The Non GMO Project Verified certification is a response to requests from customers, said Timothee Olange, business development manager from Naturex. While the company does not take an official position on genetic modification technology, it’s obvious that customers are starting to assume that labeling requirements of some sort will be almost an inevitability and they’d better be prepared in terms of their supply chain arrangements.
Regardless of a brand holder’s opinion about the validity of GMO labeling for supplements, Olagne said in Naturex’s view it’s an issue in the market here in the United States that is not going to go away.
“When we looked at this we had to decide, will this trend continue for two years or longer? If it would only be for two years, then it wouldn’t be worth the investment,” Olange told NutraIngredients-USA.
Olagne said Naturex’s brand holder customers are looking at market research that shows US consumers are increasingly seeking non-GMO products. The latest survey from the Natural Marketing Institute reports that 69% of respondents would be less likely to buy a product if it was labeled that it contained GMOs. Over the past 6 years, Mintel data shows that the biggest growth in labels is in non-GMO and GMO free claims which have gone from 2.82% in 2012 to 10.17% in 2014.
Part of the growth of this segment of the market has been driven by GMO proponents themselves, Olagne said. Loren Israelsen, president of the United Natural Products Alliance has observed on a number of occasions the Non GMO Project Verified seal is the fastest growing brand in the business.
“The Non GMO Project has done a great job of marketing,” Olagne said.
Where’s the genetic modification?
The seven ingredients that Naturex has certified thus far are American ginseng, black cohosh, echinacea pupurea, goldenseal and mulberry extracts. Olagne admitted that these are very low on the risk scale for accidental GMO inclusion. After all, genetic modification technology doesn’t come cheap and only makes sense at this point for crops that have huge markets, and for crops that are intensively cultivated on vast scales. It has also been applied for crops that have specific disease threats, such as papaya. None of these ingredients fit those bills.
But Olagne said it’s more about reassurance to meet possible labeling strictures, and also stands as a verification of the quality of Naturex’s supply chain.
“These were the first ones we did, kind of a proof of concept,” Olagne said. “The verification process really focuses on traceability and control from plant to extract. So we thought it was a good demonstration of Naturex’s quality. It’s a way to differentiate ourselves from the competition.”
Growth of program
Now that Naturex has done one round of certification , future ingredients could be certified to customer order in a reasonably short time, Olagne said. Naturex’s experience with the certification process could have significant benefits for customers in terms of speed-to-market if and when mandatory labeling becomes the norm.
“It was not extremely difficult to get these extracts verified, but it took time to understand the. process. It did take some resources internally, especially in terms of staff time. But