Asma Ishaq on being awarded NutraChamp: "I truly feel like I’ve only just begun"

By Danielle Masterson contact

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images Iuliia Zavalishina
© Getty Images Iuliia Zavalishina

Related tags: Collagen, hyaluronic acid, NutraIngredients-USA Awards, NutraChampion

Being a woman in manufacturing and working in a male-dominated industry isn’t always easy, but collagen pioneer Asma Ishaq makes it look that way. The NutraChampion spoke with NutraIngredients-USA about what the award means to her, how she got here and where she is headed.

In addition to her success leading Modere, Ishaq founded her own company Jusuru International in 2009, helping to move the collagen market from unknown to mainstream. “Today, 87% of supplement users have heard of collagen – which was not the case 20 years ago, and not even a decade ago when I founded my finished product company,”​ noted Ishaq.

Deep roots 

Ishaq, who was recently named Chairperson of the new Collagen Stewardship Alliance, credits her passion for the natural products industry to her father, who was a bench chemist at a dietary supplement manufacturing company in San Clemente, California.

“Even as a toddler, I remember him bringing home products – from supplements to functional foods – for us to sample. I was fascinated with the process and early on drew the connection between research and development to the products consumers see on the shelf. That innovation process has intrigued me since that early age and drives me to create novel, science-based, trend-establishing product concepts for consumers to this day.”

Fast forward a couple decades and Ishaq is still passionate about using science to guide her. “The focus on collagen and hyaluronic acid is embedded in our multi-patented, proprietary ingredient which is a natural biological matrix of collagen and hyaluronic acid (HA) – which was a breakthrough more than twenty years ago for its pioneering research demonstrating efficacy for this particular ingestible collagen and HA. More specifically, collagen and HA were critical building blocks for all things related to healthy aging and functions – there was no doubt that if there was substantial evidence that it could create significant tangible and visible health benefits, that we could have the next emerging category of nutritional supplement worthy of becoming a household name.”

But the household name didn’t arrive overnight. Ishaq acknowledged there were disappointments and setbacks that shaped the businesswoman she is today. 

Character-building moments 

“I don’t believe success is possible without challenges. I have had many trials and moments of clarity. There were many times when roadblocks surfaced – whether in the development of a new product, or taking risks to achieve a vision that no one else can quite see but you. I try to instill a growth mindset culture at our company as it is the basis on which I’ve personally been able to push through any setback or obstacles. Being unequivocally determined to succeed allows you to learn the hard lessons, but pick up and forge ahead.”

Ishaq added that research shows that achievements for women, especially women of color in business leadership, come with many challenges and inequities. “There is a lot of work to do for women, inclusion, and equity. I’ve dedicated myself to social responsibility since very early on in my career. It’s an integral part of our company principles and culture.”

Asma Ishaq

Indeed, women represent a large chunk of untapped talent for industries like manufacturing. Research suggests that gender diversity is beneficial to manufacturing firms by creating a culture that improves their ability to innovate and grow. 

“I’m so proud to be a female leader of a company that has an >80% female consumer base. It means that our customers can be assured that their products create meaningful value in their lives. It means that our salesforce belongs to a company that personally understands the challenges of being a business woman and that purpose drives their success. It means that our employees can feel confident that there is a concerted effort to yield inclusion and equity in pay and managerial representation. Today, our company’s executive team is comprised of 50% women and 50% men.”

Looking ahead

In the NutraChampion nomination, Ishaq’s colleague described her as the tide who lifts all boats, adding: “She is an enduring defender of the values of the nutritional supplements industry who has and will continuously advocate for the highest good of the industry in regards to everything from ingredient sourcing, transparency, supply chain, product formulation, regulation, labeling, and innovation.”

Ishaq said being a NutraChampion is a tremendous honor and a chance to thank the many people “who have inspired and encouraged me to achieve new heights but are equally to credit for this recognition – from my family and closest friends who provide me unconditional support to my business teammates, salesforce, colleagues, and customers who passionately believe in the value we are creating for people’s lives through our products.”

“The irony to this lifetime achievement award is that I truly feel like I’ve only just begun on my future goals.”

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