suited to California or Hawaii,” Lee said. “We want [customers] to actually eat açaí, not just diluted products of water and sugars and juices. That’s our primary focus, we need to do a whole re-education of the market: This is açaí and this is how it’s properly done.”

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