Kava resurgence? ASX-listed Fiji-Kava debuts in the US on the back of booming market
The firm’s kava supplements - Noble Kava Extract Capsules and Instant Kava Powder - are available in the US via Amazon and the firm’s website since mid-November.
The products are said to produce calming and relaxing effects, including muscle relaxation, addressing insomnia, and relieving stress and anxiety, due to the bioactive ingredient kavalactones.
According to the firm’s research, about US$420k of kava products are sold on Amazon each month, chief marketing officer of the firm Franc Zvonar told NutraIngredients-Asia.
Asked how the brand can establish itself in the competitive US market, the firm believes that the kava, sourced from Fiji, is itself a mark of superior quality.
“We may be a new brand, but they will instantly recognise the word ‘Fiji’, which represents quality and premium.
“Because when you consider you have a premium high-quality product, and people will instantly recognise the word Fiji, like Fiji water the drink, which is regarded as the most refined water.”
The firm’s plan for the US in the upcoming months is to gain a retail footprint.
Sourced, farmed, extracted, and manufactured in Fiji, the firm’s products were first made available in January this year in Fiji’s supermarket chains and pharmacies, and later, in the ANZ markets.
Zvonar said that in those markets, anti-insomnia products were the best-sellers, which explained the firm’s decision to enter those markets.
“In Australia, in New Zealand, in America, research tells us that over 30% of the people in these countries are finding it hard to sleep, and so, the number one selling product over-the-counter is solution that promote better sleep.
“One of the reasons that people don't sleep is because of stress or anxiety or body pains and aches. That's why I say the global market that we are entering is multiple billions of dollars, and also globally, there is a strong demand for natural medicine.”
The firm had spent 13 years researching 200 species of kava and has identified noble kava from Fiji as the one that best produces calming and soothing effects.
The kava plant, mainly found in the pacific islands, came under fire in the early 2000s, due to cases of reported liver toxicity.
In March 2002, the US FDA advised consumers of the potential risk of severe liver injury associated with the use of kava-containing supplements.
In 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that it was “possible for kava beverage to be consumed with an acceptably low level of health risk,” based on its long history of use and recent research findings.
It added that more studies were needed to define the parameters necessary to ensure safe use of kava beverage, including the selection of kava varieties, the method of preparation, and the safe levels of kava beverage consumption.
The firm echoes the WHO findings, adding: “Those people who did have liver issues were also consuming other products, not just kava, but also products that are dangerous for the liver as well.
“And so, they could never say with 100% certainty that the kava that some patients were consuming, was the problem for their liver.
“And then, there is kava in 200 varieties across the South Pacific…But we are only bringing the Fiji kava, not the 200 varieties of kava that has been used in different ways, grown in different ways.”
Kavalactones, present in the roots of kava, are responsible for the calming effect.
Zvonar added that the firm only used water to extract the kavalactones.
The firm will also work with its scientific advisor Dr Jerome Sarris, professor of Integrative Mental Health and Deputy Director at NICM, to conduct human clinical trials using the firm’s supplements.
Previous research by Dr Sarris have shown that 120mg to 240mg of kavalactones could reduce anxiety in persons diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder over six weeks.
His studies also showed that there was no significant effect of kava on liver function or other adverse liver effects.
The firm has set up a kava tissue culture laboratory in August last year to standardise the kavalactone profiles in the kava plants.
The firm claims that the lab, located in Levuka, Ovalau Fiji, is the first of such lab in the world.
In the lab, disease-free plantlets are grown and cloned to improve the quality and yield of kava.
The firm plans to introduce other formats and flavours of its kava supplements.
These include 88ml flavoured shots, including coconut, choco-banana, pineapple, and mango, as well as chamomile and peppermint flavoured tea.
Zvonar added that the firm planned to enter China and Hong Kong, where kava has been approved for use.
Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology
Kava in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study
Authors: Sarris J, et al