The company had two founding principles: one, it is a “woman-based company” and two, it was non-GMO right from the start, said Jessica Oren, marketing and brand manager.
The debate over genetic modification has particular pertinence in the cultivation of papaya trees. In Hawaii, where payapas have been a significant crop for many decades, the Papaya Ringspot Virus wiped out the trees on Oahu starting in the 1950s. Production was moved to the Big Island under quarantine, but the virus found its way there by 1992. In the meantime, the University of Hawaii began working on a genetically modified papaya variety resistant to the virus, and these trees resuscitated the industry in the state.
“We are strongly against genetic modification. We think there are other, better ways to go, such as hybridization. Or agricultural practices like not overwatering your trees,” Oren said. “We really believe that non GMO is more sustainable.”
Herbal Papaya sources its raw material and manufactures its ingredients and teas in Nigeria. It also sources fruit in Sri Lanka during the off season in West Africa.
According to Herbal Papaya, the papaya leaf, fruit and seeds are rich in vitamins A, C and E, antioxidants and the protein digesting enzyme papain to strengthen the body, aid in digestion, maintain healthy blood platelets and reduce inflammation. The seeds of the papaya contain high levels of anti-bacterial phytonutrients that assist in detoxification of the body while killing parasites and worms. Herbal Papaya says it is the only company bringing organic papaya seed product into the US market.
“Right now we are going to have the seed powder and the seed extracts. The seed powder is positioned as detoxification and parasite reduction product. The papaya seed breaks down protein, and parasites are mostly protein,” Oren said.
“Most Americans believe that their risk for getting parasites is limited to foreign travel; this is simply not true. Parasites and worms can be gotten from casual contact with pets, friends, and from eating undercooked meats and fish,” said Dr Unoma Okorafor, CEO of Herbal Papaya.
In addition to the new seed powder and extracts, Herbal Papaya is introducing two new tea flavors: Organic Papaya Leaf Tea with Rooibos Chai and Organic Papaya Leaf Tea with Papaya Fruit and Passion Fruit.
Herbal Papaya sells its products directly to consumers and has distribution in independent health food stores. The company also concluded an agreement for distribution in the Wegmans chain, which has health food stores in the mid Atlantic states. The company is also in discussion with other big retailers such as Whole Foods and Kroger, Oren said.
In addition to marketing its own line of teas and supplements, which includes papaya leaf extracts, the company is considering acting as an ingredient supplier, too, Oren said.
“There is an opportunity for grown in private labeling. We have had companies coming to use to inquire about using the ingredients,” she said.