The Amazon is the largest tropical rainforest on our planet and home to around 40,000 plant species, including the açaí tree. Its berries contain abundant antioxidants which make them a powerful natural ingredient in high-performing and sustainable cosmetics, central to many oils, actives and scrubs developed by Clariant’s Personal Care Specialties company, Beraca.
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« to the communities that work with the plant and who collect and transport several tons 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 help producers, getting an idea of the work they do and the importance of the work being done.«
Tadeu de Melo, President of AMPRUNAM
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, our source of 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,« he explains.
After reaching the bunches of berries towards the top of the tree Pantoja da Costa 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 weighted and loaded onto a boat and then a truck to be taken to the Beraca factory, which belongs to the Clariant group, in Ananindeua that will receive the raw material and transform it into the all-important açaí oil and açaí extract.
»Beraca helped broaden our vision with a new reality, with 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 and it was through the partnership with them that we acquired knowledge and learned more about the processes within the açaí market,« said Tadeu de Melo, President of AMPRUNAM, a local rural producers’ organization.
»In addition to being a partner, 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 help producers, getting an idea of the work they do and the importance of the work being done,« he continued.
Every October during harvest season, the whole factory focuses on processing the açaí. As it’s a very sensitive fruit the steps need to happen quickly so that the berries are not spoiled. »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,« said 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 Galvao. »In the end we offer Beraca’s natural açaí products in a sustainable way, guaranteeing that the forest stays standing.«