Croda of Brazil, the local business unit of the global Croda company, manufactures cosmetic, pharmaceutical and industrial specialty raw materials and vegetable oils under the Crodamazon trade name using oils and derivatives processed from renewable resources in the Amazon rainforest. David Soyka reports on this native application of natural chemistry.
Many consumers these days are label conscious, but not in the sense of a designer name somehow or another making a product better. Increasingly, what they want to see on the label is whether a product is made with natural ingredients; at the same time, it almost goes hand-in-hand that consumers of natural products are equally concerned that nature hasn’t been harmed in extracting those ingredients.
Crodamazon, so-called because it is a company of the global British-based parent Croda International that develops oils, butters and chemical specialties from renewable resources in the Brazilian Amazon rain forest, can put the “natural” on its label with the added assurance that nature is being protected.
“We set up a plant in the Manaus region in 2001 to extract vegetal oils and butters from fruit seeds and pulp found in native plants unique to the region such as cocoa, Brazilian nuts, and passion fruit and now we have moved to a new stage (not completed yet): our utilities and technology will be transferred to a local cooperative that will handle the extraction so that Crodamazon can dedicate its resources to develop new active ingredients and specialties.” explains Vania Pacchioni, technical director of commercial business. “Previously, in 1993, we had been extracting cupuassu butter from fruit in the Amazon region and operated a plant in Sao Paulo, but we were very concerned about maintaining bio-diversity in the region and both the environmental and economic impact we could make in the Amazon. The fruit plants in the Manaus region offer an abundance of distinctive raw materials that are highly renewable.” The region contains 70 percent of all species of fauna and flora that are present in the rainforest, which contains 22 percent of 55 million vegetal species found worldwide; over 20,000 plants are in the Amazon ecosystem. And while the processing operation is almost entirely automated, the company does rely on local farmers to supply the raw materials, so the company’s presence in the region does have a direct bearing on improving the local economy and quality of life.
According to Sergio Fernandes, sales and marketing director, the two facilities have the potential to produce about 12,000 tons of several chemical specialties, including oils from the native fruits and nuts. Currently, about 400 pounds of raw material yields about 100 pounds in oils. “This is 100 percent pure,” Pacchioni points out. “What differentiates us from our competition is that there are no chemical additives in processing, and, thus, our products are entirely natural.”
Crodamazon sells throughout Latin America primarily to cosmetics and pharmaceuticals customers, with some additional business in general industrial markets. Because the company sells to exporters, the product is truly international in scope. In addition, Fernandes notes, “Our parent. Croda, itself has a presence in 35 countries, in particular the United States, Japan, England and France, so, that’s another channel for us to supply product.”
Pacchioni characterizes that product as a “value-added” ingredient for other products to enhance performance and/or increase marketability. “Incorporating the natural and exotic substances of our products addresses consumers interested in organic and certified-sustainable products,” Pacchioni points out.
Indeed, Crodamazon follows Chain of Custody standards for sustainability certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), as well as a body that
certifies cultivated products; and also by the Biodynamic Institute (IBD). These various certifications guarantee Crodamazon practices comply with national and international sustainable development standards for non-wood forest products.
“Of course, the rainforest has got a lot of attention because of clear-cutting practices that have harmed local ecosystems,” Pacchioni says. “From the start when we were looking at the rainforest as a raw materials source, our intention has always been to encourage local farmers not to clear cut trees. In fact, we only work with farmers who comply with international standards for organic and sustainable agriculture. The trees that are cut are mature and are harvested for other products; we would never support cutting trees solely to pulp the fruits.”
In cosmetics, Croda oils and butters are variously used as scrubbing agents, soaps, anti-aging wrinkle ointments, sunscreens and other facial products. In addition to providing rich and creamy lathers, these ingredients offer anti-inflammatory properties.
For example, oil made from the seeds of Andiroba fruit, contains limonoids and trierpines that act as antiseptics and insect repellents popular in formulations for dry skin. Red oil made
from Buriti pulp contains carotenes (pro-vitamin A) noted for adding skin vitality and sun protection that has proven effective towards increasing the tensile strength of damaged dyed
hair. Several major brand hair color companies are trialing a Brazil nut oil called Castanha that when used in hair dyes can lessen color degradation by 30 percent. The same oil can be
used in eyeshadows and other make up because of its moisturizing properties. Bioflavonoids and linoleic acid in the oil obtained from the seeds of passion fruit is helpful in acne treatments and has proven to reduce skin greasiness by 27 percent after only a week’s use.
So, it’s perhaps not surprising that these same Crodamazon products have pharmaceutical uses in both human and veterinary dermatological applications or topical pour-on formulations. The primary use for Crodamazon oils is topical application as moisturizers, emollients and insect repellants.
The pharmaceutical segment is growing, Fernandes says, in large part because of the growth in the last three years of generics. And strong demand for organic ingredients in cosmetics makes further growth a natural expectation. Another is the rising affluence in South America, which has seen an expansion of personal care and hygiene products. In fact, according to the Brazilian Association of the Industry of Personal Hygiene, Perfume and Cosmetics (ABIHPEC), the personal care sector experienced an average growth rate of 10.7 percent during the last five years.
Fernandes says that Crodamazon is up against a number of competitors, most of them larger, but is able to gain market share, and in some cases market leadership, because of the quality of its products and competitive pricing. This explains why the company has grown by at least 10 percent over the last 10 years, and 15 percent over the last five years.”
Helping to fuel this growth is Croda’s recent acquisition in September 2006 of Uniqema, a company of the Imperial Chemicals Industries (ICI). The value of this transaction was £410 million. “This helps expanding our industrial product line as well as our global reach. Uniqema had 13 plants distributed on three continents, and a portfolio of products based on fatty acid oleochemicals for surfactants used in a variety of industrial, agricultural and health care applications.”
At the same time, Crodamazon is continually seeking new raw material sources that can be obtained either through extraction or cultivation. “We have several products under study and we’re looking to expand the number of local suppliers,” Fernandes says. “We’re also adding more professional scientists and engineers to maintain an accelerated production and research new products.”