While olive leaf extracts already exist on the European market - predominantly in cosmeceutical formulations as well as teas and pill-form food supplements - OPA's offering is one of the first liquid supplements. Olive leaf oil has about 40 times the antioxidant levels of extra virgin olive oil, 5-6 times that of leading superfruit, goji and double the level of green tea extract. OPA's liquid supplement is being sold under the brand of its new owner, Comvita, in health food stores across the UK with pharmacies and supermarkets expected to follow for the 500ml product that retails at about £29.95 (€39) for a 30-day supply. New Zealand-based Comvita, which has a strong presence in the UK for its manuka honey and other supplements, acquired OPA in a €17 million deal in August last year. Comvita's chief executive officer Brett Hewlett said at the time that OPA's owners, "felt Comvita was the right party to take the business forward and grow it internationally using Comvita's access to key markets throughout Asia and Europe." In Australia a similar product - sold under OPA's own brand - retails for AUS$39.95 (€24.50) and has notched annual sales of AUS$16m (€10m) in under a decade with 60 per cent compound growth for the past six years. New markets OPA sells its supplement into South Korea, Hong Kong and is trying to break into the notoriously tough Japanese market. The Korean market was its second-biggest with olive oil extract-fortified beauty drinks, yoghurts, salad dressings, teas and iced teas on-market there. "We are pushing into a lot of new markets at the moment and Europe and Asia are a particular focus," OPA co-founder Julian Archer told NutraIngredients.com."Then we are going to look more seriously at North America. We've taken a booth at the biggest natural products trade show there to give the product a boost." The company is also developing its presence as an international raw material supplier of its olive leaf complex. "We sell it to companies that use it in health food bars and other products," Archer said. "Say a company wants to bring out a high-antioxidant muesli bar - our ingredient can do that. We also supply a number of drinks manufacturers to boost antioxidant capacity in functional beverages." Special breed OPA 's extract business took off after it switched to a particular olive tree after testing more than 60 varieties from 12 countries to maximise olive leaf yields. At 550,000 trees, the company's 400-acre orchard in south Queensland is the world's biggest for olive leaf oil. "A lot of the success of the product is down to the selection of tree," said Archer. "It has the right leaves and they are packed with antioxidants. That's what is attracting all the interest because to be honest, the bittersweet taste polarises people. The closest thing in taste is prune juice. But it is meant to be taken as a supplement, not drunk like a regular beverage." In the 10 years since the company switched to olive leaf oil production a raft of scientific literature has been published, citing various benefits, two of which have been ratified by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) including:
Helps to maintain heart and cardiovascular system
Helps to reduce fever
Others in the pipeline include:
Helps reduce blood pressure
Helps reduce arthritis
Helps reduce immunity
About half a dozen live leaf extract-related health claims have also been lodged in Europe and were waiting assessment by the European Union regulator.