Nektium secures first BioTrade permit to bring honeybush to European market

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

© Agulhas Honeybush Tea
© Agulhas Honeybush Tea

Related tags herbals

Nektium has secured the first BioTrade permit for the sustainable and ethical sourcing of honeybush from South Africa in accordance with the Nagoya Protocol, ensuring benefits will be shared with the indigenous and local communities.

Honeybush (Cyclopia​ spp.), the “little cousin” of Rooibos (aka redbush) tea, is a naturally sweet, caffeine-free tea from the highly biodiverse Cape Floral Kingdom in South Africa. It is rich in antioxidants and the health-promoting bioactive compound mangiferin and has been shown to demonstrate anti-diabetic​, anti-obesity​, and immunomodulatory properties​.

Nektium has now secured a BioTrade permit from South Africa’s Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment to source honeybush in line with the principles of the Nagoya Protocol, the international legal framework which promotes the sharing raw materials in a fair and equitable way.

With the permit in place, Nektium’s R&D team is now working to develop a honeybush ingredient with the potential for use across supplements, food and beverages.

“We are delighted to have obtained our first BioTrade permit, which we believe is the first issued to an extract manufacturer for honeybush in South Africa,” said Adriana Regidor, sustainability & corporate affairs director at Nektium.  

To secure the permit, it was essential to recognize and reward the traditional knowledge of relevant indigenous groups as determined by the South African Government. Spain-based Nektium therefore worked with South African distributor Parceval (Pty) Ltd to consult and negotiate with the San Council of South Africa and the National Khoisan Council.

As a result of the negotiations, Nektium will share the profits from any honeybush ingredients with both councils and provide their members with internships at the company’s facilities on the island of Gran Canaria.

Nektium will also work with local raw material supplier Agulhas Honeybush Tea, which secured a permit demonstrating its compliance with the Nagoya Protocol in December 2023. The parties will cooperate to ensure sustainable cultivation that preserves wild honeybush stocks, encourages agricultural biodiversity and promotes carbon sequestration.

"Securing the permit was a long journey, but Parceval helped guide us every step of the way," Regidor said. "We were able to identify a raw material supplier that is committed to our values as well as the two local councils that represent the traditional knowledge holders. We’ve been able to establish a firm relationship built on trust with the San and Khoisan councils.

"The communities they represent have existed for thousands of years, and we are hugely grateful for their depth of knowledge on sustainable honeybush use. In turn, the internship program we are offering means they will be able to acquire new skills and knowledge. This will allow them to return home and uplift their own communities in a variety of ways."

Ulrich Feiter, Parceval’s CEO and chair of the South African Botanical Products Association (SABPA​), told NutraIngredients this marks the very first time that permit's been issued in the honeybush industry.

"In the meantime, the other companies in the honeybush industry are waking up to the need to be compliant and have started their own process of negotiating benefit sharing agreements," he said.

Unlocking nutraceutical potential

The honeybush industry is much younger than the rooibos industry, with research into the tea, cultivation, processing etc. starting only in the 1980s and 90s. However, "international popularity is slowly but surely increasing", Feiter said.

Although it has traditionally been consumed as tea, Nektium will bring the ingredient to market in dietary supplement format.

"We see some cyclopia supplements here in South Africa but with limited distribution," Feiter explained, noting the “rather lax” regulatory environment in South Africa means they do not need to be high quality.

"Internationally…the customers are more discerning, and regulatory authorities are more vigilant and strict in what they allow to be marketed," he added. "It then takes a company like Nektium that focuses a lot of effort and money into understanding the plant and unlock its potential as a dietary supplement of note."

While most of the health benefit claims linked to the ingredient focus on the high levels of anti-oxidants and the scavenging potential, Feiter said there have also been some claims around anti-wrinkle, psoriasis, eczema and allergies, hormonal balance, osteoporosis and more.

“More serious studies, like the work done by Nektium, are needed to ensure that reliable and honest claims are made to support the sustainable growth of the industry,” he said.

Related topics Suppliers

Follow us


View more