Malaysia banks on palm oil vitamin E exports

Walk into any pharmacy and you will see shelves lined with bottles of fish oil and evening primrose oil soft gels.

These yellow-coloured fish oil and evening primrose soft gels are imported and fortified with oilseed vitamin E called tocopherols.

But consumers may be better off with palm oil extracts. These orange-hued palm oil extracts are made in Malaysia and contain vitamins A and E, squalene and coenzyme Q10 that help boost our immune system.

It is a little known fact but palm oil extracts, which contain tocotrienols, are far more potent than fish oil supplements that are only fortified with oilseed tocopherols.

Vitamin E is actually a family of tocopherols and tocotrienols.

Malaysians are more familiar with imported fish oil than palm oil extracts because scientific studies on tocopherols are far more established than those for tocotrienols.

"There are not that many nutraceutical and cosmeceutical studies on tocotrienols compared with tocopherols," Ipoh-based Hovid Group managing director David Ho said.

Currently, less than one per cent of published studies on vitamin E focus on tocotrienols. Tocopherols are sourced from oilseeds such as soya oil, canola and sunflower, while tocotrienols are only available in high concentration in palm oil and rice bran oil. Both of these are grown in tropical countries.

Over the last decade or so, studies have shown that palm oil vitamin E, particularly the tocotrienols, is a far more potent antioxidant than tocopherols.

Preliminary studies prove tocotrienols can heal body cells and trigger cancerous cells to commit suicide. It is these unique biological activities in tocotrienols that show a promising future in finding cures for stroke, heart diseases and cancer.

Malaysia does not sell that much palm nutraceuticals locally because the export market is far more lucrative. A kilogramme of palm oil vitamin E sells for US$600 (RM2,160). Touted as "edible gold" among industry circles, the tocotrienol health supplement is the highest valued product in the sprawling palm oil supply chain.

Ho said his company exported more palm oil vitamin E than it sold locally. "We sell to 20 countries under the brand name Tocovid. Last year, we earned RM10 million in exports."

Another reason for the lack of awareness of heart-healthy palm oil extracts in Malaysia is the minimal advertising budget. The handful of Malaysian companies producing palm nutraceuticals prefer to spend their money on research and development rather than on marketing and advertisements.

"We spend RM5 million on research and development annually. Our health supplements speak for themselves," Ho said.

Tocovid is sold at a premium over other palm oil vitamin E soft gels because its patented SupraBio formulation boosts by three times the absorption rate into the bloodstream. "You would usually need to take vitamin E after a heavy meal like Nasi Kandar. But with our Suprabio formulation you can take Tocovid first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. It is that convenient," he said.

7 Responses to Malaysia banks on palm oil vitamin E exports

  1. Palm oil outsider 3 April 2009 at 16:40

    The marketing and promotion strategy for Tocotrienol Vitamin E is multi prong:-
    1) It is 60 times more potent than Tocopherol-
    our public does not know that?
    2) Tocopherol Vitamin E are imported and are selling cheaper that Tocotrienol Vitamin E, thus the major market share is the imported one.
    3)Tocovid should therefore sell their products cheaper to gain public acceptance and awareness.

    By pricing their products so expensive, very few people will "touch" their Vitamin E.
    That in inself defeat the purpose and they are heading for marketing failure!! (despite what they claimed)

  2. Hello Palm oil Outsider,
    Are you in the same business as Hovid Group? Are you competing with this company?

  3. Palm oil outsider 18 May 2009 at 12:20

    Tuan Rahman, Sorry I don't compete with Hovid.
    You will be surprised that my comment is meant for correcting the wrong strategy of marketing used by Hovid. How can the normal Malaysians afford to buy their Vitamin E when I myself feels the "pinch" when compared to the much lower priced Vitamin E that are imported.
    Mind you Tuan, I am a millionaire class, I can well afford whatever prices they sell but I feel "NOT WORTHY"! understand?

  4. Tocovid health supplement is available at Caring Pharmacy in Bangsar Village. If it runs out of stock, you can call Eric See at (012)316-1068, he is the assistant sales manager of Hovid Pharmacy, he is very friendly and helpful.

  5. The ministry and MPOC should be more engaging with nutritionists and dietitians to inform the public on the health benefits of palm oil vitamin E.
    Why sell all the goodness to foreigners while locals are 'kept in the dark' about this edible gold.

  6. David Ho, Hovid Group 15 June 2009 at 13:28

    Hello Palm Oil Outsider,
    Thank you for your feedback and I shall respond to your queries.

    A1: Hovid is committed to organising health talks to share the latest information and research data with doctors, pharmacists, dietitians and nutritionists. Last year, we held a talk entitled “Re-Look at the roles of Vitamin E: Tocopherols and Tocotrienols” for doctors and cardiologists in Singapore. This year, MPOC had initiated the PINC 2009, of which Hovid/Carotech played a major role in highlighting the distinctive benfits of tocotrienols over tocopherols.

    A2: I agree that the local health supplement market is dominated by cheap imports of tocopherols. The fact is tocopherols are not able to lower bad cholesterols, induce cancer cells to commit suicide or even protect our brain from stroke.
    Hovid is just one company but MPOC represent the industry and is better-funded to effectively communicate these facts to the public. We hope with support from health journalists in newspapers and magazines, there would be more awareness. The public deserve the best and should be given the opportunity to make better-informed choices on their health.

    A3: If one were to lower the pricing of tocotrienols to match tocoperol-based health supplement, it would be like comparing apples to durians. Tocopherol-based health supplements, which are mostly extracted from petroleum in laboratories do not necessarily have positive impact on our health. Naturally-sourced tocopherols are a little more expensive than synthetically-produced tocopherols as one can only extract 100kg of tocopherols from one tonne of soy distillate.
    Tocotrienol-based health supplements, on the other hand, is all natural and can only be found in palm oil and rice bran. Realistically, one can only distill 800g of tocotrienols from one tonne of palm oil. The global scarcity of natural tocotrienols and its proven medical benefits necessitates the premium pricing over tocopherols.
    Another reason Tocovid soft gels are a little pricier than other tocotrienol-based health supplements is because its formulation guarantees maximum absorbtion into the bloodstream. Without this delivery system, oil-soluble tocotrienols will just pass out in our urine. People say 'we are what we eat' but the fact is, 'we are what our body cells absorb'.

  7. Palm oil outsider 30 June 2009 at 10:48

    Many Thanks David for your very enlightening reply.
    Please tell the public that Tocopherol as Vitamin E is useless and not worth to be consumed. Get MPOC and MPOB to strengthen your claims (or findings?) And Tocotrienol is the right stuff for the right price you are charging.
    If you can convince the public that what they pay is what they get, then you are doing justice
    to the goodness of Tocotrienol. Cheers.....

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