Natural Foods Merchandiser

Companies with a cause: Gaia Herbs

Gaia Herbs is one of the best-kept secrets in supplements aisles, according to a company survey of 2,100 herbal-medicine users. But the finding didn’t please the herbal products manufacturer.

“We don’t really want to be a secret,” says Keri Marshall, ND, medical director of Brevard, N.C.-based Gaia Herbs. “That doesn’t work for us as far as growing the company and supporting the message we’re trying to relay.”

That message emphasizes a long-time commitment to research, sustainability and quality. For example, Gaia endows a botanical chair at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and contributes to scientific wisdom by supporting studies on herbs like echinacea. The company helped create EarthBottle, a plant-based packaging material for supplements and body-care products. Gaia also grows 40 to 50 crops a year on a 250-acre organic farm in western North Carolina, and has supported an 800-acre botanical sanctuary and medicinal plant research farm in Costa Rica.

But what really sets Gaia apart from other herbal supplements companies is its traceability and transparency efforts. Marshall said after the company discovered that 83 percent of the consumer-survey respondents said they prefer products that offer traceability, “we scratched our heads and thought of what we can do to show people that we have nothing to hide.”

The answer: MeetYourHerbs. As the industry’s first traceability program, MeetYourHerbs allows consumers to type a product identification number into Gaia’s website ( or mobile application, and track the geographical source and potency of ingredients, check the genus and species of plants used, study purity testing results and more.

“People also will be able to view the Certificate of Compliance, which is our internal regulatory control that our labs have to sign off on for every batch of every product that goes through,” Marshall says. The check ensures that all Gaia products are free of heavy-metal toxicity and pesticides, and are within acceptable limits for bacteria, molds and yeast.

“We were already doing these things [before MeetYourHerbs], but we want people to have that empowerment and education and proof of what we’re doing,” Marshall says.

That effort hasn’t gone unnoticed—the American Herbal Product Association chose Gaia for the 2010 Herbal Industry Leader award. “When the committee that recommends award winners to the [AHPA] board of trustees discussed why Gaia should be honored as a leader in the herbal industry, the reasons fell into three categories: commitment to research, commitment to sustainability and commitment to quality,” says AHPA President Michael McGuffin. “In each of these areas, Gaia Herbs has provided leadership in moving the industry forward above and beyond normal business practices.”

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