Gaia has developed its “Meet Your Herbs” program over a number of years, and the effort is starting to bear increasing fruit, said Alison Czeczuga, sustainability and social impact manager for the Brevard, NC-based company. Gaia manufactures a wide variety of herbal products sold as capsules, syrups and liquids.
“Customers want a product that’s safe and efficacious but they also want to go beyond that,” Czeczuga told NutraIngredients-USA. “That’s one of the reasons my role was created over the last few years.”
Traceability to source, test results
Czeczuga said Gaia’s traceability program is one of the most robust in the herbal products industry. Each bottle has a unique identifier code that engaged consumers can use to learn more about the products.
“You can go to the website and pull up every herb that was in that bottle. You can find out where it was sourced and see the results of the purity tests they went through. It brings that information up batch by batch,” she said.
Czeczuga said Gaia believes the program is a good eduction tool for consumers who want to learn more about the herbs the company uses and why it makes the formulation choices it does. But it also helps the company engage with them on a moral and not just commercial level, she said. In this era when there are increasing fears about the future health oft the planet, Czeczuga said Gaia transparency and traceability program puts it on the right side of history.
“We’ve always had sustainability at the forefront of what we do. It was one of the things that has helped us thrive as a business,” she said.
Czeczuga said Gaia grows about 20% to 30% of the herbs it uses on its own farm in North Carolina. The rest come from around the world. With that comes the need to make sure those herbs are responsibly sourced, she said.
“We source from 34 different countries from around the world, from places like Indonesia, Peru, Nicaragua,” she said.
“Right now we are of course prioritizing herbs that are organic. But we also look for ingredients that are fair trade, that were grown with regenerative agricultural practices and with fair labor practices,” she said.
Czeczuga said Gaia is not standing still with its traceability programs. The company is seeking to further codify its buying practices, to make sure that customers can feel good about buying the products.
“We have developed a work in progress on an ethical buying standard. The labor element is huge. We are a small team so we do the best we can with farm visits,” she said.
Trusting consumers are lasting consumers
While those efforts can be a burden for a small company, Czeczuga said it has been a key part of Gaia’s long term strategy. Actions speak louder than words, and Czeczuga said Gaia saw that as a better strategy to be ‘sticky’ with consumers then spending more money on marketing campaigns.
“Consumers first want the product to work. They are buying it for their health. But if a consumer also sees that the company making it is a B corp, that’s one more reason they would buy it. At Gaia we have been very committed to do no harm, to traceability and transparency. I do think there is a link between quality, efficacy and consumer trust around traceability,” she said.