Many people across the globe have never heard of kava drinks and beverages. Originally endemic to the Pacific Islands, kava is a root from which ceremonial drinks have been prepared. In centuries past, this was often part of marriages or funerals in islands like Fiji and Samoa. But current kava industry news suggests its reach is expansive, and for the Pacific Island countries, the impact could be huge.
For many years, kava beverages and nutraceuticals were banned as an import in Europe and other countries. Concerns about health risks made many countries take a more cautious route. But that changed in 2015 when the World Health Organization declared kava to be safe and without long-term health risks. Since then, things have changed dramatically, even despite the COVID pandemic. Current kava industry news reports that kava producers and exporters are going to see growing demand for their goods. And is the case with most rapidly expanding sectors, there are both positive and negative aspects to consider.
“At the moment we have not even scraped the full potential of the kava industry. There is massive potential in terms of medicinal, pharmaceutical opportunity.” – Manoa Kamikamica, Fiji’s Minister of Trade
The Benefits of Kava Beverages and Nutraceuticals
The health benefits of kava beverages and nutraceuticals have been known for centuries. Pacific Island traditions used the root drink to relax and ease stress and also help heal wounds. Today, root continues to provide these same benefits. Once grinded and grated, kava is mixed with coconut milk and cold water. The resultant beverage may taste extremely earthy, but its effects keep many coming back for more. Specifically, as a beverage, it is often used to alleviate stress and anxiety and even reduce pain. As a nutraceutical, it is also promoted as a healthy way to boost the immune system and reduce the risk of infections. These are the reasons kava bars are becoming increasingly popular along with kava pharmaceutical products.
It should also be recognized that many are using kava as an alcoholic beverage replacement. While it still creates a relaxing effect, it is not addictive, does not cause disinhibition, does not trigger euphoria. In fact, it has a rare thing called reverse tolerance when consumed regularly. That means you need less and less to get the same beneficial effects. As the public gains awareness of this potential mental healthcare disruptor, current kava industry news anticipates progressive growth. Known as the green gold of the Pacific, the value of kava beverages and nutraceuticals will likely be recognized well beyond the region. Naturally, this could be a boom for Pacific Island communities that tend to be far from commercialized.
“[Recent adoption of CODEX International Standards] definitely opens up the European [kava] pharmaceutical market because there is a very big potential there; likely over a $100 million can be earned from the European market.” – Praveen Narayan, Managing Director of Green Gold Kava Dealers
Recent Developments in the Kava Industry
Since 2015, the kava beverage and nutraceutical industry has grown notably in some areas. In Europe and the U.S., some countries and states respectively have allowed growth of kava use and kava bars. While concerns about liver and renal toxicity exist, these have not proven substantial enough to prevent access. Australia, however, continued to ban kava imports until late in 2021. At that time, Australia launched a Kava Pilot Program that would monitor its effects over a two-year period. Assuming this program is successful in supporting kava’s safety, current kava industry news suggests this could be huge for producers. Australia naturally has a sizable kava market, given that many Polynesians and Pacific Islanders reside there.
At the same time, islands like Fuji have taken a huge step toward gaining the trust of other countries. Current kava industry news reports that Fuji adopted its own Fuji Kava Standard based on CODEX International Food Standards. This means that Fuji’s kava beverage and nutraceutical production will have a quality guarantee. This is tremendous for the farmers and cultivators of kava in Fuji as this will likely open new kava market growth trends. Combined with growing consumer demand in the U.S., which remains its major market, kava’s future is bright.
“Kava, the longstanding cultural touchstone of the Pacific, is on a steep trajectory to become an emblem of opportunity for a brighter and more equitable Pacific future.” – Pacific Trade Invest Report
Projections for Kava’s Expansion
In looking at current kava industry news, recent kava export amounts for key Pacific Island communities are notable. Fuji reported $43.6 million in the export of kava beverages and nutraceutical products in 2020. Vanuatu reports $48.4 million in 2019. These figures are expected to increase substantially in the next several years. According to industry projections, the kava market will exceed $210 billion by 2026. Certainly, more producers are entering the market. But as standards advance, those who have invested more heavily in quality will excel to a greater extent. The market is thus in a growth phase where seasoned competitors stand the best chance to take advantage of the opportunity.
Of course, the rapid growth of the kava beverage and nutraceutical market does have its disadvantages. For one, there is concern about how this will affect the traditional communities of the islands. As they progressively commercialize, there may be a threat to their inherent cultural practices. At the same time, it is possible islanders become too reliant on kava production. According to current kava industry news, one in 8 households already rely in kava-related income. This figure will likely increase in the next few years. While kava’s popularity and new markets offer an opportunity to thrive, this comes with long-term risks as well. In any case, the immediate future for the kava industry looks to be very favorable. Managing this growth may be the bigger challenge in the coming years.