Novel Foods

Marketing guayusa as a food product in the EU

As we're sure you are aware, there's a large number of outlets in the USA for great guayusa products.

But at the moment the future of guayusa in the UK and EU is unclear due to the competent authorities coming to the conclusion that, as it has apparently not been consumed in the EU before 15 May 1997, it is considered as a 'Novel Food'.

Products that fall into this category are subject to a rigorous, long and expensive assesment before they can be placed on the market as a food item.

Ilex guayusa's close South American relative, Ilex paraguariensis (Yerba Mate), has apparently been widely consumed in the EU before the above date and is available in mainstream health shops such as Holland and Barrett and deemed safe.

Who could fail to recognise the importance of the Novel Food rules? Ultimately they are intended to protect people.

But in exceptional cases, like guayusa, the Novel Food rules feel an awkward fit, and could perhaps be innovated and revised to be more flexible.

After all, it's undeniable that in the USA guayusa has become incredibly popular as a new 'clean energy' beverage, with investments from high profile celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Channing Tatum in Runa. And what about tennis stars, Steve Johnson and John Isner, who have also partnered with an investment?

Guayusa has a healthy market penetration outside of its native environments in Ecuador, Peru and Colombia and is drunk by people like you and me every day. If you look at the available outlets in the USA for Runa's products, they are all health food shops. 

Guayusa is all over social media, held in people's happy hands - many adopters of guayusa are also healthy 'fitness types' looking for a cleaner caffeine energy. Just check out the Instagram stream of guayusa hashtags.

Guayusa has also had wide press and media coverage and generally hailed as the 'new super drink'. 

Equally, traditionally, it's been used and consumed by human beings for so long that we understand that the plant relies on human hands - completely - for its onwards propagation and, ultimately, existence.

The Australian view

Clearly guayusa has made a big splash in the USA since the inception of Runa in 2009. But what about Australia?

This is the website of the Australian Novel Foods regulators. If you download this document, linked from the page above - you will see clearly guayusa entered as a recent listing in black and white from their competent authorities as not a Novel Food and safe to consume as a tea.

Food or food ingredient Outcome View  Justification/Comment
Ilex guayusa
(leaf – infusion in hot water)
Non-traditional food
Not novel food
Plant native to South America. Leaves are used in preparation of hot beverage (similar to tea). No safety concerns identified when consumed in this way.

What's your view?

Please get in touch with your thoughts.