Special Edition: Superfruits — Old news, or still super?

Superfruits form solid basis for single-ingredient companies

By Hank

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sea buckthorn

Sea Buckthorn formed the basis of the Sibu Beauty company.
Sea Buckthorn formed the basis of the Sibu Beauty company.
Superfruits with their full suite of bioactives and their stories of hidden beginnings and discovery, have made ripe pickings for the founding of single ingredient companies.

Superfruits have given rise to large network marketing like MonaVie and Xango, but have also formed the foundation of single-ingredient companies like Sibu that sell into more conventional channels.  In either case, you need two things;  you need a story that connects with your customers on an emotional level and you need an ingredient or product whose shoulders are broad enough to rest an entire company on. 

Xango, a multilevel marketing company based in Lehi, UT,  is based on the benefits of mangosteen, a fruit of Southeast Asia that is unknown in its fresh form to most North American consumers because of its short season and difficulty of handling.  The mangosteen tree, Garcinia mangostana​, can’t stand freezing temperatures and so is restricted to the tropics.

As with other single-ingredient companies, Xango has its foundational myth.

“One of our company founders is named Joe Morton, and Joe grew up in a household in southeast Canada that had a natural products angle. His mom had a health food store in the 70s and their dad was a network marketing distributor.  They ate everything healthy, no processed food, no junk food, no eating out,”​ Dave Webb, vice president of communication at Xango, told NutraIngrdients-USA.

As an adult Morton found himself living and working in Southeast Asia, where he first tasted mangosteen.  Even with his natural products background, he’d had no experience with the fruit, and he knew immediately it was something special.

“Because of his background, Joe started asking, what can you tell me about this fruit? He found out about the natural uses in the area, that people would grind it up into a tea or make a poultice out of it,”​ Webb said.

Health benefits of xanthones

But a fruit needs more than an exotic nature and an intriguing flavor to form the basis of a product line, Webb said.  It needs to have a story of true health benefits, and mangosteen steps up with its content of a family of chemicals called xanthones, a subset of polyphenols, which Xango advertises for their antioxidant properties.

“The product is built on what we call a whole fruit puree, add a few other fruit juices for flavor,”​ Webb said.

The foundation story, along with the suite of bioactives in the fruit, have added up to a powerful message, Webb said.  Xango is a privately help company, but Webb did have this to say:

“We were one of the fastest companies to $100 million and one of the fastest companies to $200 million year. We are in all 50 states and 43 markets around the globe,”​ Webb said.  Annual sales are now said to top $1 billion.

Sailing on sea buckthorn

Sibu, a company built around the benefits of sea buckthorn berries, has a similar story to tell, although it is distributing products in conventional sales channels.  Again, there is an emotional appeal through a foundation story, and there is a power-packed pot of gold in the form of a multifunctional ingredient at the end of that rainbow.

Sibu founder Bruce McMullin discovered the benefits of sea buckthorn while introducing his adopted daughter to her birth country, India.  While traveling in the Himalayas with here he as introduced by a local herbalist to sea buckthorn and its many benefits.  It was a fortuitous meeting; after doing some research McMullin determined that the wildcrafted Himalayan crop (the deciduous shrub is native to a wide swath of Europe and Asia) was the best the world had to offer.

“Our source is premium Himalayan sea buckthorn. We are able to get a quality of sea buckthorn that I don’t think anybody else is able to duplicate,”​ McMullin said.

Suite of bioactives

Sea buckthorn has a host of bioactive compounds, McMullin said. The berries a rich source of vitamins and minerals, while the juice of sea buckthorn berry has been shown to contain contains proteins, vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, different mineral and organic acids.

Sea buckthorn oil has been reported to have a number of other health applications, including atopic eczema, other skin problems related to deficient regeneration, UV radiation stressed skin, mouth dryness, mouth ulcers, gastric ulcers, urinary tract inflammations, cervicitis, genital ulcers, sinus inflammation and eye dryness.

The plant also provides a source of omega fatty acids, including -3, -6, -9 and omega-7.

“There are some great studies at Harvard and the Cleveland clinic on omega-7. I think omega-7 is going to surrass where omega-3 is,”​ McMullin said.

Sibu has a number of topical and ingestible products based on the fruit, and also has a line of animal health products, mostly for now meant for the digestive health of horses. But McMullin sees new vistas for the product, in maternal health and elsewhere.

“We see a whole host, hundreds of products coming from sea buckthorn,”​ he said.

“Well, it is gutsy for anybody to do a single ingredient.  The average guy would say, why would want to do that?  But there is so much power in sea buckthorn and there is some much versatility,”​ McMullin said.

“I just felt it was my calling to bring this ingredient to market.”

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