Açaí's journey to a superstar ingredient

Clariant Actives & Natural Origins works with communities in Brazil to source açai fruit from the Amazon forest in a responsible manner. Using upcycling strategies, Clariant produces different ingredients from the fruit

The Amazon is the largest tropical rainforest on our planet and home to around 40 000 plant species, including the açaí tree. Its berries are abundant in antioxidants which make them a powerful natural ingredient in high-performing and sustainable cosmetics. This natural ingredient is key in many oils, actives and scrubs developed by Clariant’s Personal Care Specialties company, Beraca.

Açaí berries are abundant in antioxidants (Image: Clariant)

Endemic to the Amazon, açaí is a very popular fruit in Brazil and one of thousands used by Amazonian native people for medicinal and health purposes. Açaí can be found in the Amazon year-round but its harvesting season, which happens in the Amazonian summer from August to November, is considered an event of great significance to the communities that work with the plant and who collect and transport several tonnes of the berries during this period.

“Beraca provides incentives such as training, the development of local projects and fair pricing to help producers. They don’t just buy raw materials and leave but support producers to gain a better understanding of the work they do and the importance of it,” says Tadeu de Melo, president of Amprunam, a local rural producers’ organisation.

A vision for organic diversity

It’s seven o’clock in the morning in the rainforest near Ananindeua in the Pará province of Brazil and, as he does every morning during harvest season, Aldo Pantoja da Costa, a local resident and açaí agro-extractive producer, is pulling on his work pants and boots while his colleague is already shimmying up the trunk.

“Along with our work clothes, we take our equipment, including a pole. The açaí represents a lot here, it’s our source of income and food. This has been going on for a long time. Before me, my father worked with açaí for about 30 years, that’s how we started working with the berry, this is how we earn a living,” Aldo explains.

After reaching the bunches of berries towards the top of the tree Aldo gently pulls them off the branches that look a bit like weeping willow, and places them in a basket that he carries on his shoulder. The baskets are then weighed and loaded onto a boat, after which they are taken by truck to the Beraca factory, which is part of the Clariant group, in Ananindeua. Here the factory receives the raw material and transforms it into the all-important açaí oil and açaí extract.

“Beraca helped broaden our vision with a new reality and suggestions on a new structure and management practices to have a quality product. The company also shared with us the vision of what organic diversity means. It was through the partnership that we acquired knowledge and learned more about the processes within the açaí market,” Tadeu adds.

Committed to traceable, quality ingredients

Every October during harvest season, the whole factory focuses on processing the açaí. The fruit is very sensitive so processing needs to happen fast to ensure the berries are not spoiled.

Açaí berry oil goes is quality assessed before refinement (Image: Clariant)

“After the product arrives at the factory it is evaluated by the quality control team, approved and then goes on to extraction. The oil goes through a quality assessment process before refinement and then the oil is bottled and leaves as a finished product to customers around the world,” explains Thiago Galvao, production manager at the Beraca factory.

In addition to Beraca’s ethical sourcing commitment and close collaboration with local farmers and communities, as part of its dedication to a sustainable supply chain, the objective of zero waste is extremely important. Clariant makes use of as much of the açaí raw material as possible. The vegetable oil is extracted from the pulp, as is the anthocyanin active ingredient to be able to manufacture the extracts. With the cake formed from the pulp Beraca creates natural scrubs. All these incorporate the concepts of upcycling and zero waste.

“We work with the açaí berries from when they are picked until the final product, therefore we have an entire quality control process for this raw material from the moment of receipt to when it leaves the factory. With this we have internal certification processes, focused on good manufacturing practices that ensure that the entire production process is effective and safe,” says Karla Magnago, quality control coordinator at Beraca.

Outside the factory and back in the rainforest, the Beraca biodiversity team works with local communities to support the health of the forest and the well-being of the people living in the region.

“It’s a relationship that transcends economics and includes social and environmental aspects,” says Thiago. “In the end we offer Beraca’s natural açaí products in a sustainable way, guaranteeing that the forest stays standing.”

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