From the corners of the world: geographical branding: botanicals - nutraceuticals world

From The Corners Of The World: Geographical Branding: Botanicals - Nutraceuticals World From the Corners of the World: Geographical
Branding: Botanicals

Regional movements can help communities retain the knowledge
and value of their natural resources.

By Paul Altaffer & Grant Washington-Smith
In the final chapter of our series on regional branding, the focus wil shift to some examples where regional brandinghas helped promote a natural product and some where this practice, if properly developed, might help enhance aproduct’s image and consumer’s awareness. Additional y, this column wil also look at how regional brandingprograms might affect quality, sustainability and the customs surrounding the use and development of naturalproducts.
As more consumers employ botanicals as complementary or alternative care—or even add them to their lifestyles—greater awareness is developing around these plant products. However, very little is known about these herbs, orwhere they come from. Many of them also quickly become commodities, which can result in overharvesting of rareplants or lower quality standards around their production. Regional branding may serve as a means of changing thistide. It is time to take a look at a few of the many other herbs and how regional branding may support sustainabledevelopment of these valuable resources. Ginseng: the King of Herbs
The family of herbs known as“ginseng” is probably the most recognized botanical product in the industry.
Consumers everywhere associate the use of ginseng with Asian culture and the promise of great health andlongevity. While there are many plants that are cal ed or associated with “ginseng,” there are only a few species of“true” ginseng: Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) Japenese ginseng (Panax japonicas), Tienchi ginseng (Panaxnotoginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). Most people do not realize that some of the finestginseng in the world actual y comes from North America. American ginseng has a long tradition of use and trade inNorth America that dates back to the settlers and early trade to Asia. It is stil one of the most valuable agriculturalcommodities sold from the U.S., especial y into Asia. Most wild American ginseng grows in eastern North America inthe Appalachian or Ozark mountains, while most of the cultivated ginseng is grown in places like Wisconsin andOntario. Between wild and cultivated ginseng, there is great potential for developing regional branding. In TCM(Traditional Chinese Medicine) different trade names are used to differentiate wild and cultivated ginseng amongother differentiating designations. For example, cultivated Asian ginseng root is known as “Yuanshen,” meaninggarden ginseng, while wild harvested Asian ginseng root is known as “Shanshen.” Sun-dried or bake-driedYuanshen is known as “Shengshaishen” (sun-dried garden ginseng) while sun-dried wild harvested Asian ginseng isknown as “Shengshaishanshen.” The washed, steamed and dried Asian ginseng root is known as “Hongshen” (redginseng). Cultivated American ginseng is known as “Xiyangshen” and Tienchi ginseng is known as “Sanqi.” One of the best examples of successful regional branding involves the Wisconsin Ginseng Board(, or their sales arm, Established in 1986, the boardrepresents the interests of more than 200 Wisconsin ginseng growers. It has established quality and pesticidestandards and promotes the concept of regional identification.
By defining quality standards as wel as standards for purity, acceptable levels of pesticides and fungicides, theWisconsin seal is now broadly recognized in Asia as a symbol of great quality in ginseng products. The WisconsinGinseng Board has worked with state agricultural agencies and the USDA to design and implement these qualitystandards. In fact, the board’s website offers pages in Chinese and Japanese to speak with customers andconsumers in Asia.
Similarly, Wisconsin growers worked together with the USDA to include ginseng in the COOL (Country of OriginLabeling) program. This program is to compel companies—especial y food manufacturers—to label the country oforigin on a basket of agricultural commodities such as meats, seafood and fresh produce. Ginseng is the onlyherbal product on the COOL list. From The Corners Of The World: Geographical Branding: Botanicals - Nutraceuticals World Steve Rose, a career“ginsengologist,” has spent years promoting the regional properties of Catskil Mountain WildAmerican Ginseng, and it may in fact be the most valuable ginseng—or plant product for that matter—in the world.
He has worked to educate American consumers about the tradition and benefits of American ginseng—a story thatresonates deeply in Asia, where 95% or more of the annual harvest (or col ection) may go. Americans, however,have not tuned in to this story and consume very little of the treasure it produces. The regional branding story, eventhat of the Wisconsin Ginseng Board, has unfortunately not yet been embraced by American consumers.
Devil’s Claw
Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens), an herb found in the desert regions of south and southeast Africa,offers a valuable story in sustainability and regional branding. The root of this plant, which is used commonly as ananti-inflammatory and analgesic, nearly became extinct in the wild due to demand and overharvesting. This wouldhave been a tragedy, as nearly 10,000 mostly poor families, especial y in Namibia where most Devil’s Claw grows,earn a living or supplement their living harvesting Devil’s Claw. The economic significance of the plant cannot beoverstated, and as a result, the establishment of regional trade al iances or groups, with or without governmentalassistance, is important for the development of sustainable harvesting and management practices, quality controland regional marketing programs. Consumers of the extracts of Devil’s Claw need to be made aware of theenvironmental, social and economic impact of the plant on the lives of natives and how little value is retained in theproducing regions. Establishing regional programs wil raise awareness of the region and hopeful y enhancesustainable practices, improving quality and economic standards.
Microalgae like spirulina (Arthrospira platensis and A. maxima), chlorel a (Chlorel a vulgaris or C. regularis) and bluegreen algae (Cyanobacteria) offer several opportunities for regional branding. Spirulina and chlorel a are typical ycultivated on tropical island paradises like Hainan Island, off the southern coast of China and Hawai . The producingregions have distinct climatic and environmental characteristics, which make them ripe for regional branding. Someproducers and processors have also established special quality standards that define the product, including rulesaround the use of fertilizers. Additional y, some producers also offer organic and fair-trade products, both of whichenhance the sense of quality and regional identity. The combination of characteristics should al ow marketers to tapinto the regional branding potential of their products.
With the recent GRAS (General y Recognized as Safe) status of stevia (Stevia rebaudiana), this plant is primed forexplosive growth as a sweetener in the U.S., and soon Europe. With al the buzz around this herb, few people arealso aware that the plant is native to South America (Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina). Yet, the truth is that theoverwhelming majority of stevia is produced today in China and increasing also in India. Early attempts for regionalbranding or at least identification were lost to an indifferent market and to least-cost manufacturing in China. Thequestion in the case of stevia is whether there stil is the potential for regional branding of this plant or if the purifiedresult of the plant extract (the family of chemical compounds knows as steviosides) has become so commoditizedthat regional identification is pointless.
Grass Roots Development
If regional branding projects are to work, developers and marketers wil need to establish the importance for theseprojects. The need for grass roots movements to protect the identity, quality and value of these products wil bemost important. Fair trade movements, for example, can help regional producers establish quality, economic, socialand environmental programs that can help lift the region’s status. Josef Brinckmann, vice president of research anddevelopment at Traditional Medicinals, and promoter of sustainable and traditional botanical programs worldwide, isa strong proponent of the idea of regional branding. He believes the cultural, medicinal and traditional use of plantsis deeply associated with the regions in which they grow natively. Knowledge about the use of plants is alsoassociated with native regions. Separating the plant from where it belongs severs an important link betweenknowledge and use. By setting up regional movements to col aborate in defining their plant resources, and possiblycreating branding or identifying projects, communities can help retain the knowledge and even value of their naturalresources.
Unfortunately, most botanical products have failed to realize their marketing potential. The good news is that thisalso means there is tremendous, untapped potential for the development of such regional branding projects and From The Corners Of The World: Geographical Branding: Botanicals - Nutraceuticals World Copyright 2010 Rodman Publishing. All Rights Reserved. All rights reserved. Use of this constitutes acceptanceof our The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, or otherwise used, except with the priorwritten permission of Rodman Publishing.


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