A Spicy Gold Rush: Turmeric's Rise To Superfood

Apr 5, 2014
Originally published on April 5, 2014 6:19 pm

The online magazine Ozy covers people, places and trends on the horizon. Co-founder Carlos Watson joins All Things Considered regularly to tell us about the site's latest discoveries.

This week, Watson tells guest host Kelly McEvers about the growing popularity of turmeric in the U.S. The spice, which comes from a golden-yellow root native to India, is heralded for its health benefits and is being infused into a variety of food products. Some mixologists are even working it into cocktails.

They also discuss the boom in online, subscription clothing services to help men find the perfect style without ever entering a store.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


It's time for the New and the Next.


MCEVERS: Carlos Watson is the co-founder of the online magazine Ozy. Each week, he joins us to talk about what's new and what's next. Welcome back, Carlos.

CARLOS WATSON: Kelly, good to be with you.

MCEVERS: So there is a gold rush going on, but it's not about a medal. It's about a spice. Huh?

WATSON: All the way from India, turmeric. We get it in a lot of Indian curries. And now, it's the latest superfood craze. So Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, all of the healthy places are starting to stock it heavily.

MCEVERS: OK, so it's not just seasoning for Indian food anymore. Now there's companies completely dedicated to turmeric? I mean, mixologists are working it into cocktails. Is this true?

WATSON: One thousand percent. So there are all sorts of delicious elixirs, drinks, that you can buy. One company is now doing north of a million dollars, which is not bad. You've got lotions, you've got soaps. And part of it, Kelly, is a belief that not only has it flavored food, but that it's got healthy properties.

And so for years, lots of Indian families, both in India and overseas, have used it against colds. Some people would say they use it for eczema or skin diseases. And even others, our own American Dr. Oz, recommends it for fighting depression.

MCEVERS: Wow. I mean, we do import it from India, but now because U.S. demand is going up, we hear some farmers are starting to grow it. Some are even switching from planting rice to planting turmeric. Is it really that big of a deal right now?

WATSON: You've seen imports from India triple in terms of turmeric. But you're also seeing it, as you said, grow elsewhere, grow in warm climates, parts of the states, like Hawaii. And some people - you'll love this, Kelly - are being very cagey about where they're getting their supply from. In fact, supply is so tight that a lot of the folks we talk to wouldn't tell you exactly how they were getting their supply.

And so it's been pretty broadly used in India for centuries, and now here in the U.S. people are starting to think about it. You remember that green tea craze, Kelly...


WATSON: ...that for some people is still going on?

MCEVERS: Mm-hmm.

WATSON: Think of this as the new green tea.

MCEVERS: All right. So it's not just a fad. You think it's here to stay?

WATSON: I think so. I think in no small part because the second most populous country in the world use it pretty broadly. In addition to doing it for health reasons, it also has some involvement in spiritual ceremonies.

MCEVERS: Move over, yoga. OK. So there's another fad that Ozy checked up on this week. A number of services popping up to help guys assemble that perfectly stylely(ph) outfit without actually ever having to enter a store. What's up with that?

WATSON: You know, personal stylists have been around for a long time.


WATSON: More women have used it than men in recent times, and there have been lots of services including over the net. But now there are a couple of services for men.

MCEVERS: So explain how these services work.

WATSON: You send in your measurements, arm length, waist, et cetera. They also, by the way, look at some of your social media indicators, so where you live, because that tells them about climate and other sorts of things.

And then they take that information, create a first pass at here are some clothes, shoes, other items that may work for you. And then you get online, or sometimes a person comes directly to you, a stylist who helps you ultimately narrow down the choices. If that works, that same stylist works with you on another set of choices down the road.

MCEVERS: I mean, some people really do like to actually shop for themselves. I don't - I just - I have a hard time understanding why this would be important to people.

WATSON: I think it's interesting. So I'm definitely one of those guys who does not like to shop. While you can clearly go online and do it yourself, the reality is a lot of people like me don't have a ton of style and taste and could use some help. And simply getting it from an algorithm isn't enough.

And you want a human face to it, and so these are kind of interesting blended services. You know, there are a handful of interesting, young companies - one's called Bombfell, another's called the Trunk Club - that in various ways are helping mainly young men at this point buy clothes primarily for work.

MCEVERS: Carlos Watson is the co-founder of the online magazine Ozy. You can explore all the stories we talk about at npr.org/newandnext. Carlos, thanks again.

WATSON: Kelly, good to be with you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.