Opportunities abound: Asians more open to natural products but seek science-based ingredients – Pharmactive MD

By Nurul Ain Razali contact

- Last updated on GMT

One of Pharmactive's most popular ingredient is the aged black garlic, and this will be spread to APAC through Nutraconnect. ©Getty Images
One of Pharmactive's most popular ingredient is the aged black garlic, and this will be spread to APAC through Nutraconnect. ©Getty Images

Related tags: Pharmactive, Nutraconnect, Asia, Supplements

Asia is more open than any other market to trying natural products due to its long history of traditional remedies, but scientifically-backed and clinically trialled ingredients are now fast becoming a key consumer demand.

This is especially the case in South Korea and Japan, said Madrid-based Pharmactive Biotech Products Managing Director Marguerite Gerritsen.

“Asia Pacific is growing very fast. There is also a place now for science-based ingredients. Customers are demanding, more than ever, that the ingredients be efficacious. I think we can build on that long tradition and go one step further by offering the science as well,”​ she said.

The firm is conducting nine studies on its signature saffron extract, from cell-based and animal studies to human clinical trials, sleep studies and mood research. Such studies could allow for greater confidence in the ingredients, coupled with its utilisation of the softer water extraction method and not the conventional ‘harsh’ ethanol manner.

During water extraction, the results are cleaner and the process non-polluting. Factors like heat and temperature are well-controlled, especially for heat-sensitive ingredients like saffron, to ensure the bioavailability of the active ingredients, elaborated Gerritsen.

“That’s why when we compete with generic ingredients, we are pretty sure that these are either not standardised or, in some cases, they don’t even extract,” ​she said.

Strategic alliance

To tap into the burgeoning APAC market, it has partnered with Singapore’s Nutraconnect, a nutraceutical business growth acceleration service that provides end-to-end solutions for global ingredient manufacturers seeking to grow in the continent.

Under this partnership, Nutraconnect will act as the bridge between Pharmactive and B2B nutraceutical firms and regulators in the APAC region. Believed to be the first business of its kind in APAC, Nutraconnect is a start-up led by nutraceutical industry experts Rohit Noronha and Nikhil Prabhakar Sawant.

A total of 10 premium Mediterranean botanical extract ingredients by Pharmactive will be highlighted to the market – its signature affron pure saffron extract that claims to improve mood, AffronEYE, ABG+ aged black garlic for cardioprotective effects, CSAT+ for weight management and metabolic syndrome care, olivactive made of olive leaf extract for immunity, Isenolic for natural relief of colds and flu, high-performance kiwi extract KWD+ for protein digestion and absorption booster, playsys300 for prostate and urinary health, liboost for improving sexual performance and Xorialyc for natural skin inflammation relief.

Pharmactive’s annual revenue is around USD$16m and is expected to grow another 10% through this partnership.

“We want to grow as a business, but the objective is not necessarily with the percentages. It’s more with the right brands, where the right powerhouses are.

“We hope this partnership will reduce the distance between Asia and Europe and that we have an opportunity to learn from Asian customers. We can also learn about interesting consumer trends; for example, there could be increasing interest in liquid formats or ready-to-drink. This will be communicated to us, and we’ll produce those formats.

“Asia is a frontrunner in terms of innovation. When we speak about nutraceuticals, people are willing to try a lot more in Asia than Europe,” ​said Gerritsen.

Unravelling APAC

Nutraconnect emphasises the need for connections and understanding of APAC as the region is not as homogenous in terms of regulations, language, complexities and entry barriers as markets like North America and Europe.

For example, firms need to recognise the different governing bodies of each country – Australia has the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), South Korea has the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS), India has the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and Ministry of Ayush (“Ayurveda”, yoga and naturopathy, “unani”, “siddha”, and homoeopathy), and China has the Ministry of Health.

“Most of these regulating bodies are far ahead of their Western peers in terms of rules and regulations that one must adhere to enter these markets. The West talks so much about having a clean product that is safe for human consumption. Most health authorities in the APAC region have implemented such rules since 20 years ago,” ​said Rohit.

However, sales of nutraceutical ingredients and final products in APAC are similar to the US market today, standing at approximately US$65b. According to Rohit, stellar markets to enter today are Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan, India and Malaysia. Regarding supplement consumption per capita, South Korea ranks highest at US$99, followed by Japan at US$90.50 and Singapore and Hongkong at around US$85 to US$90.

Nikhil added: “I think businesses will be receptive towards Pharmactive. It is well-known for its science-backed ingredients and clean technologies that produce very safe products for the consumer. They are, in a way, considered to the gold standard when it comes to innovation”.

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