Increasing understanding of the natural world allows researchers to use plants in fascinating new ways. Ingredients Insight talks to Dr Benny Antony, a joint managing director at Arjuna, about the company's new Oxystorm energy supplements, made from the Amaranthus plant.
Dr Benny Antony: Arjuna Natural Extracts was founded in 1989 by PJ Kunjachan and me. Our intellectual and industrial strength provided a winning combination to position the company as the leader in the nutraceutical sector. To start with, Arjuna started manufacturing value-added herbal extracts. The company made essential mustard oils for a small but significant niche market, and gradually gained worldwide acceptance. It later focused on the nutraceutical sector - which was then still in its infancy - and developed a series of innovative herbal extracts for market. At the same time, the firm focused on technological innovations, key to success in a dynamic global business environment.
Arjuna started pioneering new products, enhancing current products, and creating a unique operational system. The company also patented many innovative products. For example, through its work manufacturing omega-3 fatty acids using home-grown technology, it helped transform the nutraceutical sector, and won a national award in India. This is not the only time Arjuna's work has been recognised nationally.
The company's state-of-the-art laboratory was approved by the Indian Government for in-house research. Meanwhile, the manufacturing facility at Karumathampatti was set up in 2002 to support the growing demands of Arjuna's global clientele. Today, the company has a dedicated work force of about 300 employees, spread over five locations across southern India. This is bolstered by a team of about 40 scientists, who steer the R&D division.
Oxystorm is the highest source of nitrate extracted and purified from the Amaranthus plant. Nitrates improve energy conversion in human cells and thus reduce fatigue during exercise. Dietary nitrate is an alternative source of nitric oxide (NO), which is essential for vital organs to function normally. Apart from enhancing NO levels in the body, Oxystorm also improves its lactate and ventilatory thresholds. Overall, this product significantly reduces fatigue and delays exhaustion.
Many nutrition drinks, especially ones that contain beetroot juice, are not free from oxalate and sugar. They also lack minerals like potassium, which are required to compensate minerals lost through sweat during exercise. Oxystorm doesn't contain oxalate, but has plenty of potassium.
While Japanese firms spend 5-6% of their revenue on R&D, Indian companies' R&D expenditure was always far lower, barely reaching 1%. Arjuna, however, spends about 10% of its turnover on R&D. Research is vital if herbal extraction companies want to stay on top of their game; the only way to have a strong presence in the market is to have a pipeline of exciting launches that require superior R&D.
Arjuna's latest R&D unit includes a full research facility for phytochemistry, pharmacokinetics, formulation and development, and preclinical studies. Its cutting-edge laboratory has been approved for in-house research by the Indian ministry of science and technology, and the firm also has an exclusive R&D unit equipped with a pilot plant. Currently, Arjuna has nearly 75 international patents to its credit, testament to its unwavering commitment to innovation and research.
Arjuna plans to deliver more specialised products to the natural health food supplement sector in the coming years.