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HiE 2018: Ashwagandha takes center stage, thanks to smart marketing and clinical evidence

Mood boosting and stress alleviating solutions have been hotly tipped to see growth in food and beverages in the coming year. One ingredient touted as being able to provide adaptogenic properties to alleviate some of the stresses of modern life is ashwagandha (withania somnifera). At HiE 2018 in Frankfurt, Germany, NutritionInsight spoke with a number of industry experts on this Ayurvedic herb’s market potential.

Innova Market Insights data has reported a 48 percent increase in the number of food and beverage launches in 2018 globally compared to 2015, with the US taking the lead.

Ashwagandha’s growth is especially strong in the sports industry. According to the market researcher’s data, one in three product launches of the ingredient have been under the nutritional sports category globally between 2015 and 2018. A further two in five launches featured an energy or alertness claim.


At HiE 2018, Sabinsa showcased a branded ashwagandha called Shaganda.

“Sabinsa has offered ashwagandha since the mid-1990s. We’ve done it differently in terms of analytical methods, but this year we have launched it under HPLC and HPTLC looking at the US Pharmacopeia methods at 2.5 percent ethanolates,” explains Shaheen Majeed of Sabinsa.

“If you look at the retail market space on the natural product side you’ll see turmeric at the very top but usually number five or six is ashwagandha,” he notes, adding that this rise is down to an increase of studies, which are swaying consumer opinions.

“Many of the clinical studies have shown [benefits to] stress, relaxation and even endurance. There is a wide range of activities that consumers can gain massive benefits from. And again having such a natural product out there, this is what consumers are really asking for,” he says. “A lot of the trends throughout the world are looking at the food side of behavior, and as a result, you’ll see ashwagandha both in the US and Europe take off in the food sector.”

Arjuna Natural
Also at the show, Arjuna Natural highlighted Shoden, its potent, all natural, extract of ashwagandha. The company’s proprietary new technology ensures the safe delivery of its Shoden ashwagandha extract at a new level of purity and bioactivity.

Arjuna offers its ingredient in a beadlet form, which are highly compatible with capsules and can be blended with other ingredients. The recommended dosage is 116mg per day, explains Benny Antony, Ph.D., Joint Managing Director for Arjuna.

“Ashwagandha has wide applications. We are currently focusing on sleep, and especially non-restorative sleep, and we have a clinical study report showing that Shoden works well for this.”

The Shoden product contains ashwagandha extract standardized with 35 percent withanolide glycosides, which is the most active component of the ingredient. Shoden is manufactured from carefully selected ashwagandha roots and leaves.

Arjuna developed its Bioactive Ingredient Protection System (BIPS) proprietary safety technology to ensure optimal delivery of the bioactive components of ashwagandha. BIPS is a patented procedure in which all the active molecules are encapsulated in a shield to deliver them safely and at the desired potency. This process makes Shoden active even at a low dosage.

“Ashwagandha extract is known to be very effective in ameliorating stress, anxiety, depression and also increases testosterone,” says Antony. “But to benefit from these functions effectively, we needed to find a way to deliver the most bioactive component in the gut without it getting damaged.”

When ingested in its raw form, ashwagandha interacts with the acids in the stomach and loses its activeness, thereby denying the human body from reaping the full spectrum of its benefits.

“We were faced with the challenge of identifying the site of absorption in the gut, as well as the reasons for its damage while passing through the gut and then devised a solution to maximize absorption of ashwagandha in the intestine only,” explains Anthony. “This required intense research by our R&D team to find out the precise mechanism by which this can be achieved.”

Toxins are removed from the roots and leaves using a proprietary purification process. This gentle procedure removes known toxic alkaloids such as somnifrine and withanine and other undesirable components, yet retains withanolide glycosides at optimum levels. This newly developed process has also eliminated the necessity for using milk which has been the traditional medium for removing toxins from ashwagandha extract making Shoden wholly vegan.

KSM 66
Similar to Sabinsa, KSM 66 highlighted the growing body of evidence, as well as company's efforts, behind the ingredient’s popularity.

KSM 66’s Ambassador Chris Kilam, also known as the Medicine Hunter, at HiE 2018.“In the case of KSM 66, this company has chosen to be an advocate for a herb that has been in use for thousands of years, there is nothing new about it but what KSM 66 has chosen to do is to take the traditional claims for improved sleep, sexual function, mental function, more energy, reduced stress and test all of those traditional uses with human clinical studies,” notes KSM 66’s Ambassador Chris Kilam, also known as the Medicine Hunter.

“In addition to being smart marketers and positioning themselves well, the clinical science has been a real driver. For 4,000 years people have been using it for better sleep and here we have the double-blind placebo, controlled journal published study showing that.” “With KSM 66’s good extraction technology, and the clinical science supporting the traditional uses, ashwagandha has taken a leap forward. A few years ago it was not in the top botanicals list and last year in the US, it was number six in the natural category and all that is due to the clinical science behind it,” he says.

As the ingredient gains traction, aspects such as traceability will prove key.

“Traceability is something that you can't get by calling someone on the phone and asking them. Real traceability means you have firsthand knowledge of where something comes from and you have followed it through all its different steps, from process to market,” Kilam notes.

“With small companies, this is sometimes beyond their means, but I believe that every company needs to work toward that,” he adds. “In terms of having authentic products, in terms of having products that are not adulterated and in terms of having products that conform to good environmental practices you have to go to the field,” he states

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