How a Centuries-Old Wellness Fruit Helped Position This Company at the Forefront of the CBD Movement

How a Centuries-Old Wellness Fruit Helped Position This Company at the Forefront of the CBD Movement

As the CBD gold rush continues at full pace, more and more people join the fray. They may not all have any particular commitment to natural wellness or a background in it of any kind. 

That would not describe Morinda; the Utah-based company was founded to share the health benefits of a plant found in nature—but we’re not talking about CBD (yet). Rather, the plant is Tahitian Noni, a Polynesian fruit that’s been used for centuries to enhance well-being, boost immunity and protect the body from free radicals.

Tahitian Noni fruit

Since 1996, Morinda has served as the world’s premier provider of Tahitian Noni products, including juices, oils, supplements and skin care, with each product designed to help customers achieve better health. Morinda’s expertise in the benefits and applications of the noni fruit is the result of decades of extensive research, clinical trials and tree to bottle distribution processes that are constantly being refined.

“Tahitian Noni contains a unique blend of phytonutrients that you don’t find in other fruits,” says Brett West, senior director of product research. “These phytonutrients impact the various systems of our bodies and thereby help maintain optimal health. For example, Tahitian Noni has very strong antioxidant effects in our bodies. It also influences the immune system, inflammation pathways and the function of genes in our cells.”

For years Morinda scientists have been studying the endocannabinoid system, a biological system responsible for controlling, regulating and moderating other systems in the body. They’ve found that Tahitian Noni interacts and positively impacts the endocannabinoid system, as well as the endocrine system, helping to balance the chemistry of the human body.

Brett West, senior director of product research

“We studied the endocannabinoid system before it was cool,” West says. “Back in 2008, we published a paper in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology about the effects of noni on the immune system, and that included our findings on how noni interacted with the endocannabinoid system. Years earlier, in the 1990s, as scientists discovered that the endocannabinoid system even existed, we began paying attention and applying the research to our work with noni.”

Morinda researchers knew that, like noni, cannabidiol (CBD) influences the function of the endocannabinoid system. As the regulatory landscape around industrialized hemp began to shift, the team became increasingly interested in the similarities between noni products and CBD, and the common ways they can positively impact the body.

Perfect Timing

Morinda’s interest in CBD and its potential applications peaked at just the right moment. In December 2018, Morinda announced a merger with publicly traded New Age Beverages Corporation (New Age), a healthy beverage company with a portfolio that includes Marley beverages, Xing teas, Búcha kombuchas, Coco Libre coconut water and WATERisLIFE artesian waters. Since the merger, New Age has also acquired Brands Within Reach brands, which includes Evian and Illy. The New Age Health Sciences division brought significant CBD research to the newly merged company, inspiring a product journey that the Morinda team was more than familiar with.

“Our company is built on this discovery mentality,” says Adam Olsen, director of marketing and communications. “We found something incredible in nature with Tahitian Noni and saw that same potential in CBD. Our merger with New Age brought a fresh corporate desire, as well as great experience, access to research and scientific validation [for CBD].”

Science and Processes, Then Product

Combining what they learned in the last 20 years of distributing noni products with New Age’s research resources, Morinda scientists got right to work. “Our teams initially met and talked,” West says. “Our team had done a lot of work with natural products, but not with cannabis sativa because of regulatory limitations; however, it didn’t take long to get an understanding of what CBD could do.”

Years of noni-focused research and clinical trials prepared the team to dive deep into how CBD could improve the health of its customers. “Morinda has invested heavily in understanding how Tahitian Noni benefits people and how to make products that will help them,” West says. “The effectiveness of CBD is also backed up by multiple human clinical trials, as well as other in vitro and in vivo research.”

Morinda’s tree to bottle distribution process for noni products was the ideal model for the company’s new focus on CBD. “Our methods for noni and hemp are extremely similar,” Olsen says. “While we don’t own the end farms, we know the farmers, we’ve inspected the farms and we’re very proud of our sources. Every vendor we work with is GMP- (Good Manufacturing Practice) certified. We feel that we’ve distinguished ourselves by putting in the effort. We just love this because we see so much of our noni journey in the CBD world that we’re now a part of. It’s a natural fit for us.”

In April 2019, Morinda launched its first CBD-inspired products, a line it named ’NHANCED CBD. This initial line comprises three products: 

  • NHANCED CBD Oil – a tincture containing 500 mg of full-spectrum CBD 
  • ‘NHANCED CBD Body Cream – a cream containing 150 mg of full-spectrum CBD 
  • ‘NHANCED CBD Roll-On Gel – a roll-on application containing 200 mg of full-spectrum CBD

“We felt that the best way to start was to introduce three topical CBD products because we saw the tremendous benefits CBD can have on the skin itself,” says Director of Product Development Laura Kimball. “Part of our research focused on determining the effective level CBD to include in our products. We have the ability to test the CBD to know exactly how much we’re working with.”

In-house testing is just part of Morinda’s broad quality control process—another area of expertise from its work with noni. Morinda has been licensed by the State of Utah’s Department of Agriculture and Food as a hemp processor, allowing the company to manufacture, warehouse and sell CBD-containing products.

“We also register every single CBD product we produce with the Department of Agriculture and Food,” West says. “As part of each registration, we must have each batch of product analyzed for CBD content by certified and independent third-party laboratories. A QR code is included with each product label so our customers can view results of the laboratory analyses online. With this, everyone can see the cannabinoid profile of these products.” 

The response from customers has been clear. “We’re just thrilled with the reports we’re getting back,” Kimball says. “We’re hearing marvelous stories of how beneficial these products are for the skin.”

Sharing CBD With the World

Since its inception, Morinda has sold products through its network marketing sales model, with over 30,000 distributors in more than 60 countries. The merger with New Age created new avenues for the company to share its products, including Morinda’s direct-to-consumer sales as well as New Age’s e-commerce, affiliate and retail sales. 

Beverage industry veteran Brent Willis was named the new CEO for the combined company and sees the potential in this new partnership. “At New Age, our dream is to become the leading healthy beverage and lifestyle company in the world,” he explains. “We will achieve our goal by flawlessly executing our business plan and by staying true to our purpose—to educate and inspire the planet to ‘Live Healthy.’ ”

Morinda distributors have been energized by both the merger and the new CBD-infused product line, as they’re seeing interest, sales and sign-ups from a much younger demographic.

“The merger has reenergized the growth mentality that was such a big part of our past and culture for so many years,” Olsen adds. “In the early days we were ambitious; we wanted to show the world how much good this fruit from Tahiti could do. We had ambitions to share noni with the whole world. Now we see that bold ambition again. We have a take on the world mission that meshes well with our company’s history.”

Laura Kimball, director of product development

Kimball adds, “We’ve watched this younger demographic take a more positive approach to natural alternatives. We’re seeing that the CBD line is attracting a younger audience and feel that this will open a whole new opportunity for us. We believe CBD is going to be a huge part of our product offering.”

And the currently available ‘NHANCED CBD products are just the beginning.

More CBD to Come

Morinda has already developed products that combine its legacy noni products with CBD for an ingestible application.

“It turns out that noni and CBD have complimentary effects on the body,” West says. “Just as when noni was combined with other plants by the ancient Polynesians, the combination of noni and CBD is alsosynergistic.”

A line of Tahitian Noni + CBD products will be available first in Japan, with distribution to follow in the U.S. once government regulations allow. Another CBD-infused beverage within the larger New Age portfolio of products is also set to debut in Japan. Marley Mellow Mood is a CBD-infused flavored tea that will contain 25 mg of CBD per serving.

“We’re very excited about the future—all we need is a green light from the government,” Olsen says. “We’re ‘all systems go.’ The blueprint is extensive. We feel like our knowledge and experience open up a whole world of possibilities for us.”

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