Herbal extracts (Part 1): Taking value from herbs – Challenges, delivery systems and meeting trends


22 Jan 2018 --- With the popularity of traditional medicine and naturalness, in general, experiencing something a resurgence of late, it is instructive to look at the general space around herbal extracts.

“For thousands of years, herbs have been used as safe and natural solutions for protecting and preserving human health. Today, consumers are looking for natural alternatives to conventional medicine,” says Shaheen Majeed, Worldwide President, Sabinsa. Today, NutritionInsight looks at the most recent innovations and developments in herbal extracts.

Opportunities for herbal extracts
“The opportunities for herbal extracts in nutritional supplements, beverages, sports nutrition and lifestyle products are good to very good as they cover many consumer trends and needs,” notes Dr. Oliver Schnorr of Alp Nutrition.

“Consumers, and particularly millennials, are being more proactive about their health, and the time-honored use of herbal products appeals to consumers,” notes Majeed. “They can easily access so much information, and they can learn about the benefits of herbal products in more depth than what is legally allowed on labels or in marketing materials.”

Challenges in market
Transparency and traceability are major issues in today’s natural ingredients industry, because they speak directly to the fundamental concerns consumers have about food, beverage and nutrition products that contain herbal extracts. This is according to Timothée Olagne, Nutrition & Health BU Director, Naturex.

“Consumers are asking: Where did the original plant come from? How was the ingredient processed?” Olagne says. “This presents a real challenge for supplement and nutraceutical manufacturers because it means they need to be more aware than ever of the provenance of the ingredients they use.”

“Our solution to this challenge is a customer-centric concept called Source-Convert-Deliver, which highlights our technical know-how in the key areas that matter most in today’s nutrition industry,” Olagne explains. “It showcases our three pillars of expertise: sustainable sourcing of ingredients with full traceability and transparency; conversion of raw materials into high-value botanical ingredients accompanied by ID Packs; and delivery of innovative and science-based natural solutions to foster consumers’ nutrition and health.”

Olagne gives the example of Naturex’s panax ginseng extract to show Source-Convert-Deliver in action. “We are able to demonstrate that it has been produced from ginseng grown in China using sustainable and responsible farming practices; extracted and processed in our state-of-the-art factory in Milan under strict quality control conditions; and then supplied to customers with full application support,” Olagne says.

The biggest challenge Sabinsa sees is inferior products because of low-quality ingredients, or sub-therapeutic dosing.

“Consumer loyalty is won when people experience the results they expect,” Majeed explains. “Products containing subpar ingredients, or not enough of even the best-quality ingredient, will not deliver those benefits.”

“One ingredient-specific concern we have is with synthetic curcumin being sold labeled as naturally derived,” Majeed adds. “This petroleum-derived product is potentially dangerous to ingest, and consumers would be furious if they knew they were not taking a turmeric extract as they expected.”

Delivery systems
Opinions on optimal systems for delivering herbal extracts vary and encompass different solutions. “We prefer to use liquid extracts in our products as they offer a broad range of applications and often can be absorbed much better by the human body compared to solid extracts,” notes Dr. Schnorr.

Sabinsa expects to see the beverage format, so popular in Asian countries, expand into other parts of the world. “There are some formulation challenges, though,” notes Majeed. “For example, curcumin drinks are ubiquitous in Asian countries, but Western consumers are put off by sediment. We’ve developed a form of curcumin extract that is water-soluble, uC3 Clear, which opens the beverage market exponentially for the incredibly popular curcumin.”

According to Olagne, consumers are more likely to buy and use supplements that are easy for them to take, so convenient delivery systems are a must. “In turn, this means manufacturers need to use ingredients that are simple to formulate with,” Olagne notes. “A very good example of this is ginger powder. Sales of ginger have been growing over the past decade in the nutrition category and it is poised to become the next botanical superstar. But while the market is booming, ginger ingredients haven’t kept pace with progress.”

“The powders available to manufacturers today offer a low level of standardization of ginger’s active compounds, gingerols and shogaols (0.8 to 5 percent),” Olagne says. “This means large quantities are required to obtain the desired benefits, which results in inconvenient product formats for consumers and therefore lower compliance.”

“In response to this market need, Naturex has developed Gingest – a groundbreaking new highly standardized ginger powder,” Olagne adds. “It delivers 26 percent gingerols and shogaols – significantly higher than any other ginger powder on the market – which means it is now possible to achieve a high content of the key active ingredients in ginger in a single, small capsule (100 to 150mg).”

Consumer trends met by herbal extracts
“There is increasing interest in adaptogenic herbs, such as Ashwagandha and Boswellin, which makes sense in today’s high-stress world,” says Majeed. “People respond to the concept of herbs that balance their systems, as adaptogens do.”

The sports nutrition trend has not gone unnoticed by Sabinsa as another growing area that now includes people at all levels of athletic performance. “Every age and gender is now aware of the need to support their body nutritionally when they are placing high demands upon it, and they are turning to herbs to provide that support,” Majeed says.

In the opinion of Alp Nutrition, herbal extracts, as well as other herbal ingredients, fulfill a growing trend in consumers toward increasing bio- and organic-certificated products in their daily diets and personal eating habits.

“As a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle becomes more common, herbal extracts can contribute to the variety of product choices for these diets,” Dr. Schnorr says. “Last but not least, herbal extracts may have additional health benefits (immune system protective or as an antioxidant) as they very often include health beneficial phytonutrients, which are exclusively contained in plants or herbs and not in animal-derived or synthetic products.”

“The number of scientific publications in the field of phytonutrients or phytochemicals is still growing and will lead to further and deeper knowledge for the use of herbal extracts,” Dr. Schnorr adds.

Be sure to check back in on Monday for the second part of NutritionInsight’s special report.

By Paul Creasy

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