Traditional Knowledge Meets Innovation in Tea for Health
Chamendra Somatunga, was an entrepreneur looking for a business opportunity when he realized that although people valued natural products, those were not easy to find, and cumbersome to use. He also knew that in Sri Lanka, people drink black and green tea and decided to bring medicinal plants and traditional knowledge to people’s favorite drink.
Two decades later, Chamendra is heading Fadna Tea, a successful company producing herbal medicinal tea and serving the Sri Lankan market and beyond. He also leads the newly founded QofL (Quality of Life), a cosmetic and well-being range of products blending natural ingredients and cutting-edge technology.
Established in 2004, Fadna now offers a full range of enhanced black, green, and herbal teas, in four categories: Lifestyle, medicinal, energy, and traditional tea. Teas come in handy teabags and contain traditional plants and herbs, coming from ancient indigenous medicinal knowledge, with recognized medicinal properties. Fadna tea is the leading herbal tea producer in Sri Lanka.
However, Fadna does not only rely on indigenous knowledge but also modern technology. The company is collaborating with several universities in Sri Lanka that are researching Fadna’s tea ingredients to assess their medicinal qualities.
For example, Fadna Diabe Tea Sabaragamuwa is a black tea blend, rich in flavonoids and anti-oxidant properties that regulates the speed with which glucose reaches the blood. This formulation has been developed in collaboration with the Faculty of Applied Science at Sabaragamuwa University. It was specifically designed for people suffering from diabetes. Tests conducted by the Faculty of Medical Science at the University of Jayawardenapura on the hypoglycemic and possible toxicity of the tea have cleared Diabe Tea Sabaragamuwa to be safe for daily consumption.
Fadna Immunni tea contains a 100% herbal formula and is meant to strengthen the body’s immune system and increase resistance to microbes-induced disease.
The company has also entered a social corporate responsibility project with Ruhuna University to develop knowledge about pharmaceutical applications of some products and is collaborating with Wayamba University to commercialize their innovation. The partnership with universities strengthens the link between industry and academy, Chamendra said.
All ingredients are sourced in Sri Lanka, and naturally grown, according to Chamendra, and all Fadna compounds have been certified by the Department of Ayurveda, Ministry of Indigenous medicine of Sri Lanka. Herbs and natural ingredients are supplied either directly from farmers, or through intermediaries.
According to Priyal Lucky Supulchandra, Medical Officer (Ayurveda) and R&D Manager for Fadna Tea, Ayurveda is a medical system and a philosophy. It uses herbal plants and minerals but it is more beneficial than some western drugs, with low side effects and no detrimental results on organs. It is used to both prevent and cure illnesses, he said.
Fadna teas are sold in pharmacies, supermarkets, Ayurveda drug shops, and online.
Fadna now employs 60 permanent staff and some 140 contractors. Fadna mostly does the processing while other production steps, such as packaging are outsourced. At the moment, some 80% of Fadna’s production serves the local market, the rest is exported to several countries, including countries in Europe, China, Japan, the United States, and Australia, and according to Chamendra, the export volume is growing and the market is developing.
Fadna partnered with the Institute of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biotechnology (IBMBB) of the University of Colombo to launch a new range of products under the brand name QofL in August 2022. QofL products are the result of years of scientific research by IBMBB. The latest range includes four products: SATINY, a total hair solution, VERNOLAC, an all-Natural Anticancer Supplement, BIOSHAPE, a weight management supplement, and ORTHO-SHIELD, a pain-relief lotion. QofL’s products are sold in some selected pharmacies and online.
Fadna Tea and QofL rely on strong IP protection. Together, they have ten trademarks registered in Sri Lanka. According to Priyal, some patents will be developed for future products, developed in collaboration with universities.
In the near future, the company is planning to increase the Fadna product range built on scientific findings. Fadna would like to expand to the drugs and nutraceutical categories. The company is also working on new export destinations, and intends to register trademarks in those countries.For QofL, which is a new brand, the company is looking at raising brand awareness in the next five years.