Black cumin: Botanic Innovations on protecting the seed oil supply chain

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29 Nov 2018 --- The quick growth of black cumin has increased the risk of intentional or unintentional adulteration, notes supplier Botanic Innovations on the botanical which ranks among The American Botanical Council’s top 25 fastest growing herbal ingredients of 2017.

The botanical industry has had a stream of adulteration issues with ingredients, and this has led to an expectation of rigorous testing to ensure both authenticity and non-adulteration by suppliers coming from the consumer and regulatory side. George Pontiakos, President/CEO of botanical supplier BI Nutraceuticals, similarly notes how the industry has undergone vast changes as expectations around authenticity and quality of ingredients gained ground, leading to the industry to “mature aggressively.” 

Black cumin
“Botanic Innovations has been pressing black cumin seeds for around 20 years and we have seen compounding growth over the past several years. Sales of our Organic Black Cumin Seed Oil rose more than 500 percent between 2009 and 2017, and sales of our Organic Black Cumin Seed Nutri-Powder rose almost as rapidly in the same period,” says Mark Mueller, Botanic Innovations Founder and Chief Technology Officer.

Botanic Innovations’ Organic Black Cumin Seed was first used in dietary supplements, followed by use in personal care products such as skin care and hair care. Known in the world’s growing halal market and increasingly recognized by mainstream consumers, Organic Black Cumin Seed is largely used in formulations that support the immune system as well as heart health and brain health. Mueller highlights that all inquiries from Botanic Innovations are for certified organic sourced products.

Botanic Innovations also holds two patents supporting the use of Black Cumin Seed Oil in cold-pressed oil blends to promote antioxidant synergy, as well as supporting heart health 

Click to EnlargeSales of Botanic Innovations Organic Black Cumin Seed Oil rose more than 500 percent between 2009 and 2017. 

However, the fast growth of the botanical has increased the risk of adulteration, necessitating stringent measures in-house to bypass the risk. The company also import the seeds, not the oil, which ensures physical custody of the raw material and further control over the production process.

“The problem directly relating to Black Cumin Seed Oil is the expense of testing costs, and long lead times invested before the oil would be used. We know that other botanicals haven’t been so lucky, so we watch the industry for best practices to employ and avoid adulterated product getting into consumers hands or mouths,” Rebecca Blahosky, VP of Sales & Marketing tells NutritionInsight.

Adulteration on the market?
Unintentional adulteration is avoided using a thorough supplier program coupled with rigorous testing at multiple points in the purchasing process, Billi Rezarch, Quality Manager at Botanic Innovations, tells NutritionInsight.

“We test samples of seeds before approving suppliers and then purchased seeds are sampled by a third party and tested prior to shipment. We then again sample and test the seeds upon receipt at our facility using a statistical sampling plan to ensure good representation of the lot,” he explains.

“We know that we’re working with pure raw materials, we’re cold-pressing on site, and we have controls to be certain that the integrity of the oil is never compromised. Made in the USA isn’t just a tagline or minor difference, but [it indicates] that our oil checks every box for quality and safety,” Jess Smith, VP of Operations at Botanic Innovations, tells NutritionInsight.

However, rigorous supply chain procedure cannot completely alleviate the risk of adulteration. Pesticides also pose a problem in regions where chemical use is not as regulated as the US, for example, and organic farming practices are not as strict, and this requires constant updates to who is deemed a reliable supply-base.

Another factor for Botanic Innovations was an unanticipated spike in new demand, Smith notes. “In a few circumstances and with the consent of our customers, we have sought to purchase Black Cumin Seed Oil to supplement our production. We have employed the same testing protocols already described and have had to reject several lots of oil due to pesticide and adulteration issues.” 

The company became aware of adulteration issues on the market following the use of oils from different suppliers.

Looking forward, Botanic Innovations hopes to increase revenue by using the ingredient more in blends and mixes.

“We feature Organic Black Cumin Seed Oil as a vital blend ingredient for use in dietary supplements. It is already being used in personal care blends in the anti-aging, medical and OTC skincare, hair care, spa and baby care markets,” says Blahosky.

The company is seeking to further collaborate with customers and partners, sharing its patents and research to develop proprietary blends for human health.

By Laxmi Haigh

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