Oil palm leaves, Gale-of-the-wind…Malaysia supplement firm to ramp up R&D efforts on local plants with IPO proceeds

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Nova Wellness, a Malaysian supplement firm focuses on the use of local plants such as phyllanthus niruri in making new supplement products. ©Getty Images
Nova Wellness, a Malaysian supplement firm focuses on the use of local plants such as phyllanthus niruri in making new supplement products. ©Getty Images

Related tags Plant Herb Malaysia

Nova Wellness, a Malaysia supplement firm, is increasing its R&D activities to incorporate local herbs and plants, such as oil palm leaves, in the making of health supplements.

It had recently completed an IPO in the Bursa Malaysia Ace Market, and intends to dedicate 25.8% of its IPO proceeds to R&D, 36.7% to new facility, and 11.2% for advancing retail market presence.

NutraIngredients-Asia​ spoke to Nicholas Cheong, Chief Business Officer at Nova Wellness, to find out more about the firm’s expansion plans.

As a Malaysia firm, the company’s focus had always been researching and developing the use of local herbs in health supplements, functional foods and skincare products, Cheong said.

Oil palm trees, which are in abundance in Malaysia, is one of the main research area. The firm is studying oil palm leaf standardised extract for its potential benefits in maintaining heart health and providing antioxidant effects. Cheong noted that the research is still at a primary stage.

Phyllanthus niruri​ – commonly known as Gale-of-the-wind, is also another local plant that the firm is undertaking research on.

Cheong said that the firm is at the second phase of a clinical trial. The trial which started in December last year, is assessing the effectiveness of the product in improving liver health. Involving 200 patients suffering from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the trial is expected to take two years.

As joint health is receiving more consumer attention, the firm is also researching on Ficus deltoidea​ (commonly known as mistletoe fig) on its potential benefits.

“We have been doing R&D all along, and will continue to look into new product development and clinical trial funding.”

Founded in 1989 as a retail pharmacy, the firm forayed into supplements manufacturing after its founder – a pharmacist began studying the Phyllanthus niruri ​for its liver protection effects in 1997.

10 years later, the firm was granted patent by Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia for the herbal composition of Phyllanthus niruri ​extract used in the firm’s Hepar-P capsule.

The flagship product was also subsequently approved by Malaysia’s ministry of health for use in government hospitals.

Market channels

Over the years, Nova Wellness has developed 49 health supplements and 17 functional food products, primarily operating in Malaysia, with its sights set on the Thailand and Indonesia markets as well.

Cheong revealed that six of their products were already registered with local authorities in both Thailand and Indonesia.  The target, is to register a total of 30 products in the two countries and to build a market presence in two years’ time.

Within Malaysia, the firm seeks to work with more independent retail pharmacies, and even natural food retail, organic food stores.

“We believe in the asset-light business model. We will be focusing on increasing collaboration with the independent retail pharmacies in Malaysia instead of investing in retail outlets,” Cheong said.

“We are also in talks with natural food, organic food, and whole food stores to further expand our market reach, especially targeting at health-conscious individuals who are seeking for effective and evidence-based products.” 

New facilities

To rise production, the firm is building a new facility besides its existing facility at Sepang, Kuala Lumpur.

Cheong said that site construction started early this year and was likely to end in three months’ time, and initial production would began in the middle of next year.

“The new facility is 5.6 times bigger than the current facility…We will focus on manufacturing of functional food and natural skincare products,” ​he said.

Comprising of two segments, the functional foods manufacturing facility will be 136,052 sq ft, while the skincare products facility is 32,560 sq ft.

The current facility would be dedicated to the production of tablets, capsules and soft gels.

Product applications

Moving forward, the firm plans to increase its range of functional foods, offering low GI bread, low GI nutritional drinks, healthy gummies and oil for different health needs.

“All of these products are formulated and developed through our in-house R&D capability,”​ Cheong emphasised.

In addition, the firm is planning to launch vegetable soft gels next year, hoping to capture the Halal, vegetarian and health conscious market.

As for its skincare business, the firm is planning to meet the needs of consumers who have sensitive and general skin types. Products includes soap bars, cleansers, shampoos, ointments and creams, with natural plant extracts, pH5.5, and soap-free formula. 

Consumer trend

Due to a rise of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, there is a growing consumption of supplements in Malaysia, Cheong said.

Last year, 16.4% (3.4 million) of Malaysians are diabetics, while the figure is set to increase to a staggering figure of 84% by 2025, he added.

“Fuelled by the awareness due to rise of chronic diseases, many of the consumers are trying to find ways to managed and prevent chronic diseases especially diabetes, heart diseases and, skin and beauty.”

“Our top performing products are Hepar-P and ActivMax nutritional drinks. The other categories that are growing very well are diabetes, heart and joint categories,”​ he said.

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