NMSU: National Market Analysis for Southwestern Herbs
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National Market Analysis for Southwestern Herbs


Research Report 704
Constance L. Falk, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business
Shaun Meeks, Research Assistant, Department of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business
Tomás Enos, Director, Southwest Learning Foundation
College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences New Mexico State University


Table of Contents

Introduction
Objectives
Procedures
Results and Discussion
Herb Buyers
Herbal Products and Herbs
Summary and Conclusions
References
Appendix A. Questionnaire
Appendix B. Herb Descriptions


Introduction

Herbs have a long tradition in New Mexico as both medicinal and food crops. The contributions of Native Americans, Hispanics, and Anglos to the biological diversity and use of herbs within the state have resulted in a strong herbal tradition. Many of the herbs used in Mexican and Mediterranean cuisine can be cultivated in New Mexico and are in demand. Because of traditions, climate, and resources, areas in New Mexico are well suited to produce herbs for existing markets.

The retail value of herbs sold as teas, dietary supplements, and traditional medicines doubled from 1981 to 1991, reaching $1.3 billion. Annual herb and spice consumption in the U.S. exceeded $10 billion and plantderived drugs were valued at $2 billion in retail sales in the early 1990s (McCaleb, 1992). However, most herbs are imported from foreign countries (Miller, 1985).

Wild harvesting of herbs such as anemone tuberosa (pulsatilla) has depleted natural stocks, while harvesting other herbs such as mentha arvensis (poleo minto) could lead to serious depletion in New Mexico. Herb cultivation could take pressure off these and other wild resources and provide income and employment opportunities for limited-resource farmers in the state.

The success of marketing efforts by the New Mexico chile industry serves as an example to other potential high-value crops. There is a need to organize, develop, and market high-value herbs as well. Herb production in New Mexico makes sense because of the high value of herbs, the potential for intensive herb production on small acreage, and the adaptability of herbs to the state’s climate and scarce water resources. Existing agricultural land can be converted to herb production without major capital expense.

Interest in herb production in New Mexico has accelerated as a result of efforts by several organizations in the state. Herbs, etc., located in Santa Fe, actively seeks certified organic growers in New Mexico to grow particular herbs for their expanding herb business. Seeds of Change, located in Gila, NM, have grown and marketed non-hybridized seeds of many useful herbs and other crops. The Southwest Learning Foundation (SLF) in Silver City supports herb growers through annual seminars, a newsletter, and other educational activities.

The SLF obtained funds from the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, under the New Mexico Specialty Crops Act, to conduct this national market survey of companies that would buy herbs and herbal products from New Mexico. This survey was a joint project between the SLF and NMSU’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business, and is a first step in a larger agronomic and economic research effort focusing on marketing herbs and valued-added herbal products. This survey was an initial effort to understand the market for commercial herbs and herbal products.

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Objectives

The objectives of this survey were to:

  1. Identify Southwestern herbs most in demand among herb product buyers.
  2. Provide preliminary measures of quantities purchased and prices paid.
  3. Identify herbal product categories most frequently bought and sold by herb buyers.
  4. Classify and describe herb buyers surveyed with respect to business size, category of business, and herbs and herb product preferences.
  5. Produce a refined mailing list of herb buyers.

The results of work to accomplish objectives 1–4 are reported here.

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Procedures

A questionnaire was mailed to herb businesses whose addresses were purchased from New Hope Communications in Boulder, CO. The purchased-name list was supplemented with names obtained from the International Herb Growers and Marketers Association, Herb Market Review, and Miller’s The Potential of Herbs as a Cash Crop. The questionnaire (Appendix A) was sent to 655 business. Each business received a letter of introduction, the questionnaire, and a preprinted postage-paid return envelope. After one month, a reminder card was sent to all businesses that had not yet responded.

To estimate herbs and herbal products most in demand, the SLC developed a list of herbs that could be grown easily in New Mexico. The list was included in the questionnaire. Descriptions of the herbs on the list are in Appendix B.

On the first page of the questionnaire, respondents were asked if they purchased herbs from domestic suppliers, and if so, to indicate the type of supplier. Businesses were also asked to indicate the products they purchase and market from a list of herbal product categories. Additional blanks were provided to identify unique herb and herb product categories.

Respondents were asked to rank a list of factors that influence their purchase decision. They were also asked if they were generally interested in buying herbs from additional domestic suppliers and if they would like more information on Southwestern herbs. Herb companies were asked to classify their size and type of business.

On the second page of the questionnaire, respondents were asked to indicate the herbs they currently purchase, to estimate annual quantities purchased and prices paid per unit, and to indicate their interest in locating more domestic suppliers for each herb listed.

Frequency and cross tabulations were obtained using SAS©. Business size categories were compared to herbs and herb products purchased, and business functions and categories. Business functions were compared to products purchased and marketed.

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Results and Discussion

The questionnaire was conducted in the fall of 1993. Over a two-month period, 98 questionnaires were returned. The overall response rate was 15%.

Respondents indicated they obtain herbs from U.S. suppliers (93.3%), although many could also be importing. The most common type of supplier used by respondents was specialty herb wholesalers, followed by growers and brokers. Only 2.2% of all respondents bought herbs from restaurant suppliers. Other types of suppliers indicated were herb distributors, herb cooperatives, local wild crafters/growers, natural food wholesalers, pharmacies, herbal consultants, and general wholesalers.

A large majority of respondents indicated they would be interested in buying herbs from additional domestic suppliers (82.5%). In addition, most respondents indicated they would like more information about Southwestern herbs (84.4%).

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Herb Buyers

Many respondents indicated their business performed multiple functions (table 1). Almost 80 of the respondents indicated they are involved in retail (almost 80%). The next most common business functions were wholesaler (20%), grower (15%), and cooperative (12%). The least common business functions indicated by respondents (less than 10%) were food manufacturing, import, non-food manufacturing, brokerage, export, and other, consisting of pharmacies, consulting, herb product manufacturing, mail order, specialty nurseries, distribution, and supermarket chains.

Table 1. Survey respondent profile.

Business Function % of Respondents* # of Respondents
Retailer 78.57 77
Wholesaler 20.41 20
Grower 15.31 15
Food manufacturer 8.16 8
Importer 7.14 7
Non-food manufacturer 6.12 6
Broker 4.08 4
Exporter 5.1 5
Other
  - Cooperative
  - Pharmacy
  - Consultant/advisor
  - Herb product manufacturer
  - Mail order
  - Specialty garden nursery
  - Distributor
  - Supermarket chain
22.45
12.24
2.04
2.04
2.04
1.02
1.02
1.02
1.02
22
12
2
2
2
1
1
1
1
*Percentages do not add to 100 because respondents could select multiple
business functions.

Respondents were grouped by size (gross annual sales) and business function (table 2). For example, 25.27% of all respondents indicated they perform retail functions and had annual sales less than $100,000. The majority of retailers were medium-sized businesses, but large and small retailers were also represented. Growers were mostly small businesses and a few were large businesses. There were no medium-sized growers in the sample (when medium-sized is defined as having gross annual sales between $100,000 and $1 million). Wholesalers consisted mostly of small and large businesses.

Table 2. Survey respondents by business function and size.

  ------- Annual total gross sales ------- % of total
respondents
Below
$100,000
$100,001 to
$1,000,000
$1,000,001+
  ---- Percentage of all respondents* ----  
Broker 0 0 2.2 2.2
Grower 9.89 0 5.49 15.38
Food manufacturer 4.4 1.1 1.1 6.6
Retailer 25.27 35.16 17.6 78.03
Importer 1.1 0 5.49 6.59
Non-food manufacturer 3.3 0 1.1 4.4
Wholesaler 6.59 4.4 7.69 18.68
Exporter 0 0 3.3 3.3
Other 7.69 7.69 5.49 20.87
* Percentages do not sum to 100 because respondents could indicate more than one business function.

Respondents were also grouped into categories of combined functions. For example, all respondents who indicated they were involved in growing (and any other function) were placed in a category (GWMRIE), as were all respondents who are in retail (R) and nothing else. All manufacturers who were not growers (M(F/NF)WRE) were grouped, as were all wholesalers who were neither manufacturers or growers (WREIB). Cooperatives (CR) were also grouped (formerly part of “other”).

The new combined business categories were grouped by business size (table 3). All respondents who indicated they were growers also perform other functions, as the percentage in each size category in tables 2 and 3 are identical. Retailers still dominated the sample, even when businesses solely engaged in retail were segregated.

Table 3. Business category by business size.

  Below
$100,000
$100,001 –
$1,000,000
$1,000,001+ Total
  ----- Percentage of all respondents -----  
WREIB (N=8) 1.1 4.4 3.3 8.8
R (N=50) 13.19 26.37 15.38 54.94
M(F/NF)WRE (N=3) 1.1 1.1 1.1 3.3
GWMRIE (N=14) 9.89 0 5.49 15.38
CR (N=13) 6.59 5.49 2.2 14.29
Total (N=91) 31.87 37.36 27.47 96.71
→WREIB: Wholesalers, who are also retailers, exporters, importers, and brokers, but not manufacturers or growers.
→R: Retailers only.
→M(F/NF)WRE: Manufacturers (food and non-food), who are also wholesalers, retailers, exporters, but not growers.
→GWMRIE: Growers, who are also wholesalers, manufacturers, retailers, importers, and exporters.
→CR: Cooperatives

The factors considered the most influential in the purchase of herbs were quality, price, and ease of availability, in that order (table 4). When respondents placed check marks (instead of numerical ranks) for various factors on the questionnaire, the factors were assigned equal ranks (#1 if no higher rank was given to any other factor). Quality was ranked #1 by more respondents (78%) than any other factor. Supplier service was ranked higher than quantity by more respondents. Product brand was not ranked very high by many respondents and almost half of them left it unranked. A few suppliers indicated that organic certification was the most important factor, and 10% of respondents ranked organic certification as one of the top three factors, even though organic certification was not provided on the questionnaire.

Table 4. Factors influencing selection of herb suppliers.

Factor --------- Importance ranking --------- No
response
1
Most
2 3 4 5 6 7
Least
  --- Percentage of respondents who ranked each factor ---
Quality 78 10 2.2 1.1 1.1 0 0 7.8
Price 22 36.7 17.8 8.9 1.1 2.2 0 11.1
Ease of availability 21 8.9 28.9 15.6 5.6 3.3 0 16.6
Supplier service 13 10 14.4 30 8.9 1.1 0 22.3
Quantity 7.8 3.3 7.8 8.9 18.9 17.8 3 32.2
Product brand 2.2 5.6 2.2 0 16.7 20 4 48.9
Other:
   -Organic certified
   -Dependable
   -Imported herbs
   -From small business
   -Variety
12
6.6
0
1.1
0
0
3.3
3.3
0
0
0
0
2.2
1.1
1.1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
3.3
0
1.1
0
1.1
1.1
1.1
2.2
1.1
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
0
76.8
86.8
96.7
98.9
98.9
98.9

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Herbal Products and Herbs

Respondent interest in purchasing herbal products was examined by business size (table 5). Fresh culinary herbs, the least processed form, were the least frequently purchased herb product category for all respondents. Teas and dried culinary herbs were the items most frequently purchased by all respondents, and favored by more than 90% of medium- and large-sized businesses. Respondents of all sizes indicated they purchase beauty products and bath bags, oils, and perfumes in roughly similar proportions, indicating small niche markets and larger mass markets exist for these value-added herb products. Teas, medicinal care products, and tinctures were less likely to be purchased by small businesses than by medium- or large-sized businesses.

Table 5. Herbal product purchases by business size.

Herb Products -- Business size (gross sales in $) -- Don’t buy
these products
Less than
$100,000
(n=30)
$100,001 to
1,000,000
(n=35)
$1,000,001+
(n=26)
  ----- % of each size category ----- % of all
respondents
(n=91)
Teas 67 97 92 14
Beauty products 67 71 77 29
Medicinal care products 60 86 81 24
Tinctures 47 80 73 33
Bath bags, oils, perfumes 67 71 69 31
Fresh culinary 37 43 58 55
Dried culinary 73 91 92 14

Herbal products purchased (table 6) and marketed (table 7) were organized according to combined business categories. These two tables present the percentage in each business category that purchase or market particular products. For example, 33% of growers (GWMRIE) indicated they purchased fresh culinary herbs (table 6), while 60% indicated they marketed fresh culinary herbs (table 7). The rest presumably grew their fresh herbs in order to market them. A higher percentage of cooperatives purchased and marketed teas, medicinal care products, tinctures, beauty, and bath products than any other business category.

Table 6. Herbal products purchased by business category.

  WREIB
(N=9)
R
(N=53)
M(F/NF)WRE
(N=5)
GWMRIE
(N=15)
CR
(N=13)
----- Percentage of each category that purchases -----
Teas 67 90 60 60 100
Beauty 55 77 20 53 85
Medicinal care 78 87 20 33 92
Tinctures 67 72 20 33 92
Bath bags, oils, perfumes 44 72 60 53 92
Fresh culinary 22 47 20 33 69
Dried culinary 78 92 80 67 92
→WREIB: Wholesalers, who are also retailers, exporters, importers, and brokers, but not manufacturers or growers.
→R: Retailers only.
→M(F/NF)WRE: Manufacturers (food and non-food), who are also wholesalers, retailers, exporters, but not growers.
→GWMRIE: Growers, who are also wholesalers, manufacturers, retailers, importers, and exporters.
→CR: Cooperatives

Table 7. Herb products marketed by business category.

  WREIB
(N=9)
R
(N=53)
M(F/NF)WRE
(N=5)
GWMRIE
(N=15)
CR
(N=13)
----- Percentage of each category that purchases -----
Teas 78 83 60 80 92
Beauty 56 75 20 53 77
Medicinal care 67 83 40 60 92
Tinctures 67 72 40 53 85
Bath bags, oils, perfumes 56 68 60 67 92
Fresh culinary 22 55 20 60 77
Dried culinary 67 75 60 87 77
Food products 0 13 20 20 8
→WREIB: Wholesalers, who are also retailers, exporters, importers, and brokers, but not manufacturers or growers.
→R: Retailers only.
→M(F/NF)WRE: Manufacturers (food and non-food), who are also wholesalers, retailers, exporters, but not growers.
→GWMRIE: Growers, who are also wholesalers, manufacturers, retailers, importers, and exporters.
→CR: Cooperatives

Half of the respondents indicated they purchase sage, oregano, thyme, echinacea, spearmint, raspberry leaves, nettles, alfalfa, catnip, anise seed, and valerian. No particular herb was favored significantly by any one size category (table 8). An interesting result is that the largest of companies reported purchasing some of the more obscure herbs (i.e. mullein, yucca root); they are not solely the province of small businesses.

Table 8. Herb purchases by business size.

Herb ---- Annual total gross company sales ---- Don’t buy
Less than
$100,000
(n=30)
$100,001 to
1,000,000
(n=35)
$1,000,001+
(n=26)
  --------- % of each category --------- % of all
respondents
(n=91)
Sage 63 66 73 33
Oregano 60 66 73 34
Thyme 57 66 77 34
Echinacea 57 60 77 36
Spearmint 60 63 65 37
Raspberry leaves 50 63 69 40
Nettles 43 63 73 41
Alfalfa 57 46 73 43
Catnip 40 63 73 42
Anise seed 40 60 62 46
Valerian 50 51 54 48
Capsicum 40 51 54 52
Gingko 40 51 50 53
Mullein 27 60 58 52
Calendula 27 43 54 59
Lemon balm 33 40 46 60
Wild cherry 20 40 42 66
Chaparral 30 31 23 71
Strawberry leaves 17 34 35 71
Vervain 13 31 38 73
Yucca root 23 23 38 73
Yerba santa 7 31 42 74
Chaste tree 20 31 19 76
Osha 17 34 23 75
Red root 3 23 15 86
Yerba mansa 3 17 12 89
Poppy 0 14 23 88
Globemallow 3 11 8 92
Fleabane 3 9 8 93
Ocotillo 3 9 4 95
Mesquite 7 6 0 96

Wholesalers (WREIB) indicated purchasing a large variety of herbs including the more obscure yerba mansa (44%), red root (44%), yerba santa (55%), yucca root (55%), and valerian root (66%) (table 9). Retailers (R) did not indicate much experience purchasing fleabane (2%), mesquite (2%), ocotillo (0%), osha (4%), globemallow (2%).

Table 9. Herbs purchased by business category.

Herb WREIB*
(N=9)
R
(N=53)
M(F/NF)WRE
(N=5)
GWMRIE
(N=15)
CR
(N=13)
  -------- Percentage of each category who purchase ------
Alfalfa 33 64 40 60 46
Anise seed 77 60 60 26 54
Calendula 66 42 60 46 38
Capsicum 55 51 20 46 53
Catnip 66 60 40 46 54
Chaparral 44 28 20 40 15
Chaste tree 44 21 20 33 23
Echinacea 77 64 40 60 60
Fleabane 22 2 0 13 8
Gingko 55 49 40 46 46
Globemallow 33 2 0 13 8
Lemon balm 66 34 60 40 38
Mesquite 20 2 0 6 0
Mullein 66 55 20 20 38
Nettles 77 62 0 40 60
Ocotillo 33 0 40 13 0
Oregano 88 66 80 53 62
Osha 55 4 20 20 23
Poppy 33 9 0 13 8
Raspberry leaves 88 62 40 40 60
Red root 44 15 20 6 0
Sage 88 70 60 46 60
Spearmint 77 64 40 46 60
Strawberry leaves 55 26 20 26 23
Thyme 88 70 60 46 60
Vervain 44 25 20 33 23
Valerian root 66 55 20 46 46
Wild cherry 66 38 40 26 15
Yerba mansa 44 8 20 6 15
Yerba santa 55 28 20 20 15
Yucca root 55 25 20 26 15
→WREIB: Wholesalers, who are also retailers, exporters, importers, and brokers, but not manufacturers or growers.
→R: Retailers only.
→M(F/NF)WRE: Manufacturers (food and non-food), who are also wholesalers, retailers, exporters, but not growers.
→GWMRIE: Growers, who are also wholesalers, manufacturers, retailers, importers, and exporters.
→CR: Cooperatives

Some respondents failed to indicate units of the quantities purchased and prices paid, so their responses were omitted from the quantities and prices reported here (tables 10-11). Larger mean annual quantities of echinacea were purchased than for all other herbs (3,439 lb) (table 10), and its per-pound maximum and average prices were among the highest ($34.92 and $22.67, respectively) (table 11). Relatively high average quantities purchased of yucca root (504 lb), nettles (373 lb), mullein (358 lb), raspberry leaves (476 lb), and chaparral (293 lb) were reported (table 10).

Table 10. Annual quantities of herbs purchased by survey respondents who indicated units.

Herb N Mean Std. dev. Minimum Maximum
    ------------------ Pounds -----------------
Alfalfa 8 815 2297 1 6500
Anise seed 21 33 108 1 500
Calendula 15 28 54 1 200
Capsicum 12 431 1439 2 5000
Catnip 23 236 731 1 3000
Chaparral 7 293 753 1 2000
Chaste tree 6 170 407 1 1000
Echinacea 19 3439 12694 1 55000
Epanzote 1 20   20 20
Gingko 11 185 602 1 2000
Golden seal 1 3   3 3
Globemallow 1 10   10 10
Lemon balm 10 7 9 1 25
Mullein 15 358 1367 1 5300
Nettles 19 373 1210 1 5000
Ocotillo 1 2   2 2
Oregano 22 73 210 2 1000
Osha 6 38 49 1 100
Poppy 1 100 100 100 100
Raspberry leaves 21 476 1920 1 8800
Red root 3 2 2 1 5
Sage 23 55 206 1 1000
Spearmint 21 62 216 1 1000
Strawberry leaves 8 33 88 1 250
Thyme 22 61 211 1 1000
Vervain 7 75 188 1 500
Valerian root 15 144 514 1 2000
Wild cherry 11 4 3 1 10
Yerba mansa 3 9 10 2 20
Yerba santa 7 77 187 1 500
Yucca root 4 504 998 4 2000

Table 11. Prices of herbs purchased by respondents who indicated units.

Herb N Mean Std. dev. Minimum Maximum
    ------------------ ($/lb) -----------------
Alfalfa 7 4.15 0.69 3.60 5.50
Anise seed 10 4.49 4.93 1.50 18.40
Calendula 6 7.93 7.60 2.00 20.00
Capsicum 5 3.08 1.06 1.25 3.95
Catnip 11 6.95 4.85 1.25 19.60
Chaparral 4 4.90 3.75 1.00 10.00
Chaste tree 3 6.57 5.01 1.00 10.70
Echinacea 9 22.67 11.27 3.43 34.92
Gingko 5 15.26 13.76 1.25 38.00
Golden seal 1 61.50   61.5 61.50
Globemallow 1 5.00   5.00 5.00
Lemon balm 4 8.71 4.29 4.85 14.75
Mullein 7 5.62 2.15 1.84 8.00
Nettles 9 5.52 4.12 1.25 13.25
Ocotillo 1 20.00   20.00 20.00
Oregano 10 6.59 6.88 2.00 25.00
Osha 2 14.50 0.71 14.00 15.00
Poppy 1 2.70   2.70 2.70
Raspberry leaves 12 6.25 3.32 2.00 11.00
Red root 1 11.30   11.30 11.30
Sage 11 6.11 2.61 2.00 10.00
Spearmint 11 4.25 2.52 1.50 9.50
Strawberry leaves 4 4.66 2.27 1.75 7.25
Thyme 11 6.10 6.08 2.20 20.00
Vervain 5 5.26 2.27 1.75 7.50
Valerian root 6 7.73 4.56 2.50 14.50
Wild cherry 4 4.08 0.85 2.80 4.52
Yerba mansa 2 10.00 5.66 6.00 14.00
Yerba santa 3 5.33 3.06 2.00 8.00
Yucca root 3 6.35 4.06 2.00 10.05

High standard deviations in prices for some of the herbs could be due to variations in marketing channels. In addition, although the questionnaire requested prices for herbs, which are most usually marketed in dried form, some respondents could have indicated prices of herbs in other stages of processing.

For 24 of the 31 herbs listed, at least 25% of respondents indicated they seek suppliers (table 12). More than 50% of respondents indicated the need for suppliers for eight of the herbs. Some respondents do not purchase certain herbs, but indicated they would if suppliers could be located. For example, only 4% indicated they buy mesquite leaves (table 8), but 16% indicated interest in locating suppliers (table 12).

Table 12. Respondents who indicated interest in additional suppliers.

Herb --- Freq .--- --- % ---
Sage 56 57.14
Oregano 55 56.12
Thyme 52 53.06
Echinacea 54 55.1
Spearmint 49 50.0
Raspberry leaves 51 52.04
Nettles 48 48.98
Alfalfa 51 52.04
Catnip 52 53.06
Anise seed 46 46.94
Valerian 45 45.92
Capsicum 34 34.69
Gingko 44 44.9
Mullein 41 41.84
Calendula 41 41.84
Lemon balm 37 37.76
Wild cherry 34 34.69
Chaparral 36 36.73
Strawberry leaves 29 29.59
Vervain 32 32.65
Yucca root 29 29.59
Yerba santa 38 39.34
Chaste tree 25 25.51
Osha 36 36.73
Red root 20 20.41
Yerba mansa 19 19.39
Poppy 16 16.33
Globemallow 19 19.39
Fleabane 16 16.33
Ocotillo 13 13.27
Mesquite 16 16.33

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Summary and Conclusions

A questionnaire was mailed to 655 buyers of herbs and herbal products to identify Southwestern herbs of most commercial interest, in what forms, and to whom. Fifteen percent of the companies questionnaired had enough interest to respond to the questionnaire; of the respondents, 82.5% indicated they were interested in buying herbs from domestic suppliers, and 84.4% indicated specific interest in Southwestern herbs.

The majority of 98 questionnaire respondents indicated they were involved in retail and purchased all herb product types, but in particular favored dried culinary herbs, medicinal care products, teas, bath products, and tinctures. Twelve percent of the respondents were cooperatives, 15% were involved in growing herbs. Almost a third of the respondents had annual gross sales less than $100,000; more than one-fourth had annual gross sales exceeding $1 million. Large and small respondents indicated strong interest in all herbal product categories, although fresh culinary herbs were of the least interest by business size and by business category.

Recommended marketing strategies flowing from this research include concentrating on high quality and service while maintaining price competitiveness. It seems the ability to obtain large quantities is not as high a priority for herb buyers as quality, service, price, and availability. “Branding” may not be advisable, as it is costly and was considered relatively unimportant by respondents. Perhaps this is also an indication of the relative youthfulness of the herb market.

Herbs with the potential to generate the most revenue based on the largest number of buyers and the highest average prices reported were echinacea, raspberry leaves, valerian, yucca root, and nettles. The next best herbs to market, due to the large number of buyers and relatively high prices per unit, were alfalfa, catnip, gingko, and mullein. Although large numbers of respondents indicated they buy the culinary herbs on the list—oregano, thyme, spearmint, and capsicum—markets for these may be more competitive as they are more well developed.

Only 4–14% of respondents indicated they buy red root, yerba mansa, poppy, globemallow, fleabane, and mesquite leaves; yet 16–20% of respondents indicated they are seeking additional suppliers for these herbs. Thus, market opportunities may exist for some of the more obscure herbs with suppliers that are difficult to locate. Large companies as well as small companies indicated they buy some of the less-well-known herbs.

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References

Herb Market Review. American Herbal Products Association, Austin, TX.

McCaleb, R. 1993. Quoted in “WHO Symposium: Utilization of Medicinal Plants” by S. Foster. The Business of Herbs, Vol. XI, No. 3, Northwind Farm Publications.

Miller, R. A. 1985. The Potential of Herbs as a Cash Crop, Kansas City, MO: Acres USA Publishing.

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Appendix A: Questionnaire

Southwestern Herb Survey

  1. Do you or your company currently buy herbs from U. S. suppliers?
    [ ] Yes If yes, what type of supplier?
       [ ] Specialty herb wholesaler
       [ ] Grower
       [ ] Restaurant supplier
       [ ] Broker
       [ ] Other (please specify type) ___________
    [ ] No  
  2. Which of the following products do you currently purchase?
    [ ] teas [ ] bath bags, oils, perfumes
    [ ] beauty products [ ] fresh culinary herbs
    [ ] medicinal care products [ ] dried culinary herbs
    [ ] tinctures [ ] other ___________
  3. Which of the following products do you currently market?
    [ ] teas [ ] bath bags, oils, perfumes
    [ ] beauty products [ ] food products containing herbs
    [ ] medicinal care products [ ] fresh culinary herbs
    [ ] tinctures [ ] dried culinary herbs
    [ ] other ___________
  4. What factors influence your usual purchase of herbs and herbal products? Put a number in each box–starting with 1 as the most important.
    [ ] quality [ ] quantity
    [ ] product brand [ ] ease ofavailability
    [ ] price [ ] supplier service
    [ ] other ___________
  5. Would you be interested in buying herbs from additional domestic suppliers?
    [ ] Yes
    [ ] No
  6. Would you like more information about Southwestern herbs and our commitment to their uses?
    [ ] Yes
    [ ] No
  7. What are your annual gross sales?
    [ ] below $50,000 [ ] $500,001 – $1,000,000
    [ ] $50,001 – $100,000 [ ] $1,000,001 – $10,000,000
    [ ] $100,001 – $500,000 [ ] $10,000,001 and above
  8. How would you classify your company? Check all that apply.
    [ ] broker [ ] importer
    [ ] grower retail [ ] exporter
    [ ] wholesaler [ ] food manufacturer
    [ ] grower [ ] non-food manufacturer
    [ ] other ___________
  9. Please examine the following list of herbs. Check the herbs your organization purchases. Then, indicate annual quantities currently purchased and the unit price paid. Please indicate units. (i.e. lbs, oz, g, kg etc.). Then, circle Y if you would use a supplier in addition to, or in place of, your current supplier. Circle N if you do not feel you will need an additional herb supplier.
    Herb Annual Quantity Unit Price Paid More Suppliers
    [ ] alfalfa     Y N
    [ ] anise seed     Y N
    [ ] canadian fleabane     Y N
    [ ] calendula flowers     Y N
    [ ] chaparral     Y N
    [ ] capsicum     Y N
    [ ] california poppy     Y N
    [ ] catnip     Y N
    [ ] chaste tree berries     Y N
    [ ] echinacea     Y N
    [ ] lemon balm     Y N
    [ ] gingko     Y N
    [ ] nettles     Y N
    [ ] mesquite leaves     Y N
    [ ] osha     Y N
    [ ] mullein flowers     Y N
    [ ] red root     Y N
    [ ] strawberry leaves     Y N
    [ ] raspberry leaves     Y N
    [ ] spearmint     Y N
    [ ] wild cherry bark     Y N
    [ ] ocotillo bark     Y N
    [ ] sage     Y N
    [ ] thyme     Y N
    [ ] oregano     Y N
    [ ] scarlet globemallow     Y N
    [ ] yerba mansa     Y N
    [ ] yerba santa     Y N
    [ ] yucca root     Y N
    [ ] valerian root     Y N
    [ ] vervain     Y N
    [ ] other ___________     Y N
    Comments: _______________________________________________________

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Appendix B: Herb Descriptions*

Alfalfa. The leaf of this common field crop has minerals and folic acid useful for conditions of debility and depletion. Alfalfa is found in formulas to increase overall health.

Anise seed. Used primarily as a carminative, anise seed assists digestion and relieves upset stomach. It is also used widely as a flavoring agent in baked products.

Calendula flowers. Most commonly used in skin cosmetic products, calendula flowers work to soften the skin and rejuvenate damaged tissue from overexposure to sunlight. Calendula is also found in hair care products, and grows well in sunny climates.

California poppy. The aboveground plant has a history of use in hair tonics for general health, and it also has qualities of a nervine.

Canadian fleabane. An infusion of this plant is used for treatment of diarrhea, profuse sweating, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Capsicum. The variety known as cayenne pepper is used to increase blood circulation to the body’s periphery and strengthen the heart.

Catnip. A European transplant, catnip is used for cat products as well as a mild stomach sedative for children in cases of colic. A member of the mint family, catnip is also grown with a lemon flavor and anise flavor for teas.

Chaparral. One of the most widely use herbs for topical and internal disorders, chaparral is antifungal, antibacterial, and tonic to the liver and kidneys. It also protects the skin from infection and sunburn.

Chaste tree berries. Found commonly in Chinese medicine and grown in Europe as well, vitex agnus castis, or chaste tree, has a profound effect on estrogen levels in women and helps in regulating hormonal changes. It has also been used for treating breast cysts due to congestion.

Echinacea. Used as an antiviral for centuries by Plains Indians of North America, echinacea root is perhaps the medicinal herb in highest demand in the market today. Used in cold and flu formulas, echinacea has been tested in Germany for its effects as an antibacterial/antiviral herb. The leaves and flowers are also used in cosmetics.

Gingko. Extensive press coverage in recent years has reported that gingko leaves have had a positive effect on Alzheimer’s patients by increasing blood circulation, particularly to the brain and head. Although grown in California, organically grown gingko in New Mexico could have promise as a medicinal and a shade tree.

Lemon balm. Used in many herbal teas, organic lemon balm has a calming effect on the nerves and is used as an aromatic to relieve nasal congestion. Lemon balm is also found in herbal cosmetics.

Mesquite leaves. Primary use is for eye infections applied in an isotonic water base (salt and water) during the acute phase of the infection.

Mullein flowers. Mullein grows in the wild on disturbed soil, but has the promise of high yields on cultivated soil. The flowers are used in ear inflammation formulas, to decrease the discomfort from infection. The leaves are also very useful for lung disorders such as asthma.

Nettles. Leaves are used in nutritional tonics because of the high percentage of chlorophyll contained within them. They are also used in hair care products to strengthen hair and counteract dandruff.

Ocotillo bark. This herb has been used to stimulate lymph drainage in the pelvic area and to help make female menstrual cycles regular.

Oregano. Oregano is a culinary herb, but used medicinally for sore throats and colds. Osha. Perhaps the most widely used medicinal herb in the Southwest, osha is used for lung and throat infections, nasal congestion, and stomach ulcers. The root is part of the traditional medicine chest in New Mexico.

Raspberry leaves. The leaves of the raspberry plant are used for urinary tract disorders, as well as smoothing uterine contractions during childbirth.

Red root. Although not a well-known medicinal herb, red root stimulates the general immune system by activating the lymph system.

Sage. Sage is primarily a culinary herb in Italian and Mexican cuisine, although it has also been used to help open skin pores and induce sweating in cold conditions.

Scarlet globemallow. Primarily used in hair care products such as shampoo, scarlet globemallow helps to promote hair health and growth by revitalizing the scalp. The leaves are also soothing to the digestive tract and the urinary tract.

Spearmint. This herb assists digestion and can calm the nervous system. It is a common flavoring agent in many foods.

Strawberry leaves. Strawberry leaves are used as a tonic for the urinary tract and for the female reproductive system.

Thyme. Thyme is primarily a culinary herb, but also contains thymol, which stimulates the immune system and the body’s healing processes.

Valerian. Most commonly used as a nervine for insomnia and sleep disorders, valerian roots, leaves, and flowers are used in tinctures, teas, and capsules.

Vervain. A common European medicinal, vervain is a tonic to the liver and is useful for calming the nervous system to assist in sleep.

Wild cherry bark. Wild cherry bark is used primarily in sore throat remedies and lung infection formulas, particularly when the condition is of the dry type.

Yerba mansa. Legendary healer of both internal and external skin disorders, yerba mansa can be used interchangeably with golden seal, a popular and endangered plant.

Yerba santa. A highly resinous plant, yerba santa grows well in disturbed soil throughout the Southwest, and has a long history of use by native cultures as an expectorant in lung congestion. It also has antibacterial effects on urinary tract infections of a mild nature.

Yucca. A native of the southwestern U.S., yucca root has an extensive history of use in shampoos and soaps, and for internal applications for arthritis. It grows abundantly on open rangeland in southern New Mexico.

*Herb descriptions are from the following:

Hoffman, D. 1992. The New Holistic Herbal. New York: Element Books.

Mabey, R. 1990. The New Age Herbalist. New York: Collier Books.

Moore, M. 1981. Medicinal Plants of the Mountains West. Santa Fe, NM: Museum of New Mexico Press.

Moore, M. 1989. Medicinal Plants of the Deserts and Canyons West. Santa Fe, NM: Museum of New Mexico Press.

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Printed and electronically distributed January 1996, Las Cruces, NM.