“Aloe is certainly one of the top three selling botanicals worldwide,” Bob Smith, western sales manager for AloeCorp told NutraIngredients-USA. “The preponderance of sales go into liquid products, either supplements or the emerging beverage market. And a huge portion of that is to multilevel companies.”
Smith said AloeCorp is vertically integrated and has expanded in recent years to meet demand. The most recent ingredient-specific market survey conducted by the International Aloe Science Council put the global market at $13 billion in 2012, and Smith said it has grown since then.
“I think the market is growing by more than 10% a year. We grow and process everything ourselves. We have continued to buy farms and they are all in the same general vicinity around the town of Gonzalez in Tamaulipas state. We built a new GMP facility in Mexico in 2012,” he said.
Roberto Garcia, sales manager of aloe supplier Improve USA, a division of New Jersey-based Pharmachem Labs, said his company has been expanding as well.
“We started as a family-owned company and my father’s idea was to try to get jobs back into Mexico. Over the years he was able to provide 300 jobs in Mexico,” he said.
“At this time we run 2,500 acres of our own aloe fields and we still work with about 500 co-ops. All that acreage is important because you want the plant to be allowed to mature as much as possible before you take the first harvest.
“We grow all our aloe in Tamaulipas state, all within 45 miles of our production facilities. Tamaulipas as the right mix of temperature, humidity, altitude and there is rich volcanic soil in that area,” Garcia said.
Aloe products have traditionally been offered as digestive aids, and that continues to be the main health claim, Smith said. Aloecorp’s sales span the globe as the story of the ingredient has grown.
“We are very strong in the US, Europe, Korea and China. Our customers for years have used aloe as a digestive aid. There are some companies that use it in weight control prodcuts, but I don't’ think there is any study that would confirm that usage,” Smith said.
Fragmented Latin American markets
Even though the production of the ingredient is expanding in Mexico, the aloe market across Latin America is a fragmented one, with only one gorilla in the room.
“Herbalife has a huge presence in Mexico,” Smith said.
Other than that, the market tends to be populated with small suppliers and distributors and small scale manufacturers, making it difficult for larger suppliers like Aloecorp or Improve USA to get enough scale.
“Mexico has always been difficult for us for some reason or another,” Smith said.
Garcia concurred, saying long standing local supply arrangements seem to trump what a large ingredient supplier might have to offer. Consumers might understand the ingredient, but that doesn’t help on the supply end.
“Mexico and South Korea are two places where they understand the plant and they are not turned away by the flavor of it. But in Mexico, for an aloe ingredient supplier, it’s kind of like trying to sell a potato to someone in Idaho,” he said.