Moringa oleifera is a tree that grows widely in the tropics in Asia and Africa. Unusually for a tree, the leaves are edible and are packed with nutrition, and the plant is said to have use as a water purifier,too. It has a history of use of many centuries in India and elsewhere.
The plant is not unknown in the US market. According to Organic India, it has been for sale since before the DSHEA grandfather date of Oct. 15, 1994, and it was the subject of a lengthy article in the Los Angeles Times in 2000.
It should be a pretty easy sell, according to Heather Henning, national sales manager for Organic India.
“Moringa contains over 90 nutrients, 46 antioxidants and abundant minerals. Moringa has more B12 than steak, more Vitamin A than eggs and more calcium than milk. So it's an especially nutrient dense, plant-based resource for anyone looking for support in their diet,” she told NutraIngredients-USA.
“It’s loaded with vitamins and minerals and all the essential amino acids,” said moringa supplier Rodney Perdew, president of Moringa Farms.
Market acceptance slow in coming
Still, the ingredient has hardly been a blockbuster in the marketplace. Perdew got into the game in 2000, inspired in part by that Los Angeles Times article. It’s been a road full of peaks and valleys, but overall he’s seen slow, steady growth.
“It’s quietly caught on by word of mouth,” Perdew said. “So now it’s a viable resource that people are recognizing.”
Word of mouth can be an effective way to build a buzz, but moringa has benefited from another–an appearance on the Dr. Oz Show.
“It did have some impact,” Perdew said. “It wasn’t a very thorough exposé of moringa, but anything helps.”
“We've been in development on Moringa since late 2011, which gave us a good half-year head start before Dr. Oz mentioned it on the show. We're very pleased with how much attention Moringa has gotten,” Henning said.
While word of mouth works for marketing, it’s not so good for scientific evidence. But here, too, moringa is a blockbuster, Henning said.
“There are over 200 clinical studies from the National Research Council to international universities to scientific journals on every continent on moringa,” she said.
Going to the source
Organic India sources its moringa in northeast India and Moringa Farms sources its product from Tamil Nadu in the south of the country. In the case of Moringa Farms, all of the product is gathered from wild growing trees, which is one of the reasons why Perdew does not have organic certification on the moringa he brings out of India (he does source organic moringa from a plantation in Mexico).
While Organic India is developing finished products, Perdew is taking the opposite tack and delving deeper into the supply end of the moringa picture. Perdew supplies everything connected to the plant, from powdered leaf for supplements to seeds and seedlings. His ultimate goal is grow moringa domestically. After a previous failed attempt to grow the trees on a plantation in the desert near Yuma, AZ (which was foiled by a killing frost, of all things), Perdew is partnering with another farm in Arizona on a second plantation. But how to make domestic production price competitive with wildcrafted Indian supplies?
“You grow it intensively like a lawn. You can harvest it seven times a year,” Perdew said.