Matcha is a traditional form of ground whole leaf green tea that has been growing in demand in recent years, both as a beverage base in its own right and as a flavor ingredient. Tea ingredients, both those made from Camellia sinensis and other botanicals, were among the first to achieve Non-GMO Project Verified status after the standard became codified in 2010 (the Non GMO Project itself began in 2007). This seemed at first a bit of overkill, as these ingredients have never been a target for genetic modification. But Taiyo International vice president Scott Smith said the verification has become increasingly important in the marketplace, even if it might appear to be a matter of certifying that this pig is in fact a pig.
“Yes, on the surface a Non-GMO Project Verification for an ingredient (such as tea) that traditionally has not been subject to genetic modification would seem to be redundant. However, the project not only looks at the raw material itself, but the entire supply chain, production and potential for GMO cross-contamination,” Smith told NutraIngredients-USA.
Smith said that customers are increasingly asking for the seal for the purpose of communicating with and reassuring their consumers. Taiyo’s matcha is certified organic, and while savvy consumers know this implies a non-GMO positioning, a majority of end users don’t make this connection. Getting the verification improves the transparency of the ingredient, he said.
“Consumers are not necessarily familiar with GMOs, and what inherently is or is not a risk for GMOs. Yes, Taiyo’s organic Matcha Powder is USDA Organic Certified. We find that our customers are looking for clear clarification on the GMO status as well as Organic Certified. We do believe that some consumers do not necessarily make the connection between organic and GMO,” he said.
“We respect people’s right to know what is in their food and dietary supplements. We believe this verification offers the highest transparency about GMOs,” Smith said.
Taiyo notes that when processed carefully, matcha is a rich source of polyphenols, vitamins, fiber, chlorophyll and L-theanine. It has been identified as one of the strongest growing categories in the specialty tea niche, and Smith said it is showing up in other applications, too, including in a recent line of energy beverages.
“Matcha is enjoyed on its own as a healthy and comforting beverage, and as a component in confections and ice-creams. In addition to this, however, we see the use of Matcha in western countries expanding into non-traditional formats, such as savory spices, smoothies and juices, supplements, instant powders, protein mixes, and more,” he said.