Orgenetics, Inc. was founded on the then-radical idea back in 2007 that vitamins should be good for people and good for the planet. More than 10 years later, the family-owned business remains one of the few vertically integrated supply chains for USDA-certified organic functional ingredients and vitamins produced from 100 percent organic fruits, vegetables and botanicals.
Organic from the beginning
The journey begins in southern India around Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, the capital of the state of Karnataka and the country’s high-tech industry. It’s there that Dr. Jit Maheshvari, the organic chemist who started Orgenetics, forged a partnership with Green Chem, a local company with expertise in manufacturing and farming.
In 2004, the new venture began the three-year process to transform farmland near Bengaluru into organic acreage. The decision to go all-organic was a gamble at a time when the industry by and large relied on synthetic ingredients for vitamins. The first product was 100 percent certified-organic Orgen-C vitamin C sourced from Indian gooseberry. That launched the Orgen brand line of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which boasts more than two dozen products today.
“There was really nothing like Orgen-C back then, and I don’t think there’s anything really like what we have at the moment either,” says Saumil Maheshvari, business development manager for Orgenetics and the son of Dr. Jit Maheshvari.
Sustainable and transparent throughout
The farm in Karnataka relies on techniques that have been perfected over millennia when organic food was simply known as “food.” Local farmers use methods like composting, crop rotation and inter-planting to control weeds and pests, as well as to nurture and replenish the soil. Rainwater is captured for irrigation and solar power provides self-renewing clean energy. And, of course, the entire operation meets or exceeds all of the standards under the U.S. National Organic Program (NOP) and European Union organic laws.
Similar consideration goes into the manufacturing process for all of Orgenetics’ products. In particular, its Orgen brand ingredients go through a unique and patented extraction process that uses only water, eschewing solvents or excipients. Production takes place in an ISO 22000-certified facility that adheres to current good manufacturing practices (cGMPs).
Quality control is stringent. Green Chem’s in-house laboratory boasts state-of-the-art equipment like high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and high-performance thin layer chromatography (HPTLC) for ensuring proper botanical identification. Every plant species used for extraction is identified via HPTLC botanical fingerprinting, a cutting-edge technique pioneered by the company within the natural products industry.
“You’ll see botanical fingerprinting is becoming more and more acceptable and more prevalent, which is helpful for everyone,” says the younger Maheshvari, adding that every lot is tested as part of the company’s quality assurance program. The practice began when most other companies might conduct some random lot testing, if at all.
Scaling demand organically
Green Chem is in the process of certifying a second organic farm in India. Maheshvari notes that the investment of time—at least three years to transition from conventional agricultural practices, as required by the NOP—and money presents a risk for those suppliers serving the organic and natural products industry.
“Organic suppliers are tasked with having to figure out where demand will be three years in advance,” he says. “You know this is a task that even financial analysts can’t get right much of the time.”
Of course, for organic, the problem remains one of supply meeting demand. Maheshvari says he believes both small manufacturers and behemoth CPG companies have a role to play in helping the organics industry scale to meet demand. While it’s easy to dismiss the corporate giants as simply profit-driven—taking advantage of a lucrative trend—that doesn’t tell the deeper story of how these companies are making organic mainstream and driving down prices as well.
“I think one of the best ways to approach the supply chain constraint that’s going on with a lot of organic suppliers is for these end-product companies—whether it’s huge ones like General Mills or whether it is smaller ones who are in the food or beverage space—to work hand-in-hand with the suppliers, to work hand-in-hand with the farmers, to ensure that they both are able to scale out their growth.”
Going above and beyond
While Orgenetics continues to scale its own growth, the company will never outgrow its original mission to provide organic and nutritious products to its customers and consumers. But it hasn't stopped there. Orgenetics established a charitable foundation funded through a percentage of its own profits and private donations.
The foundation is currently focusing its efforts in India and Uganda. One project helps provide iron supplementation for rural populations, particularly for pregnant women, who commonly suffer from iron deficiency and anemia. Simple iron supplementation could help improve health outcomes for both mothers and babies.
“As part of our corporate cultural values and our philosophy, we are trying to make a positive impact, a positive difference in the world, which is why we are going above and beyond,” Maheshvari says.