Low-to-no excipients: New Aussie brand Ora tackles market gaps with organic and vegan offerings
Known as Ora, the brand was founded by Gabriel Perera, who is a complementary medicine practitioner and founding partner of complementary medicines product development consultancy Take Friday Off.
The former director of business and product development – Asia at Blackmores and chief strategy officer at TSI Group revealed that the idea of Ora started two years ago.
“Almost two years ago, we raised a little bit of capital and originally planned to acquire a practitioner brand.
“However, it took longer than we thought and so we decided to create our own brand, starting with Ora, which is our flagship premier human health brand,” Perera said, adding that one of the brand’s investors was Richard Eu, current chairman of TCM brand and retailer Eu Yan Sang.
There are currently six SKUs under the Ora brand and they address needs across immune, hormonal health, sleep, stress, muscle function, and general nutritional support.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, Perera, who is also the managing director of Ora Health Pty Ltd, the company behind the brand, said that Ora was created to satisfy consumers’ demand for organic, vegan complementary medicines that contained low-to-no excipients.
Some challenges that consumers faced when taking supplements, he said, surrounded issues such as having to take big-sized capsules or tablets and/or products with unappealing taste.
Some consumers are also concerned with the large amounts of excipients, fillers, and non-active ingredients present in the products.
“Consumers are starting to ask – what are those non-active ingredients present in my tablet? Why are there binders, fillers, excipients in the product? And so, we decided to go for low-to-no excipients formulations,” he said.
While excipients are generally safe for consumption, some consumers might be allergic towards some gluten-based excipients or binders, he said.
“We decided to make the formulations easy to take, ideally one or two a day max, but they will come in big therapeutic, evidence-based doses.”
To do so, the company has designed the products primarily in powder form, so that each dose would allow for more ingredients. Some of its products also come in the form of vegan capsules.
“With powder, you can generally use very little fillers and excipients, you can also use TGA-listed flavours and colours that are very low in excipients.”
Currently, four out of six of its products are in powder form.
The other issue that the firm had to overcome during the product development phase was taste – which Perera had engaged a friend who is also a professional food technologist to work on.
The final products come in flavours ranging from chocolate to lime and pineapple.
For example, the product Hormonal Balance is a chocolate-flavoured powder, while Profound Sleep comes in mixed berry and vanilla flavours, and MAG3 Mood – a product for muscle function and mood balance – is a lime and pineapple-flavoured powder.
Of which, the chocolate-flavoured Hormonal Balance is now one of the brand’s bestsellers, alongside Immune Tonic+ capsules and Organic Greens Superpowder+.
“[When designing the flavours], we also looked at the time of the day in which people will be taking the product. For example, for the magnesium product – which is meant to be taken in the morning – was designed to have an uplifting taste.
“Profound Sleep, on the other hand, comes in mixed berry and vanilla which is a soothing flavour for bedtime.”
Other than Immune Tonic+ capsule, the brand’s Adaptogen Tonic+ for stress relief and adrenal support also comes in the form of vegan capsules.
“We are using vegan cellulose capsules, it is very stable and does not require a lot of excipients,” he explained.
Vegan and organic
Besides cutting down on the excipients, the other mission of the brand is to provide vegan and organic products.
“The premise is that the products are highly therapeutic, practitioner-grade formulations and contain organic ingredients.
“[In fact], our products are Australian certified organic formulations, which means that more than 75 per cent of the ingredients used in the products are organic,” Perera said.
On the other hand, the company has designed vegan formulations using plant-based quercetin and vitamin D3, instead of using synthetically derived ingredients.
Perera believes that recent technological advancements have helped to increase the availability of vegan ingredients.
“I believe we could not have done the Ora range 10 years ago. There just wasn’t a supply chain for organic or purely plant-based ingredients at a price that’s manageable from a formulation point of view.
“Today, there are three or four forms of vegan vitamin D3 that we could choose from, which was not the case 10 years ago.”
“I think this points to the groundswell of momentum behind the ‘better-for-you’, ‘better-for-the-planet’ ingredients.”
On the other hand, the brand is going transparent with the origins of the ingredients used in its products.
The information could be found on the product packaging and website. The products’ manufacturing documentation is also available on the company’s website for consumers’ access.
For example, the product Adaptogen Tonic+ uses saffron extract from Spanish firm Pharmactive Biotech, while Hormonal Balance contains KSM-66 ashwagandha from India’s Ixoreal Biomedical Inc.
“Historically, brands do not want to reveal where their ingredients are from, so that they could easily change their suppliers if the prices of the ingredients have increased.
“However, if you have revealed the supplier, it means you cannot easily change the source of the ingredients for the cheaper options.
“We are confident with the quality of our supply chain and the raw materials that we are using,” he said.
Why health food stores
Instead of pharmacies and grocery stores, the brand will be focusing on growing its presence via the health foods stores.
“By constraining ourselves to the health food channel, we hope to overcome the issue where consumers expect deep discounts seen in pharmacies.
“Also, the advice from the naturopaths or the herbalists in these stores is very powerful for us. As you can tell, our products are a bit more complex than the average retail product. They do require a little bit of explanation from the professionals.”
This also means that the brand’s target audience are consumers who are looking for therapeutic dose.
“On one hand, there are consumers who want to buy a practitioner grade supplement, they want something that works and ideally recommended by the practitioners and they are less price conscious.
“On the other hand, there are consumers who want to get a multivitamin or fish oil at half price, and the consumers also do not want to buy a horrible brand, but they don’t want to spend a fortune…Quite frankly, this is not our market. I think such markets are already very well-served by the big brands.
“Our growth channels are obviously going to be new products; international markets and we think there’s a significant opportunity in the health food stores.”
The company is currently working on newer versions of its products, such as formulations with a higher bioavailability of vitamin D and also new products for addressing bloating in women for launch next March.