Alex Lahti is assistant marketing manager at Wisconsin-based DLG (Duerst Lahti Global) Naturals, which supplies pressed oils, essential oils, botanical powders and butters from Africa to the US dietary food/supplement and cosmetics/personal care markets.
While baobab has started to gain real momentum, Moringa oleifera (which originated in India but is now widely grown in Africa and central and southern America as well) could be just as big, he says: “We met with a couple of companies at Expo West last month that are really interested and we are now in negotiations with a couple of producers in Africa about supplies. It’s a great way to add protein to a bar or a shake.”
As for baobab, which DLG already supplies in an oil and powdered form, awareness has grown considerably in the past year, he says.
“We’ve got cosmetic companies looking at the oil and we’re talking to more people about the powder. It works really well in a shake if you mix it with whey protein powder and it is also good in bars.”
Devil’s Claw is also attracting a lot of interest and is now on DLG Naturals’ radar as a supplement ingredient, he adds.
Barriers to entry
But why don’t we know more about all of the other ingredients Africa has to offer?
As Afrinaturals CEO Adolf Joubert recently told NutraIngredients-USA (click here), there can be some barriers to entry for firms supplying African ingredients, says Lahti.
“I think there is often a hesitation because people are concerned about logistics, ie. whether there is the infrastructure in place to ensure they will get a secure and consistent supply of materials.
“There is also the issue of regulatory approvals as some of these ingredients will need to go through the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) process, for example.”
Joined up thinking
But lack of engagement with the audience producers are trying to reach can also be a problem, he says.
“I agree with Adolf that you see time and time again co-operatives being organized and getting assistance from the Sout African government, say, they put in place all this new capacity and produce a product, and then they don’t know what to do with it.”
While it would be "nice to think that food and supplement formulators will knock on the door and say here’s what I’m trying to do, what do you have?", he observes, many of them are typically look at India and China before thinking about Africa as a source of new ingredients.
He adds: “We have to be much more proactive and focus on a few flagship ingredients that will really raise the profile of Africa and then people might say, we’ve heard of baobab, what else do you have?
“But Africa has so many potentially exciting ingredients it has been hard to know where to prioritize efforts.”
Click here to read about Moringa oleifera.
Click here to read our interview with Adolf Joubert, CEO of Afrinatural.