This product has $2B global revenue but consumers don’t know what’s exactly inside. Why?

Updated: Feb 5, 2019

What is the most popular herb in the world? In the US, people would say green tea or cannabis. However in East Asia, most people would say Ginseng.

And their guess is not far from truth. Ginseng products have $2B revenue globally, surpassing most herbal supplements in the market (putting this number into context, a global market size for Kombucha is $1B).

Problem: unclear value communication

Despite its popularity, value communication of ginseng products in market is surprisingly unclear, and consumers don’t know what they are buying, unlike most products. For example, say you are looking for steak. It has clear standard (grade) of USDA Prime, Choice, or Select, and you can expect quality and taste of each grade compared to price you pay.

Yes, every ginseng product also has a label and supplement fact to indicate how much ginseng it contains, but still consumers find it confusing and not helpful, mainly for three reasons:

1. Fragmented Forms: when you search “Ginseng” in amazon, first thing you see is too many different forms: pill, extract, raw root, powder… However no one really talks about pros and cons of different forms.

2. Confusing Metric: some products brag about high ginseng amount, while others put emphasis on Ginsenoside %, a main component of ginseng. Which metric should we care?

3. Different Kinds: Panax Ginseng, American Ginseng, Siberian Ginseng, Brazilian Ginseng… what are differences among all these kinds?

As a result, ginseng buyers are forced to rely on empirical reviews, friends’ recommendations, or brand name to choose ginseng product, instead of comparing objective numbers and key metrics among ginseng products.

Can there be a better way?

Yes, I recommend following two options when you look for ginseng products next time:

1. Consult with Licensed Acupuncturist people often associate acupuncturists with needles, but they go through a formal coursework on herbal medicine as well, including in-depth research and analysis on ginseng. Therefore local acupuncturist near your area would be the best person to seek advice on which ginseng product will best meet your needs.

2. Read my upcoming stories about ginseng :) For my project, I had to do a lengthy research on ginseng. I was surprised that there are actually many valuable and scientific research & data on ginseng (e.g. key benefits, how to select right ginseng, etc.) However, those data and research are mostly for academic purposes, and I had to ask lots of questions to professionals in the industry to understand research’s implication to us (everyday consumer). Also, some data are in Korean language, not readily available in English. Thus I plan to document my key learning from my journey (so that I don’t forget), and hopefully they are helpful to you as well.

In my next story I will talk about “metric” — what metrics should we focus to select ginseng product, and what they actually mean.