“We are growing. We grew about 40% last year and we are expecting another 40% growth this year. I think that is a reflection of the overall growth in the industry,” Raju told NutraIngredients-USA.
Raju said there is an increasing amount of research being done both in India and in the West on Ayurvedic ingredients and principles. He said Natreon has been at the forefront among ingredient suppliers in sponsoring that evidence underpinning.
“I think a lot of that growth can be attributed to the science behind these products in past five or six years. Even before that our customers were appreciative of the science behind our ingredients. Some of our products have something like 10 or more studies behind them. Our customers like GND and Vitamin Shoppe see real value in those studies,” Raju said.
One thing that has helped drive the uptake of Ayurvedic ingredients has been a general acceptance in the United States of all things Indian, Raju said. Indian restaurants, for example, were rare in this country 40 years ago; now they are ubiquitous. Bollywood films, once seen as somewhat campy oddities, are now regularly shown in movie theaters in many major US urban centers, and the 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire made more than $370 million at the box office, much of that in the US. It all comes together to make mainstream consumers more willing as a starting point to accept that an Indian medicine tradition might have some value. (Trained herbalists and their devotees are another story; among this group the validity of Ayurveda has long been accepted.)
“I’m sure that an element of that is there. You see people becoming more comfortable in the culture and in the traditions, more comfortable with with Indian foods and with the spices they use,” Raju said.
Supply chain issues
One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the need to better secure the supply chain for Ayurvedic ingredients, Raju said. After independence there was little commercial interaction between the US market and the Indian market and therefore little history of commercial connections, and that impenetrability still persists to some degree when it comes to tracking exactly where an ingredient comes from. Many botanicals are first grown by small family farmers who are operating at the micro scale when compared to how agriculture is organized in the West. These ingredients are agglomerated by small brokers who sell to bigger brokers and so forth, with opportunities for contaminants or extraneous materials to find their way into the mix at every step.
“In the past the quality wasn’t there in Ayurvedic ingredients so if somebody had used a product in those days it might not have even worked because there were no standards and perhaps there were not even any bioactives in the product. Once you start giving a product to people that really works and works every time that’s the main thing,” Raju said.
“There are better products in the market now with more efficacy. In our own case we are working to make our own manufacture completely transparent. We have a new plant in south India and one in Nepal and we have a number of certifications on both. We don’t get certifications just to get them; we want to do things right,” he said.
The Healthy and Natural Show
Organic India's Amy Keller will present an introduction to Ayurveda: The Science of Life at the upcoming Healthy and Natural Show at Chicago's Navy Pier, May 5-7, 2016. For more information and to register, please click HERE.