The Hoodia Marketing Wars


How marketing is spoiling Hoodia.

Let’s be frank. Much of the western World is getting fat – well, let’s be totally frank, obese!

Increasingly the only exercise we get is the walk from the armchair to the fridge, or the car to the office. We probably get a bit more when we’re out buying the food for the fridge – but then we’re so mesmerised by advertising, we buy more fatty unhealthy foods than were going to in the first place – so any benefit we gained by the exercise is gone…

Depressing? It may be, but it’s more and more a fact for many of us. About 1 in 3 people are classed as being obese. That means being 30 lbs over a healthy weight, which puts you at risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis and other diseases. About 112,000 deaths were blamed on obesity in the USA in 2000, the most recent year for which figures are available.

So when what promised to be a great treatment for one of the western world’s fastest growing disease turned up – Hoodia Gordonii – it was bound to cause a marketing battle.

If you are one of the healthy majority (for now), and have great email spam filters, you may missed the excitement on the discovery of Hoodia Gordonii. Identified by the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in the 1960’s, Hoodia was shown to have a great potential as a natural, side-effect free appetite suppressant.

South African Kalahari Bushmen have been using this cactus-like plant (it’s actually a succulent, but the marketing boys find it hard to spell succulent, and have called it a cactus) for generations as a way of controlling hunger on hunting trips. The CSIR, lacking the resources to develop the plants potential, set about working with a UK company called Phytopharm to identify the active ingredient in Hoodia Gordonii. They did, and named this ‘miracle molecule’ P57 (it was Phytopharm’s 57th ‘discovery’).

Phytopharm since partnered with Unilever (after a failed partnership with Pfizer), to commercialise Hoodia, and expect to have products to the market place in 2008.

So if Phytopharm and Unilever have no products on the market, where are all these Hoodia supplements coming from?

Well the CSIR hold a patent to P57, which they licensed to Phytopharm. The patent is for the use of the active ingredient, not the plant. Simply, that means that no company can extract the P57 from the plant and put it in another product. The Hoodia supplements that you see now, are made from the whole plant, so are not infringing the patent.

So the situation we see now is an increasing number of companies selling their own branded Hoodia supplements as fast as they can before the ‘big boys’ start – with some unfortunately resorting to extremely dubious marketing techniques.

What is ‘dubious’ marketing?

o Comparison Sites.
Type ‘Hoodia’ in to a search engine, and you’re bound to find some of these. These are the sites that list Hoodia products and give them a ranking according to certain criteria they have decided on.

Now this would be a great idea – apart from the fact that I have yet to come across a site that isn’t directly or indirectly run by the manufacturer of the product listed at number one!

o Pure is Best.
Many of the sites selling Hoodia only supplements, qualify their products by stating that Hoodia supplements containing added ingredients are of lower quality, and not as effective as their own products.
Absolute rubbish.

Hoodia ‘complexes’ (that is a supplement containing Hoodia and other ingredients), if properly formulated can be as good, if not better than pure Hoodia supplements.

By working the ‘pure is best’ emotional triggers, these companies are slandering perfectly effective and in many cases, better value for money products.

o C.I.T.E.S.
Or to give it it’s full name, “Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna”. Hoodia Gordonii is a protected species. That means that the export of it is regulated, with companies required to obtain a C.I.T.E.S. certificate before export.

You’ll have seen great play made of ‘We have a C.I.T.E.S… the others don’t… Don’t trust companies without one… Blah blah”. From discussions I’ve had with importers of Hoodia powder in to the USA, many of these certificates are fake. In fact, some of the legitimate companies don’t want to post their certificates on their web sites anymore, for fear of rogue websites stealing them for their use!

o Extract
Some companies claim that they sell an extract which is more powerful than non-extract products. (What is an extract? An extract is a concentrated from of a herb, that is derived after the crude herb has been mixed with water, alcohol, or another solvent and distilled or evaporated.).

No one is selling Hoodia Gordonii extract, as it would be violating the patent held by the CSIR.

o 100% Pure Hoodia Gordonii
How can they sell 100% pure so cheap? Simple – there are selling you 100%. They’re using the whole of the plant, rather than the ‘heart’ of the plant which contains the active ingredient. As the ‘skin’ of the Hoodia can account for as much as 40% of the weight, your 100% pure may only be 60% pure and not quite the bargain that you imagined.

Now the last thing I want to do is to put you off buying Hoodia. One, the genuine stuff works, and two, I’m a wholesaler for the stuff. But as the marketing boys can’t seem to play fair, I think it’s only right that we get a few facts right.

So what should you be looking for before buying…

First impressions count.
Does the website look professional.
Have they got a contact email address?
Email them with some questions.
Or, if they have a telephone number, call them up.
After all, genuine Hoodia isn’t cheap, so isn’t the cost of a call worth it?

This is tricky now. A few months ago I would say insist on the C.I.T.E.S. etc., but now it’s not as easy. Does the site give you confidence?

Some companies are offering to mail out copies of their documentation with your order. Take this as a positive sign.

Don’t be put off by Hoodia complexes. The chemists who devise these formulas have much more faith in the complexes than the pure Hoodia products alone, as they target more of the body.

Money Back Guarantee.
This is probably the most important.
If a company believes in its product, it offers a guarantee.

And finally… Hoodia is no ‘magic pill’ in the sense that you can loose 100lbs overnight. It’s best used as part of a regime of diet change, exercise and confidence building. If you sincerely want to lose weight, Hoodia is a fantastic resource than can make it much simpler for you to stick to your slimming plan.

Above remember, if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail…

The author is a wholesaler and retailer for several herbal extracts, including Hoodia Gordonii, Acai berry, Maqui berry and more. You can find out more by visiting

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Author: Piyawut Sutthiruk

Losing weight will keep you healthy and have a long life. Cheer Up!

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