Great mass of epidemiological evidence linking better health and lower risk of major diseases and chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer to Asian dietary practices have stimulated interest in the Asian food crops. Another reason why Asian crops are gaining popularity is the dramatic growth in the Asian American population in North America, increasing more than 20% in the United States in the 1990s. The Asian populations are also increasing in diversity by the growing numbers of Indians, Thais, Vietnamese, and Cambodians, who are adding up to the more-established Asian Americans of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean origin. In addition to the diverse “fresh” vegetarian cuisine, the Asian medical systems that predominantly use herbs have fueled an interest in “foods used as medicine” and have acclaimed popularity among the general public.
Zafi Beverages, Inc., envisioned energy drinks, mineral natural water, healthy drinks for kids, exotic drinks, flavored drinks, and cholesterol-reducing tea. Emphasis is on non-carbonation and the use of herbal extracts. Consumption of carbonated drinks can lead to reflux, ulcer, and other stomach problems. Zafi Beverages is also developing a unique marketing approach for its products, offering a niche for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Zafi's educational process of entrepreneurship also covers the steps on the road to success: innovative, value-creating, and growth-oriented. Emphasis is also placed on ethical marketing. Small businesses employ 53% of the total private nonfarm work force, contribute to 47% of all sales in the country, are responsible for 51% of the gross domestic product (GDP), produce about two out of every three new jobs each year, and account for over half of United States GDP. Studies report that 40% of the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans got there by building a small business. Interest in small business is increasing, because many Americans believe this is one of the best paths to riches in the United States. About 16 million Americans are in some type of part- or full-time entrepreneurial activity. Entrepreneurship is attractive to people of all ages. Some unique contributions of small business concepts promoted by Zafi Beverages are to encourage innovation and flexibility, maintain close relationships with customers and community, and provide employees with comprehensive learning experience, develop risk-takers, generate new employment, and provide greater job satisfaction. Zafi Beverages is 2 years old; its growth and challenges in the development of herbal drinks for health and new entrepreneurs are described.
The important effect of dietary factors on health status has been recognized since antiquity. Since the discovery of the beneficial effects of dietary phytochemicals and bioactives, a new dimension of foods have emerged in the market. These “functional foods” are being developed by all major food companies and new ones are regularly brought into the market. While developing new functional foods and nutraceuticals, the association and identification of such foods and beverages with traditional foods and medicinal preparations, and/or popular forms of existing products are bound to bring long-standing consumer acceptance, which is an important desirable factor in sales and marketing. Following this concept, Zafi Beverages, Inc., Chicago, is developing a new line of functional products (new herbal teas and energy drinks). Zafiis also introducing a unique marketing and distribution system to create a new team of entrepreneurs, providing an excellent opportunity for growth in sales and marketing to new entrepreneurs. It targets ethnic entrepreneurs by offering an opportunity to use their networking abilities and be part of an exciting new partnership in the new host country, as well as a strategic business plan. The ethnic entrepreneurs are also constantly in contact with their consumers by virtue of the existing ethnic allegiance and cohesion and are able to identify the consumer needs and concerns directly. These small ethnic entrepreneurial networks can be identified as distinct “micro-marketing systems” within the national economy. The advertised market potential for Zafi is summarized to include an offer of immediate cash flow, more revenue and profits, marketing and financial education support, as well as a promising new line of products.
Vegetarianism dates back to a time before recorded history and, as many anthropologists believe, most early humans ate primarily plant foods, being more gatherers than hunters. Human diets may be adopted for a variety of reasons, including political, esthetic, moral, environmental and economic concerns, religious beliefs, and a desire to consume a more healthy diet. A major factor influencing the vegetarianism movement in the present time is primarily associated with better health. Epidemiologic data support the association between high intake of vegetables and fruit and low risk of chronic diseases and provide evidence to the profound and long-term health benefits of a primarily vegetarian diet. Vegetables and fruit are rich sources of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber as well as biologically active nonnutrient compounds that have a complementary and often multiple mechanisms of actions, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, hypocholesterolemic, and hypolipidemic properties, and mechanisms that stimulate the human immune system. Because of the critical link established between diet and health, consumers have begun to view food as a means of self-care for health promotion and disease prevention. Functional foods are targeted to address specific health concerns, such as high cholesterol or high blood sugar levels, to obtain a desired health benefit. Functional properties identified in a number of plant species have led to a modern day renaissance for the vegetarian movement.
Consumption of Asian herbs, spices, and vegetables in the U.S. has increased considerably within the past decade. This paper reviews some Asian culinary herbs and vegetables that are now increasingly used by American mainstream consumers, as well as ethnic Asians. It briefly summarizes traditional medicinal properties and the accumulating scientific evidence for functional properties of these plant species.
There is an amazing variety of Asian vegetables that, even today, are largely unknown in the United States. However, as Asian populations increase in numbers and diversity, local demand has increased and opened up opportunities to identify suitable crops for successful cultivation and possible export of these vegetables back to Asian countries. Production strategies for successful cultivation of Asian vegetable crops include the identification of suitable species; access to genetic material and germplasm collections; evaluation of imported genotypes; development of technologies, skills, and resources to collect production data; monitoring of the risks from pests and diseases; identification of new pests and pest management techniques; and organization of research on postharvest handling, packaging, and transport for a wide range of products to meet the consumer demands.
Watercress (Nasturtium officinale R.Br.) plants were grown in growth chambers at 15 °C or 25 °C and either 8- or 12-h photoperiod (PP). The photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) was 265 μmol·m-2s-1 in all chambers, but beginning 1 week before harvest, half of the plants in each chamber were subjected to a higher PPF (435 μmol·m-2·s-1). At harvest, watercress leaves and stems were analyzed for phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) concentration. Without supplemental PPF, watercress grown at 25 °C and 12-h PP produced higher PEITC concentration in leaves and stems than plants grown at 15 °C and 12-h PP, or plants grown at 8-h PP and either temperature. With one week of supplemental PPF before harvest, plants grown at 15 or 25 °C and the 8-h PP produced PEITC concentrations as high as plants exposed to 12-h PP and similar temperatures. However, a week of supplemental PPF did not alter PEITC concentrations in plants grown at the 12-h PP, regardless of temperature. At 25 °C, plants grown under the low PPF and the 12-h PP produced 62% greater dry mass than plants exposed to a week of high PPF and the 8-h PP, but did not differ in PEITC content. Thus, the effect of one week of high PPF on PEITC concentration depended on photoperiod.
Watercress plants were grown in growth chambers at 15°C or 25°C and either an 8- or 12-hour photoperiod (PP). The photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) was 265 μmol·m–2·s–1 in all chambers, but beginning 1 week before harvest, half of the plants in each chamber were subjected to a higher PPF (434 μmol·m–2·s–1). At harvest, watercress leaves and stems were analyzed for phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) content. Watercress grown at 25°C, the 12-hour PP, and 1 week of high PPF produced the highest PEITC concentration in leaves and stems, and plants grown at 15°C, the 8-hour PP, and the low PPF until harvest produced the lowest PEITC concentration. Plants grown at the 8-hour PP, then exposed to 1 week of high PPF, produced 57.3% and 45.9% greater PEITC at 25 and 15°C, respectively, then plants exposed to the low PPF until harvest. However, plants grown at the 12-hour PP and subjected to 1 week of high PPF produced PEITC levels similar to plants grown under the low PPF at 25 and 15°C. At 25°C, plants grown under the low PPF and the 12-hour PP produced 62% greater dry mass than plants exposed to 1 week of high PPF and the 8-hour PP, but did not differ in PEITC content. Thus, the effect of 1 week of high PPF on PEITC concentration depended on photoperiod.