Indena on “100 Years of Botanical Excellence”

This story begins a century ago in Italy, with Drs. Carlo Boccaccio Inverni and Biago Alberto Della Beffa. At the time, the Italian pharmaceutical industry was dependent on foreign supplies, Indena shares on its website, and Dr. Inverni saw a need that he could help fill.

“Dr. Inverni had the idea of offering botanical extracts to the early Italian pharmaceutical industry,” recounts Francesca de Rensis, Marketing Director, Indena S.p.A. “Shortly after, Dr. Della Beffa joined as a partner and managing director and the company Inverni Della Beffa was founded, later becoming known as Indena.”

The co-founders applied a modern industrial vision to botanicals. “Their aim,” according to the website, “was to make available to users, at that time mainly pharmacies, not just medicinal plants themselves, which offered insufficient guarantees of efficacy and stability, but instead extracts from these plants titrated in their active ingredients. Dosage was therefore easier and chemical identification safer.”

Paving the Way

With their vision, Drs. Inverni and Della Beffa were trailblazers for the industry. “Our 100 years journey has taken us to be protagonists on markets around the world, a matter of great pride for an Italian company, still today led by our family” said Indena President Biagio Della Beffa, son of Luigi and grandson of the founder, in a press release about the company’s centennial. “Indena is renowned for the high dedication to quality and science, its continuous investment in product innovation, pioneering processes and constantly state of the art technologies. And since its foundation till today, this is how it has grown to become a leader and a benchmark in the global botanical derivatives sector.”

Over these 100 years, Indena has been among the industry pioneers on several fronts. One example from de Rensis: “Indena has been at the forefront of science to understand the active components in plants offering health benefits and introduce standardized herbal extracts based on those actives. Indena introduced products such as Ginkgo biloba, bilberry, grapeseed, St. John’s Wort, and milk thistle.”

Another innovation centers on working to help ensure that people get the studied benefits of the herbs they take. “Around 20 years ago, Indena introduced its Phytosome delivery system which improves bioabsorption and effectiveness for specific botanicals,” de Rensis tells WholeFoods. “Products featuring Phytosome technology include Meriva Curcumin Phytosome and Quercefit Quercetin Phytosome. Through utilization of Phytosome technology, Indena is able to focus on compounds that are typically poorly absorbed and improve the bioabsorption, offering more effective active ingredients.”

Transparency, traceability, and sustainability are also key. “Recently,” shares de Rensis, “Indena has introduced DNA barcode testing on a number of its botanicals. This technology ensures seed-to-shelf traceability that many supplement companies are seeking. Indena also has an extensive sustainability program that stewards its botanical supply relationships and nature, ensuring that many of its botanicals will remain available in the future.”

Growing While Staying True

Much has changed since the company’s early days in the 1920s, but staying true to its roots has made the enduring difference.

“Today we manage, from our headquarters in Milan, four production sites around the world and five international subsidiaries, employing a total of over 900 people (most of them in the strategic fields of Innovation and Quality),” Indena CEO Daniele Giavini said in the press release. “We also own about 100 patent families and more than 1,000 scientific studies published with qualified research groups. Despite our deep Italian DNA, an international expansion has always characterized Indena, which today has grown and manages 90% of its business abroad including collaborations with several partners in very innovative fields.”

Speaking to the changes that have occurred in the industry over the decades, de Rensis tells us: “Indena’s success is closely related to its pharmaceutical heritage and its commitment to research, science, development and quality. It’s very difficult to have this focus and offer lower-priced, lower-quality ingredients. In the late 90s and 2000s, many botanicals were being introduced without an emphasis on quality and effectiveness. The lowest price was driving the purchase decision. Fortunately, in the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve witnessed more stringent regulations and enforcement and, as a result, company standards have become higher.

“Throughout all of this,” de Rensis continues, “Indena has remained committed to science and to manufacturing the highest-quality botanicals and the market has come back understanding how fundamental and important these attributes are.”

Reflecting on one of the most impactful changes to occur in the company’s long history, de Rensis points to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), noting that passage of the bill was fundamental to the success of Indena in the United States. The reason: “This allowed companies like Indena to enter the U.S. market with relatively open regulations.”

Spreading the #ScienceIsOurNature Message

From science to communication, from training talented young people to a strengthened commitment to the environment, Indena has a variety of initiatives this year, which opened with the launch of a new corporate narrative designed to highlight and embody a new identity and image that are bright and forward-looking. As the company explained in a press release: It is important to communicate, nowadays, the history and the life of an industry of nature, especially one as long-lived and complex as that of Indena.

Several highlights:

  • The “Phytocast” podcast, an audio journey that traces the company’s history in 12 monthly installments that each have a single theme.
  • The launch of the redesigned website, which will provide an up-to-date and complete showcase of the company’s projects for the next decade. According to the release, the new site illustrates the company’s knowledge system, products, services and innovation, exploring how the relationship between technology, science, and nature in Indena is deep-seated and full of resources.
  • Video productions designed to narrate the universe of science and data in a direct and immediate way, providing information and content for those who want to understand how medicinal plants can help with health and wellbeing.
  • A book will be published on the milestones of Indena’s success story, such as quality, research and sustainability, told through augmented reality contributions.
  • The award of a two-year doctorate named after Colonel Biagio Alberto Della Beffa, Co-founder of the company. As the release explains, the scholarship will be presented in 2021 to a number of young researchers during the International Summer School on Natural Products (ISSNP).
  • Indena also is planning to organize a congress retracing 100 years of quality and innovation in botanical extracts. According to the release, internationally renowned scientists and researchers who have worked with the company and contributed to its scientific breakthroughs will be invited to bring their prestige to the event. Also part of this event: the publication of the first volume of a series dedicated to medicinal plants currently of particular interest for human wellbeing and health.
  • As part of the company’s commitment to sustainability and biodiversity, a “green terrace” will be created over the Indena building in Milan, providing a habitat for a variety of plant species selected by experts on the basis of their biodiversity and sustainability to the local setting.

Navigating a Pandemic

Indena is marking this milestone as the world is still dealing with COVID-19. Indena’s Milan office was in an early hot zone, when so little was known about the novel coronavirus. De Rensis shares what it was like: “The impact of COVID-19 in Italy has been significant. Since Indena’s ingredients qualify as essential, Indena employees have continued to work in its factories, offices, or in virtual working to ensure the production of our botanical ingredients and all the relevant operations. Indena adheres to a set of stringent safety and quality standards to keep our employees safe.

“In Italy, Indena has donated its soothing cream to healthcare professionals of the Vizzolo Predabissi hospital for help with mask-related face stigma, health centers to the Italian Red Cross and economically sustained the ‘Fondazione Buzzi’ for the setting up of some places of intensive care in the Buzzi Hospital. In France, Indena has converted part of its production facility to produce hand sanitizer for local hospitals, and in India, Indena has donated free meals to people in need.”

And while COVID-19 brought massive challenges, it also led to growth. “With over 100 years in the botanical industry, Indena has established supplier relationships going back decades,” de Rensis notes. “These relationships proved critical as supply has been significant for particular botanicals—especially those focused on immune health. The experience has strengthened these relationships through increased communication and coordination.”

A key to the success of any business is the team that works there, and trust and teamwork remain especially key during the pandemic. “Indena ensured a high level of safety for all those employees whose physical presence was essential,” de Rensis says. “On the other side, Indena has organized smartworking for the rest of the company population in a perfect way at the technological level in order to guarantee efficiency and continuity of the work activities ensuring the production of botanicals for people’s health.”

Celebrating—and Being Celebrated

How is Indena marking its milestone year? “For 2021, Indena will be celebrating its 100-year anniversary and has a number of activities to celebrate this milestone and its next nature: a new brand identity, a new website, advertising campaigns, a Phytocast Podcast series highlighting key achievements in Indena’s history a research award program and many other tools and events,” de Rensis shares. “Moreover Indena will renew its support to scientific trainings and academic courses for young talents and will strengthen its commitment in sustainability. Also Indena will continue to support its leading Meriva Curcumin Phytosome ingredient and Quercefit Quercetin Phytosome for immune health along with the wide range of its other products.

Indena is also being honored by others. In March, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) granted Indena its Centennial Award, a special recognition for companies celebrating 100 years in the botanical derivatives industry. Speaking on behalf of Indena S.p.A, CEO Daniele Giavini expressed gratitude for the award: “This award confirms the importance of our ongoing commitment to high quality and our extremely innovative approach, as we continue to invest in product research, new processes and technologies, with a focus on sustainability. This award stimulates us to go forward into our next century with the same vision and enthusiasm, developing products that are increasingly complying to the health needs of the community, with care and respect of the environment.”

Looking to the Future

On the horizon for the next five to 10 years, de Rensis says, Indena will continue to pioneer new botanical categories that will include both hemp and nonhemp-derived ingredients as well as continue to invest in research and innovation for its botanicals. Beyond that, de Rensis adds, Indena will continue to invest in science as well as sustainability programs that have been a founding value of the company since its founding. The company will also help its partners meet consumer demand for emerging and growing trends. “Some of the trends Indena is focused on include sustainability, botanical identification through DNA analysis, and personalization,” says de Rensis. “Indena has formed partnerships with leading companies in these areas in an effort to stay ahead of the curve in meeting consumer demands, sharing competence in technology and always new human studies.” The goal, as always: “offer outstanding products supporting healthy lifestyles.” WF