Three Natural Plant-Based Oils in Foods and Cosmetics
Learn more about the rising demand and diverse applications for coconut oil, sunflower oil, and shea butter.
According to a 2019 market report published by Mordor Intelligence, from 2020 - 2025, the European fats and oil market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.35. Mordor Intelligence attributes this expected growth in the market to the general trend in the rising consumer demand for high-quality, organic health products. Transparency Market Research and PR Newswire back up this claim by listing the health benefits associated with the consumption of foods that contain trans-fat free oils alongside rising consumer awareness for and interest in ingredients in foods as further contributors.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) underlines the rising concerns in Europe connected to sustainability and the resulting increasing demand for fair trade and organically certified foods. The CBI goes on to highlight a shift that is emerging in the European vegetable market’s supply chain, “There is a trend for stronger connectedness between end-users (e.g. food manufacturers) and producers. This does not mean that importers are becoming redundant. European importers still play an essential role in the provision of services like quality control, storage and product financing.”
Simultaneously, trends in the cosmetics industry continue to mirror those observed by research institutes in the food industry, such as the demand for organics. The CBI highlights this point further in an insightful article exploring the drivers triggering demand for natural ingredients for cosmetics in Europe. “The European cosmetics market offers good opportunities for natural ingredient exporters in developing countries. Skincare is the most important product category, in which a wide range of products use natural ingredients. Commonly used ingredients include vegetable oils with functional or active properties for body and face products.” Europe’s natural cosmetics market is unquestionably dominated by Germany (valued at €1.3 billion), which currently holds a whopping 35% of the entire continent’s shares. Germany’s market is trailed by France (valued at €720 million), Italy (valued €425 million), and the United Kingdom (valued at €360 million). Within Germany, the CBI estimates that around 10% of all cosmetics sales fall under the 'natural products' classification.
Below, we take a closer look at the demand for and applications of natural, plant-based oils in both foods and cosmetics.
Because coconuts are primarily cultivated in tropical climates, Europe is fully reliant on imports of coconut oil. A product that was once confined to European health shops and Asian recipes and is now penetrating the market at an accelerated rate and finding its way into more commercial stores and varied cuisines across the continent. Market Research Future lists rising health consciousness amongst consumers alongside coconut oil’s nutritional benefits as critical reasons for increasing demand. Virgin coconut oil specifically is prized for its low trans-fatty acid and high lauric acid content. Thanks to its high saturated fatty acid content, coconut oil is proving to be a sought after alternative to vegetable oils in the food industry. In the cosmetics industry, beauty and personal care product manufacturers are not only opting for coconut oil for its natural emollient and moisturising properties but also value it for its characteristic scent.
Coconut Oil Applications - Food Industry
Coconut Oil Applications - Cosmetics Industry
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Today, Russia, Ukraine, and Argentina are the leading cultivators of sunflower oil globally. Thanks to the increasing awareness about the negative environmental impacts of palm oil, food industry manufacturers are increasingly seeking out sunflower oil as a more regional and sustainable alternative. Sunflower oil is also utilised as a cost-friendly alternative to olive oil. Food producers appreciate sunflower oil’s notably unobtrusive flavour, thereby lending itself to a wide range of applications in foods. It is also valued for its vitamin E content, low levels of saturated fats, and high levels of oleic acid.
In recent years, researchers have observed advancements in the cultivation of high oleic and high stearic sunflower oil varieties, which profit from the boosted health benefits associated with their consumption. A further unique selling point for high oleic sunflower oil is rooted in its increased oxidative stability, resulting in longer shelf life and increased applications in ‘healthier’ fried foods. In the cosmetics industry, on the other hand, sunflower oil’s vitamin content adds benefits to ingredient lists in beauty and personal care products.
Sunflower Oil Applications - Food Industry
Sunflower Oil Applications - Cosmetics Industry
- Lotions, creams & cleansing products for the skin
- Bath & hair care products
- Makeup & suntan products
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With a CAGR of 7.5% predicted in Europe from 2019-2025, Grand View Research expects that the continent will maintain its status as the world’s fastest-growing regional market for shea butter. Shea butter, along with some of its vegetable oil counterparts, has benefited dramatically from cocoa butter’s steady market price increase, which is directly linked to the rising demand for chocolate in general. A significant number of confectionery and chocolate producers have turned to shea butter as a substitution ingredient for cocoa butter as a result. Thus, shea butter is often classified and marketed in the food industry as a so-called Cocoa and Cocoa Butter Equivalent (CBE). According to the CBI, the price for CBEs is estimated to be an average 30%-40% lower than that of most cocoa butters.
Researchers in the cosmetics industry have found that shea butter not only trumps its cocoa counterpart’s price point but also has a better absorption rate. This leads to a further increase in demand. Likewise, shea butter’s ability to soften the skin—so-called ‘emollient properties’—make it an appealing ingredient for cosmetics manufacturers. In the cosmetics industry, shea butter is sold both as an ingredient in natural cosmetics and in its raw form. In the food industry, on the other hand, it is not sold for direct consumption to consumers but solely to food manufacturers as an ingredient. In the cosmetics industry, marketers also appreciate the value of shea butter’s added storytelling benefits. The CBI explains, “Shea butter combines several elements for an interesting marketing story. The butter is often produced using traditional methods and has a history of use in cosmetics. Traditional manufacturing techniques give a more natural and personal character to the product.”
Shea Butter Applications - Food Industry
- Bakery & confectionery foods & chocolates
- Replacement for vegetable oils and other natural, plant-based oils, such as palm oil or cocoa butter
Shea Butter Applications - Cosmetics Industry
- Skincare, body care & face care products
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