What is Charcoal?
Charcoal is made by heating wood, bamboo, coconut shells, or peat to very high temperatures until they become carbonized ash. This activated charcoal is then processed to give it a microporous structure, allowing it to bind molecules and compounds. Activated charcoal has no flavor and is used in water filters and air purifiers to remove odors and contaminants. The adsorptive properties are what make activated charcoal a great additive for detoxification/cleansing diets.
Uses and Benefits
While using charcoal in a food application may be a relatively new idea, it has been on the forefront of personal care products (facial cleansers and deodorants) for a couple years. According to Mintel Global New Products Database, beauty and personal care products launched in the US featuring activated charcoal have increased 15% since 2016. With more consumers focusing on a natural approach to personal care, the trend has carried over into the food and beverage space.
The functional health category in food and beverage is associated with ingredients that are meant to serve a specific purpose, whether it’s glowing skin or aiding in digestion. With activated charcoal gaining more mainstream awareness as a detox agent, it has gradually started becoming a common ingredient in juices and other beverages. Charcoal is also popping up in other food forms and segments, including
- Ice Cream
- Hot Dog
In a short period of time, charcoal has followed a cross-category path from beauty to functional food and beverage, and more recently, even novelty treats. Activated charcoal is far from being a mainstream ingredient among consumers, but it demonstrates that consumers are increasingly acquiring tastes for something new and unexpected.
Written by Natasha Decaire, Marketing Insights & Communications at Tree of Life Canada
Image: Dr. Axe, Top 10 Activated Charcoal Uses