Science at Its Source
When John Wadsworth went to Tahiti in 1993, he wasn’t on vacation. He was on a quest, looking for the bumpy green noni fruit he had read about in his scientific research.
He had read that the fruit was unique in so many ways. It never stops blooming and bears fruit continuously. And it is the most revered plant of the Polynesian people, who, for more than 2,000 years, have consumed it to promote health. They use its fruit, leaves and even its seeds and bark in traditional recipes that they believe promote strength, longevity, good digestion, healthy gums and overall well-being.
Most important to Wadsworth—both a food scientist and an astute businessman—all the noni benefits that Polynesians had learned from experience were backed by scientific research. So his trip to Tahiti was to do additional research on the availability of noni and its suitability for commercial distribution. Eventually, he discovered a huge, lush valley in the Marquesas Islands where noni grew abundantly.
“On that island, I was blessed with an experience that changed my life—my complete view of what I and a group of people could do to better the world,” Wadsworth says. “I felt very strongly that, though the world didn’t know about it yet, noni was a blessing to the world. It could become a product that could truly change the lives of people in so many ways.”
The discovery of those thousands and thousands of thriving noni plants provided the foundation for everything else: harvesting methods, processing and transportation. But he still had to determine the distribution method.
Those consultants told the story so well that Tahitian Noni International essentially created the exotic healthy juice market that so many others have tried to copy since. TNI has embraced the fruit and the people of Tahiti as its own, creating and obsessively controlling standardized processes for growing and harvesting noni fruit, seeds and leaves. Along the way, they have made noni the No. 1 agricultural export in Tahiti. The new industry has created jobs and increased prosperity for islanders who work closely with TNI, as well as for consultants around the globe.
“That experience standing on that mountain in the Marquesas Islands gave me passion and a belief that continues to drive me today,” Wadsworth says. “In fact, not only has that feeling never left, but it’s become even stronger over the years.”
Today, when Tahitian Noni International (TNI) executives talk about the scientific knowledge behind its flagship product, they’re using new language. The 14 years of calling it “Tahitian Noni® Juice” have passed. That’s because scientific research has revealed that Tahitian Noni is much more. It is actually a bioactive beverage.The impact of those words is so great that the company is updating/refreshing its products, packaging and overall approach to the market. They can do it all because the scientific research on noni nutrients has reached such a critical mass that the company now considers Tahitian Noni a bioactive beverage, not simply a juice. As every nutritional beverage maker knows, the difference is dramatic.
“We’ve always been in that space, but we haven’t talked about it,” says John Wadsworth, Tahitian Noni International Founder and President and Vice President of Morinda Holdings Inc. “When we started the company, we called it a juice for lack of a better word. That was probably the right positioning in the beginning. But as we’ve collected science over many years, we have reached a greater understanding of its makeup.”
Wadsworth notes that the noni fruit has a 2,000-year history of promoting good health among Polynesian people. Its benefits were recognized and unquestioned. But Wadsworth, a food scientist, wanted to understand the science behind the fruit’s following. So they started Morinda Laboratories—named for Tahitian Noni International’s parent company, Morinda Holdings—to delve into it. It has produced 14 human clinical trials that have been peer-reviewed and published.
A Little Science
Science has shown that noni contains an unusually broad range of bioactives—phytochemical compounds that actually produce biological activity in the body. Noni’s bioactives include iridoids, lignans, coumarins, polysaccharides, flavonoids and fatty acids. The presence of 16 different iridoids in noni is unusual because iridoids are not typically found in fruits.
Noni iridoids also have two other key attributes: They’re backed by research, and they are surprisingly stable, allowing them to survive exposure to oxygen, light and heat—giving them a long shelf life. Morinda Laboratories’ research shows that noni iridoids are the endurance giants of the nutrition world, retaining almost full potency from tree to bottle. Even after bottling, their shelf life extends well past two years.
Most nutritional beverage companies use ingredients—often exotic fruits—high in flavonoids and carotenoids. TNI Vice President of Global Marketing Jeff Wasden explains that the best way to get both flavonoids and carotenoids into the body is to eat fresh fruit that contain them. That’s because both degrade rapidly when exposed to heat, processing and storage.
“As we differentiate ourselves from the sea of nutritional beverages, rapid degradation of nutrients is a key issue,” Wasden says. “At the end of the day, the goal is efficacy. That means that you need compounds in the right amounts that do real things in the body.”
Turning Science into Sales
All this impressive scientific evidence on the presence of iridoids in noni is much more than mind candy. It’s the foundation for new products, packaging and sales tools that TNI executives believe will lead to even greater sales.
At its convention in late February, TNI unveiled new products for specific age groups and needs. The new products complement traditional Tahitian Noni Original.
“We introduced a more complete line that addresses the needs of adults, children and teens, with suitable bioactive loads and flavors for each,” Wasden says. “Another new product is for older or more active persons or those with health complications. It has a higher level of iridoids than the others. The new products will provide our consultants with products that have a broader market appeal.”
Tahitian Noni Family, the formula for children and families, contains 15 milligrams of iridoids from noni per 60-milliliter serving. Tahitian Noni Original delivers 30, and Tahitian Noni Extra delivers 60 milligrams of iridoids per 60-milliliter serving. The product range invites consumers to make Tahitian Noni a family experience. And with more family members drinking their own Tahitian Noni formula, sales go up, and consultants’ incomes and health increase.
Consultants will also be able to get a liquid concentrate of noni puree combined with noni leaf tea. The noni leaves provide unique iridoids to the formulation. The concentrate, called Tahitian Noni Pure, will help consultants reach consumers in emerging markets where concentrates are popularly mixed into water to make mixed beverages. But throughout TNI’s markets, Tahitian Noni Pure will let consultants provide a unique experience to new tasters.
“If you put the concentrate on the tip of your tongue and hold it there for a short period of time—30 or 40 seconds—you’ll have an experience you’ve never had before,” Wadsworth says. “You’ll have an effect from the product very quickly. Your tongue will actually start tingling. If you don’t know what a bioactive is, you can experience it immediately.”
Convenience Is King
Those new products also will benefit from new packaging designed to be more than just pretty. It also makes consumption more convenient. Convenience translates into frequency, which translates into sales.
The new package is a 4-liter fridge box that places Tahitian Noni front and center on the shelf, inviting consumers to drink up. The ready-to-dispense refrigerator box is a proven concept for increasing consumption. It supplements TNI’s traditional glass bottles.
Wasden explains that glass bottles are a great packaging medium—until they get lost in the fridge.
“You take your dose from it in the morning, but by the time you get home, the fridge has been rescrambled, and you’re not sure where it is,” he says. “That can let people fall out of the habit of daily consumption. When people drink Tahitian Noni daily, they have a greater experience with the product, so they buy it more regularly, and that impacts consultant retention. We want to make it easy for people to get their iridoids every day.”
In addition to fostering higher use, the fridge-box packaging is environmentally friendly. It has a smaller carbon footprint and produces less solid waste than glass. A second new packaging option, a 750-milliliter aluminum bottle, is twice as likely to be recycled as glass, Wasden says. With its smaller volume, it also costs less, making it a more attractive choice for budget-conscious households.
With new products and new packaging, all backed by a mounting stack of scientific evidence, the company also introduced new sales tools to tell TNI’s even-healthier story. A new starter kit, product brochures, opportunity presentation and Web site are just some of the tools that will help consultants share the broader range of bioactive beverages with others. The opportunity presentation is the foundation, focusing on the scientific story the company has been building through the years. It will differentiate Tahitian Noni by telling the story of iridoids.
“It will have a bolder approach than before,” Wasden says. “With more than a decade’s worth of clinicals, we feel we have significant substantiation for anything we’d want to talk about, and we want to tell our story in a way that sets us apart.”
He notes that while they tell noni’s science story, consultants will follow a tried-and-true process that keeps the business simple.
“To duplicate their business, any new consultant will become a user of the product, develop their own experience and belief, and share the product with others,” he says. “Once customers come into Tahitian Noni, the consultant will help them discover other products.”
The ultimate goal is to increase the number of consumers of all Tahitian Noni products—close to 100 SKUs—but especially of its flagship bioactive beverages.
“In this industry, you have to pass the litmus test: Will people buy your product if they don’t get a check for selling it?” Wadsworth says. “We passed that litmus test, and we need to expand on that. No matter what business you’re in, the customer is the foundation of your business—not the person who is the great leader who has gathered hundreds of distributors. Customers allow the business to be sustained over a period of years. That’s the goal we’ll achieve. As we increase our customer base, consultants will increase their income, and their numbers will grow.”
Increased customers and consultants will allow Tahitian Noni International to achieve its ultimate mission to bless the whole earth with the natural goodness of Tahitian Noni. It’s well on its way, with 12 percent revenue growth in its core products during economically challenged 2009—without expanding into a new country. It already distributes products in 70-plus countries and has offices in more than 40. Wadsworth looks forward to continuing to build a substantial business that can be passed on to a second and third generation of distributors.
“In 100 years, I’ll be able to say with confidence that not only will we, but we have, blessed the whole earth.” Then he winks, “And I’ll be around then because I drink Tahitian Noni every day!”
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