New US firm brings African plant extracts to market

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Grape seed extract Africa

South African plant extract firm Afrinatural is introducing its ingredients to the North American supplement and functional foods markets, following the establishment of a subsidiary in the United States.

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Afrinatural Corporation counts grape seed extract, hoodia and the mood-enhancing compound sceletium amongst its primary ingredients.

The subsidiary was formed at the end of last year – less than a year after the creation of its South African parent company. According to Michael Sophinos, president of the North American branch, the firm spent its first year conducting research on plant materials and niche market sectors in order to hone its business concept for the region.

“There is a lot of opportunity in the US and Canadian marketplace, as a result of the high level of consumer health concerns,”​ he told

The company supplies a range of natural ingredients from South Africa, West Africa, Madagascar and the Tropical regions. Its main focus is the dietary supplements industry, which currently makes up the majority of its sales, although it is also targeting the food and beverage market on a smaller scale.

Afrinatural said its selection of ingredients is based on traditional African understanding of medicinal plants, but added that the products it supplies are also backed by western science.


One of the primary ingredients in its portfolio is sceletium, a groundcover plant native to Southern Africa. Also known as kanna and kauwgoed, it is said to be used as a mood enhancer and relaxant.

The company explained that the compound’s mood-enhancing activity is caused by a number of alkaloids including mesembrine, mesembrenol and tortuosamine, which interact with the brain's dopamine and serotonin receptors.


Hoodia gordonii​ is a small cactus that grows in the Kalahari desert and is believed to promote a sensation of satiety, thereby aiding in weight management.

According to Afrinatural, the ingredient has suffered a bout of negative publicity in relation to Chinese product as well as the recent announcement that the food giant Unilever was backing out of a deal to bring the ingredient to market in one of its products.

“Hoodia does work, but it must be kept in mind that it is no quick fix nor a diet, but a supplement that will yield results over time,”​ the firm told

“Regarding Unilever, the decision is around the P57 patent and my submission is that they have difficulty in extracting the active past successfully to justify an economical product range.”

Grape seed extract

Grape seed extract is a natural antioxidant that has been linked to numerous benefits including heart health, cancer risk reduction and skin health.

Afinatural said all its antioxidant materials have recorded Orac (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) values, which measure the level of antioxidant activity.

The company said it works closely with three universities, CSIR and the Antioxidant Unit for the Cape Peninsula Tech on research relating to plant materials with antioxidant values.

Quality control

Afrinatural said it manufactures all its products in accordance with GMP in HACCP accredited facilities. All material is also tested in accredited labs for pesticides, bacterial counts and other quality control issues, said the firm.

“All products adhere to [these quality controls] and are exported with Certificates of Analysis confirming these results,”​ the firm said, adding that “we work closely with academics and botanical specialists, and we test our results against industry leaders.”

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