Competing with the big guys: Thai uni spin-off to launch locally formulated supplement into US and China
By June this year, Orient Innovation hopes to introduce its one and only SKU – a softgel supplement marketed as Caminia – into both US and China.
Established by entrepreneur Vichai Kemtongkum, Orient Innovation was set up in 2019 to commercialise a supplement formulated and trialled by scientists from Mahidol University.
Containing vitamin D3, curcumin, and tuna-derived EPA and DHA, the product is said to provide solubilised curcuminoids using encapsulation technology.
Writing in the Annals of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, the researchers from Mahidol University and Rajavithi Hospital found that the formulation could lower the glycaemic status progression in prediabetic individuals.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, Kemtongkum, managing director of Orient Innovation, notices that it is a rare move for a Thai nutraceutical firm to market its products in the US and China who are already leaders in this field.
Most Thai firms, he observed, would either focus on the domestic market or the neighbouring South East Asia markets.
“We try to make the product successful in Thailand first. For the export market, we target two countries, first the USA and second China.”
In the States, the company has partnered IMSSD Corporation in setting up a new factory to manufacture Caminia locally.
“They have been looking for good food supplement from Thailand and distribute in the US.
“They found that our product matches their concept because Caminia has finished the clinical trial in the government hospital, this is a guarantee, like an endorsement for the quality of the product.
“Then they proposed for us to join together to produce the Caminia formula in the US.”
He said that the US partner, which is in the food supplement business, already have regular customers in the drugstore and pharmacy channels.
Kemtongkum expects Caminia to be sold both online and offline in the US in the first half of this year.
Similar to the products made in Thailand, those made in the US would also use Thailand-grown and extracted curcumin, as well as tuna oil sourced from Germany and supplied by local firm Thai Union.
Aside from securing a place in the US, the company is also expanding into Asia’s largest market – China – where Caminia will be sold via JD.com.
South East Asia will follow big market trends
Although there is a sizeable population of diabetic and pre-diabetic individuals in the neighbouring South East Asia countries, Kemtongkum cited three reasons for going further afield, with close business ties a determining factor.
“First, we already have partners and friends in these two countries. Second, our business partners in these two countries know us well. Third, the US and China are two are very big markets,” said the entrepreneur who is also the shareholder of Myanmar’s Makro Manufacturing, a seafood canning business, prior to setting up Orient Innovation.
Once the product has gained a foothold in these major markets, Kemtongkum is confident that consumers from South East Asia would most likely find Caminia attractive.
“We are also very interested in the Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesian markets, but we still don't have the right partner to work together on this.
“Also, I believe that if we can be successful in Thailand, the US, in overseas, then it will not be difficult to introduce the product to our neighbouring countries.”
Only one SKU but more to come
Since its inception, the company has been selling only one SKU, but new product formulations are already in the pipeline, Kemtongkum revealed.
“We have the know-how and technology to produce many products but I myself would like to focus only on one product first. There is also already a big market for this product due to the large population of pre-diabetic and diabetic individuals.
“If this is successful, then we will expand to the new item.”
The plan for the new products is to incorporate curcumin with other functional ingredients such as coconut oil and garlic oil to create products that could regulate blood pressure and improve liver health.
Since pet lovers often go to great lengths to care for their pets, he is also hoping to enter the pet nutrition market.
“We expect to go into the pet nutrition market, especially the pet cats and pet dogs category.”