UPDATED: Botanical extracts distributor Phytochem International has struck a deal with Chinese firm Ningbo Traditional Chinese Pharmaceutical Co to introduce 95% curcuminoids from turmeric sourced from Indonesia - a first for the US market.
Curcumin – a potent anti-inflammatory agent from the spice turmeric – has been gaining popularity as a growing body of research suggests it could play a role in reducing the risk of a range of diseases from Alzheimer’s disease to osteoarthritis.
However, prices from India - the source of most of the world’s turmeric - have fluctuated in recent years prompting firms to seek alternative sources of supply, Phytochem sales and marketing manager Tom Winn told NutraIngredients-USA.
Many contract manufacturers had difficulty securing turmeric in 2011
Thanks to a strong 2012 crop, prices from India have actually dropped 25-35% this year claimed Winn, “[but] in the past, we’ve had difficulty obtaining high quality, competitively priced product from India.
“There have also been severe fluctuations in supply along with pricing. Many contract manufacturers and marketers had difficulty securing turmeric in 2011 when it was in shortage.
“These companies have been very interested in diversifying their supply risk by purchasing turmeric 95 from an Indonesian source.”
Project began in 2009
He added: "The Indonesian turmeric project began in 2009 when high quality turmeric root plantations were established using wild-grown Indonesian turmeric (the same species as Indian). Ningbo Traditional decided that to meet nutraceutical market demand for product with low heavy metals and pesticides, a new method of cultivation was required.
“We are very excited, that through our partnership with Ningbo, we have a new and superior product at an economical price to compete in the turmeric 95% market.”
The Ningbo product is manufactured from the finger rhizome, which grows off the main turmeric root, he said.
“Ningbo is producing Turmeric 95% with a full natural C3 mixture ( curcumin, bisdemethoxy curcumin and demethoxy curcumin) from the turmeric finger rhizome.”
Partnerships with turmeric plantations
Ningbo, which has more than 40 years’ experience in traditional Chinese medicines, has recently focused on standardized botanical extracts, said Winn, who claimed that the finger was less likely to contain heavy metals than the main turmeric root, although it was lower in curcumin.
With the support of the Indonesian government, Ningbo has formed partnerships with turmeric plantations to ensure that the product is fertilizer- and pesticide-free, he said.
Ningbo only uses food grade ethanol and ethyl acetate in the extraction process, he added.
"This can be contrasted with some other manufacturers that are using artificial solvents such as methanol, isopropyl alcohol, cyclohexane, acetone, or methylene chloride."
Sabinsa: 'It's interesting that turmeric is all of a sudden a flash point for price controversy...'
Phytonutrient expert Sabinsa, which markets a patented Curcumin C3 Complex product boasting superior absorption, said: "New players would have trouble sourcing the best quality raw materials from India, because we’ve pretty much had that sewed up for years."
Marketing director Shaheen Majeed added: "It’s interesting that turmeric is all of a sudden a flash point for price controversy. Perhaps because the body of science has become so robust, and many people think the product is poised to be the next fish oil in terms of consumer acceptance, so companies are trying to position themselves well.
"We do research, develop proprietary ingredients, support our clients with science, intellectual property protection, consistent supply, processing expertise, and marketing. For some products we contract with farmers, finance their operation, guarantee the crop, and teach them how to grow a quality raw material, including minimizing heavy metals.
He added: "Low-metal turmeric isn’t new to the US, because we’ve been selling to meet Proposition 65 standards all along. Sabinsa has always supplied material that meets Prop 65 standards, so that proves that raw material grown in India is not inherently higher in heavy metals.
"There is turmeric coming from India being used in clinicals worldwide; that is primarily Sabinsa's Curcumin C3 Complex, the long-standing, trusted, and most clinically studied curcumin brand on the market today."