Speaking with NutraIngredients-USA at SupplySide West 2023, Cal Bewicke, co-founder and CEO of Ethical Naturals, told us: “Botanical extracts aren’t like vitamin C, for instance, or amino acids, which can be made via fermentation. There’s a whole process of growing, harvesting, extraction, and then verifying quality and shipping to market. And at each one of those stages, different problems or challenges can occur.”
“The increased demand for botanicals is one reason [for the pressure on the supply chain], because this puts more stress on the harvesting of the products, and particularly we get issues of climate change, which can dramatically affect harvesting,” he added.
Bewicke cited European bilberry, noting that a hot, dry year in Europe can drastically reduce the harvest. Another example is Saw Palmetto in Florida, where local adverse weather events like 2022’s Hurricane Ian can detrimentally impact the wild crafting of saw palmetto berries.
“What happens when you get shortages is that the price goes up, and once the cost goes up that encourages certain people to introduce adulterants, which can reduce the cost of the extract,” said Bewicke.
Adulteration affects every ingredient that Ethical Naturals deals with, he said, and the issue has been a “constant factor for a couple of decades”.
“We consider ourselves gate-keepers”
“There are a number of suppliers who are extremely careful about this [quality], and who can always be reliable, but there’s also an expanding supplier group who do almost no testing here in the US,” he said. “That encourages their suppliers to adulterate in small ways, which can reduce the cost.
“I consider that testing in the US in very important.”
“There are very good retail-brand companies, such as NOW Foods, Doctor’s Best, iHerb, who insist on having top-quality materials, and insist on having all of their material tested. And suppliers like ourselves, we consider ourselves gate-keepers.”
Watch the video for the full interview.