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India’s nutraceutical industry: Past & future—podcast

Audio-India’s nutraceutical industry: Past & future—podcast

The ‘father of the Indian nutraceuticals industry’ tackles science, efficacy and more.

Ayurveda, the science of life, connects body, mind and spirit; the botanical ingredients that form its foundation are now fuelling innovation across the global nutraceutical industry. Dr Muhammed Majeed, founder of Sabinsa, was recently recognized with an award from the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India as the ‘Father of Indian Nutraceuticals Industry’ and late last year received the Zandu International Oration award from the Indian Association for the study of Traditional Asian Medicine for ‘excellence in the field of biology and research on Ayurvedic products.’

Tune in to hear more about:

  • How Sabinsa pioneered the introduction of standardised botanicals from India into the global market.
  • The critical importance of scientific research to show efficacy
  • Why standardisation was the key to opening the door to new markets
  • Opportunities for the future of the India nutraceutical market
  • Intellectual property as the foundation of consumer trust
  • Formulating products for and communicating effectively with consumers



Dr Muhammed Majeed
Founder at Sabinsa

Vitafoods Insights Podcast

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Podcast Transcript:

Vitafoods Insights: 00:05 Welcome to the Vitafoods Insights podcast. Join us as we explore the latest science innovation, helping the global health and nutrition industry connect, develop and progress. Today's host is Heather Granato, Vice President of content.

Heather: 00:23 India is home to one of the world's oldest medical systems. Ayurveda, the science of life, connects body, mind and spirit; the botanical ingredients that form its foundation fuel innovation across the global nutraceutical industry. One of the notable companies that has fostered understanding of these ingredients is Sabinsa, founded more than 30 years ago by Dr. Muhammed Majeed. He was recently recognised with an award from the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India as the 'Father of the Indian Nutraceuticals Industry' and late last year received the Zandu International Oration Award from the Indian Association for the Study of traditional Asian medicine for 'excellence in the field of biology and research on Ayurvedic product.' I'm Heather Granato, and I recently connected with Dr. Majeed to talk about his continued focus on scientific research and intellectual property, and what he sees for the future of the broader nutraceutical industry. But first he shared a little bit about the founding of Sabinsa and its shift from the original intent.

Dr. Majeed: 01:25 When I originally started, I was focused on the generic pharmaceutical drugs. Six months later, I realised that it will take too long a time for me to survive in the generic pharmaceutical business. So I looked around and see what else I could do with the knowledge I have. And I found Indian natural products that is used extensively in higher weather. Is there offer to standardise and bring it to the US market? And there was no one at that time doing that. So what is needed for the American public was not just some story about natural product, but what is the science behind that? When has it been used to before? So that process and that thinking led me to standardise and bring those products to US, and that was the beginning. So I went through a change from the pharmaceutical scientists to a natural product chemist at that time.

Heather: 02:29 Well, it certainly played nicely into your background and being able to then take these fantastic ingredients and apply the science. So let's talk a little bit about how the industry has really evolved from that point in terms of understanding botanical ingredients from India, particularly related to the science, efficacy and sustainability.

Dr. Majeed: 02:51 In the years I started at 1988, we were part of the snake oil business in the US. It was snake oil business because people made a tall claims and the concept of standardisation was not there. When I introduced the product one by one, everything has a standard which they can take it to any laboratory and test its TLC. So from snake oil, in the next three four years, we evolved the number of standardised herbal ingredients at set the standard and the tone for the herbal nutraceutical industry in the US. We continued in that direction and fortunately for all of us, in 1994 DSHEA came along and that the way for us to move forward. That is where the biggest change came. But the concept of standardisation was introduced and the preclinical testing and for toxicity was introduced. Most importantly, small scale clinical documentation was also brought forward.

Heather: 03:53 And I think you've always really placed an emphasis on doing that type of research that science that really substantiates what you're developing

Dr. Majeed: 04:03 Because basically a consumer looks for something that is not toxic to him. If I take this pill, is that going to poison me? Or is that going to help me the most important component is standardisation, toxicity testing, and then the clinical documentation. That is the basic concept. And I have always kept that going.

Heather: 04:24 And you really were a pioneer in terms of taking what was already there in India sharing this out to the world. So tell me a little bit about your take on the Indian nutraceutical industry today and how that kind of fits within the broader global community.

Dr. Majeed: 04:39 In the last 10 years to the best of my knowledge, India nutraceutical industry is coming into shape, but here there won't be any major nutraceutical players. It will be the pharma companies that gets in, take a ride with the neutral ingredients. It will grow up very well in India, and India also need this ultimate systemal medicine which is accepted in India, but now it is not either by itself they are looking for something standardised. Something more that you can count on, that will repeatedly will give you the same dosage. So the concept of nutraceutical comes into the picture. So, what is happening in India: a clear revolution is happening in terms of Ayurveda getting into nutraceutical India.

Heather: 05:24 What do you see as a few of the challenges that are facing the global nutraceutical industry?

Dr. Majeed: 05:30 Many people are not doing a good job of educating the customers. For everything that we want to look at, there is no answer in Google. There is a lot of information still to be developed and that information to be developed and the nutraceutical manufacturer like me, along with the manufacturer and supplier, should educate the public also. What this product is good for? Because 80% of the things that ails us, there is a nutraceutical out there, the 20% involves surgery, accidents and other things. For all other things, there is a preventive nutrition available from Ayurveda.

Heather: 06:08 Well, it is one of the oldest medical systems in the world. So that was what you know, millions of people still rely on to this day.

Dr. Majeed: 06:17 Absolutely correct. I would say 60 to 70% of the people in India rely on that, at least.

Heather: 06:24 Another thing that I know that you've really been a champion of is this idea of intellectual property, the importance of investing in science, investing in ingredients and the efficacy and safety, and then making sure that consumers get what they're paying for. Can you tell me a little bit about why that's been an important foundation for Sabinsa?

Dr. Majeed: 06:45 The concept of patenting started in 1995 by me. The first product to go through that process was a product called BioPerine, and see what happened, a lot of research goes into making a specific ingredient and a specific application. And I don't want many people to come in and dilute that with the generic competition. That is why I went into patenting and I continued to do that one, so that the real benefits cost to the customers at the end. And there is not much generate competition to take away the significance and continue to do the research on the particular product. Every product, as of now about 311 patents, and we have 300 in the pipeline. Our research pipeline is very good. Every product, for example, I introduced curcumin with a patent into the US market and you all know very good to me today; one of the best selling nutraceuticals ever okay. During the pattern time, our group along with the many researchers across the university did a lot of work on that. So the efficacy of the product is proven, the science is known to public, and there is a product boom. Of course, I built a brand alpha, but it gave the opportunity for many people also to come into the market, lesser price, and the net benefit is the consumer is benefited. Consumers have no confidence in that product.

Heather: 08:16 And that's critical. Consumers have to have confidence and certainly brands have to be delivering that, as you said with the education as well as the formulations that they make.

Dr. Majeed: 08:25 Yes.

Heather: 08:26 So tell me what is the opportunity then for these finished product companies? What should they be doing when they're creating formulations, and taking them to the consumers in the market?

Dr. Majeed: 08:37 What they should be doing should be putting their own products to some clinical trials and see whether that clinical is really effective. They really should be doing that. That is the mutation to them.

Heather: 08:49 I love that idea. You just don't know, you know, one plus one may not equal two, it may equal four.

Dr. Majeed: 08:55 Yes.

Heather: 08:56 The unknown power of botanicals.

Dr. Majeed: 08:58 Yes.

Heather: 08:58 So let's turn a little bit you know, we've taken a little bit of perspective, what's ahead for you and what's ahead for Sabinsa? what could the next 30 years hold?

Dr. Majeed: 09:08 In the next 30 years Sabinsa will be about 100 times bigger company than what I have built. The strategy that I've employed in the last 30 years, research, patent, market- always worked. And we will continue in the same slogan: research, patent, market. Now we have a different focus now. Marketed globally, we are there in the US, we are there in Europe, we are there in Japan, but there are so many other countries: that are Australia we are in, China we are in, there are South Korea we are in, and many more countries we have to go in and a lot more to be done in terms of marketing. Research, we have a handle on that one. Patenting is an art. We do that. And the science we continue to develop, and the next 300 years also, if this company was we would have scratched 1% of what Mother Nature is giving us, because it is such a huge area. You know, I may take 100 botanicals out of India, but then I'll go to Georgia and take some botanicals or go to, you know, Mexico and take some botanicals and there are so many American plants that we have not explored. So there is a whole variety of opportunities there. And I'm very, very optimistic about the future.

Heather: 10:30 Well, there's a lot that I think you'll be able to uncover, and certainly that poses some great opportunity for the nutraceutical industry ahead. Thank you so much. It's always a pleasure and congratulations again.

Dr. Majeed: 10:43 I wish you all the best for the people who attend Vitafoods and stay safe.



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