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Big Interview: Peter Haferman, president, Improve USA

Improve USA: Aloe is already the biggest botanical on the planet, but it’s about to get even bigger…

By Elaine Watson , 25-Jun-2012
Last updated on 25-Jun-2012 at 16:38 GMT

Improve Aloe fields in Jaumave, Mexico
Improve Aloe fields in Jaumave, Mexico

It might be gracing the functional beverages aisles in Costco and Trader Joe’s, but if you “ask Joe in the street what Aloe Vera is, he’ll still say it’s something you put on your skin when you have sunburn”, says the new boss of Aloe ingredients expert Improve USA.

“Aloe is already the biggest botanical on the planet”, adds Peter Haferman, but we’ve still barely scratched the surface when it comes to exploring its potential as a health and wellness ingredient, he contends.

Double-digit growth

Haferman was speaking to NutraIngredients-USA after his appointment as president of Aloe specialist Improve USA, which has just been acquired by New Jersey-based health ingredients giant Pharmachem Laboratories.

He adds: “I see a lot of room for growth in beverages in particular, but there also big growth opportunities across food, nutritional supplements and personal care.

"Improve USA is generating double-digit growth, but we’re also seeing that kind of growth in the retail market as well."

While Aloe is typically positioned as a ‘good for you’ ingredient to promote general health and wellbeing, some firms are positioning it more specifically in products promoting digestive health, immune health and beauty-from-within, he says.

However, more trials are needed to substantiate specific health claims, although there is a growing body of clinical data on Aloe Vera covering everything from blood glucose control to inflammation, he adds.

Vertically integrated

A vertically integrated company with headquarters in Desoto Texas and three manufacturing facilities in Mexico, Improve USA is the “clear leader” in its field, says Haferman, who had a stint at the helm of rival Aloe ingredients supplier AloeCorp earlier in his career.

“Improve has been a leader in Aloe Vera raw material supply for almost 20 years", he adds.

"It ensures the quality of raw material by controlling each step in the supply chain, including: growing Aloe Vera, harvesting leaves, timely processing and packaging in three state of the art facilities.

“Having three facilities and multiple farming operations under our control ensures a secure supply for our customers. It also gives us the flexibility of bottling in Mexico, or at our Alix Technologies’ facility in Utah.”

Investment plans

From a staffing perspective it will be “business as usual” at Improve USA, which will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pharmachem and retain its current management and employees, he explains.

But the new owners will be “expanding the facilities in Mexico, adding new technology and adding bottling capability there too”, he reveals.

Adulteration

As with any botanical ingredient on the up, adulteration is a problem in the Aloe Vera ingredients market, says Haferman.

“But there are methods to test for it as well as tests that will show the high quality of Aloe Vera that is properly processed and has a good amount of the all-important polysaccharides.

“While adulteration is always going to be an issue in this market, I think that it will become harder for people to get away with it as cGMPs are better enforced.”

Monograph

As for standards of identity, Improve USA has a long-standing relationship with the International Aloe Science Council (IASC), which has almost completed a monograph for Aloe Vera leaf and inner gel fillet in partnership with the American Herbal Pharmacopeia, he says.

“This will provide regulatory agencies around the globe with reliable and concise information on the standards for quality and compliance of Aloe Vera, methods of analysis, and eventually therapeutic/scientific information.”     

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