Horphag Research has signed its first contracts to supply the pine bark extract Pycnogenol to Indian supplement makers and says the market could soon be one of its biggest.
Pycnogenol is already present in 70 markets around the world, for applications that range from helping with diabetes prevention, lowering of blood pressure and other anti-inflammatory conditions.
But Switzerland-based Horphag says there is significant potential in India, where it has recently won three new clients - Sun Pharmaceuticals, Alkem Laboratories and Ochoa Laboratories.
"In Europe we have about 70-100 well-known herbal medicines but in India, thanks to its 4,000-year tradition, there are 6,000 different plant extracts known to have medicinal value," said Hector Bandelier, sales director at the firm.
"This means that patients are receptive to natural products."
He added that India's huge population - more than 1 billion - is also interesting for any company entering this market, which has begun to develop rapidly in recent years when pharmaceutical firms started to create nutraceutical lines.
But Bandelier told NutraIngredients.com that only proven products were likely to appeal to Indian supplement makers.
"They won't put a product on the market that doesn't have efficacy studies and toxicity data. They really look at the science because promotion is done by a salesforce that visits doctors," he explained.
After the US and Japan, Pycnogenol's biggest markets, India is expected to become a significant third, creating demand for around 1,000 kg of the ingredient in the first year.
"We think it will be one of our principal markets within the first year or so," said Bandelier.
The ingredient, currently priced at €2,700 per kg, generates €300 million in revenue from finished product sales each year. Horphag's only product, it has been on the market since the early 80's and sees annual growth of between 15-20 per cent.
New food applications could help drive sales further, following the firm's GRAS status in the US last year. Japanese drink maker Otsuka has already launched an energy drink containing Pycnogenol on its home market this year, called AminoValio, and it is also being used in a cosmetics range developed by Sony.
The Indian firms are largely focusing on the heart health benefits and diabetes management. Sun Pharma has already launched two products containing the ingredient - Paleno, a cardiocare product that combines it with vitamin A and C, and Gloeye, an eyecare supplement. Alkem has launched Maxxio, a diabetes plus cardio protection product, and will offer two more next year.
New Delhi-based Ochoa Laboratories is planning to launch two skincare products - Pycnoderm, for external application, and Skivit, an oral skincare product - in the new year.