One hundred years of botanical excellence

In 2021, INDENA, the leading Italian company in the botanical derivatives sector, is celebrating its centenary; Laura Bo, Advertising and Communication Manager, reports

It was the intuition and entrepreneurial spirit of Biagio Alberto Della Beffa that instigated INDENA’s visionary and pioneering adventure.

In 1921, together with Carlo Boccaccio Inverni, he founded the Inverni Della Beffa company, which became INDENA in the 1970s. The company’s founder was the first to take a completely new, modern and industrial approach to the treatment of medicinal plants.

That’s why 2021 is a special year for INDENA. Dedicated to the identification, development and production of high-quality active principles derived from plants for use in the pharmaceutical and health food industries, INDENA (Industria Derivati Naturali), founded and based in Milan, is celebrating 100 years of history and continuous growth in the pursuit of excellence.

From 1921 to the present day, each decade represents a cornerstone of the company’s success. In the 1920s, the founders’ vision set a new paradigm for the production of botanical extracts.

In the 1930s, the pillars that make the company stand out were put in place: quality, scientific inspiration and rigour. In the 1940s, with new headquarters and a new plant, Milan became the company’s hub.

Cofounders Biagio Alberto Della Beffa and Carlo Boccaccio Inverni

In the 1950s, Luigi Della Beffa, Biagio Alberto’s son, joined the company. That decade was also when INDENA started making finished medicinal products based on their own plant derivatives. In the 1960s, thanks to Luigi Della Beffa’s vision, the business went international and a new, cutting-edge plant in Settala was opened.

In the 1970s, Inverni Della Beffa became INDENA; and during the 1980s, as nutraceuticals became increasingly important and scientifically recognised, INDENA captured market share with multicomponent plant extracts.

During the 1990s, research became a strategic pillar as new international facilities and commercial branches opened. Benedetto and Biagio Della Beffa, both sons of Luigi Della Beffa, joined the company and become the third generation of the family to run INDENA.

The noughties was a decade of tremendous innovation: INDENA developed Phytosome, a revolutionary delivery system to improve the absorption and effectiveness of botanical extracts.

In the 2010s, cutting-edge technological innovations were introduced in the Settala plant, establishing the company as a contract development and manufacturing organisation (CDMO).

At the beginning of 2020s, after a century of success, INDENA’s vision for the next 100 years still means innovation, the implementation of advanced technologies, new product research, personalised applications, quality and sustainability.

Celebrating a centenary

INDENA’s plans for 2021 include a new corporate narrative, which includes an updated website (indena.com), the digital transposition of the company’s activities to showcase ongoing projects, video productions and a book that highlights the foundations of INDENA’s success, such as quality, research and sustainability, told through augmented reality contributions.

Moreover, an audio podcast titled “Phytocast” will trace the company’s 100-year history in 12 monthly instalments.

Another important marker is the introduction of a 2-year doctorate course named after Colonel Biagio Alberto Della Beffa. The scholarship will be presented in 2021 to a number of young researchers during the International Summer School on Natural Products (ISSNP).

In addition, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) has granted INDENA its Centennial Award, a special recognition for companies celebrating 100 years in the botanical derivatives industry.

This award confirms the importance of INDENA’s ongoing commitment to quality and innovation, and encourages the company to go forward into the next century with the same vision and enthusiasm to develop products that increasingly meet the needs of the global community and the environment.

One hundred years of botanical excellence

INDENA prioritises quality, science and continuous investment in both product innovation and pioneering processes. One hundred years on, this has become a benchmark for the botanical derivatives sector.

INDENA’s DNA is profoundly Italian; from its Milan headquarters, the company manages four global production sites, five international subsidiaries and more than 900 people. It also boasts about 100 patent families and more than 1000 scientific publications.

The continuous search for innovation: In the 1920s and 1930s, at a time when medicines were created in pharmacies, the company was the first in Italy to produce extracts from medicinal plants with titrated active ingredients to make sure their preparations were safe and effective.

In a world that still trusted substances that were not properly controlled, they applied strict scientific criteria to the production of these active ingredients. And it was INDENA that introduced the concept of standardised botanical extracts to the American market in the 1980s — at a time when the term “powdered herbs” was still being used.

The company treasures this tradition and believes that Nature has already resolved many of the issues we face today: plants are expert chemists and instinctively “know” what works, how and why.

One of the most important discoveries derived from this approach is a technology that makes the active ingredients in plants easier to assimilate. The Phytosome delivery system optimises the bioavailability of extracts without changing their structure.

Validated by clinical tests, it’s been applied to dozens of plants to enhance their potential benefits.

Rigorous and collaborative research: The Product Research Unit (PRU)’s mission is to design and develop new, premium botanical ingredients for health and nutrition applications.

At INDENA, every new product begins with an idea and an initial feasibility evaluation that encompasses biomass availability, regulatory assessment and potential market demand. If the idea passes this first test, the PRU teams up with the Process Research and Analytical Departments — and later the Formulation Development Laboratory — to initiate the research phase.

Thanks to this co-ordinated, multidisciplinary approach, INDENA successfully develops innovative solutions for the botanical market — with a proven track record of approximately 100 patent families. Driving this process is the company’s commitment to turn science-based ideas into practical solutions for people’s health and well-being.

Environmental and social sustainability: Throughout its long history, INDENA has always been committed to responsible plant procurement and a secure supply chain.

The company uses 120 plant species and more than 250 suppliers who are accredited on the basis of internal procedures and strict criteria of sustainability, quality, traceability and reliability.

Guidelines for good agronomic and harvesting practices (GACP) are applied throughout the entire supply chain, which is subject to periodic audits by INDENA’s Quality Assurance Group.

In addition, the company liaises on sustainable management projects with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the International Organization for Tropical Timber (ITTO).

At the same time, INDENA has developed internal standards to reconcile the demand for high quality raw materials with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)’s principles of biodiversity and sustainability and other international reference standards.

To cite some ongoing ventures, the Centella asiatica project in Madagascar aims to provide “École pour tous,” improve living conditions and reduce poverty in the communities involved in Centella collection by increasing the quality of education and school attendance in the region.

The Terminalia sericea project in Tanzania focuses on preventing deforestation, promoting biodiversity and conserving Terminalia sericea by developing sustainable practices to support the local economy.

The Boswellia serrata project in India was implemented to improve working conditions through supply chain optimisation, enhance the harvested material’s quality and increase sustainable harvesting practices.

In 2017, INDENA joined forces with Sedex, an international organisation that promotes the sustainable management of supply chains worldwide by monitoring the ethics of companies using a Big Data collection platform.

INDENA has always sought to improve its environmental impact and the sustainability of its production plant. The company’s European facilities have achieved ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 certifications, and all the others are in the process of implementing similarly certified health, safety and environmental management systems.

Experience and competence in the botanical sector, research, a focus on quality and the availability of industrial production systems remain the cornerstones of INDENA’s competitiveness.

And, a century after its creation, INDENA is still inspired by the strengths of its founder’s vision, his courage, determination and ability to get ahead of the times.

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