Melissa Juried Kriebel
A mātauranga-Māori-focused cosmetics business says demand for its sustainably harvested, native plant extracts has soared in light of Covid-19, and Aotearoa could be poised to lead the charge in a cosmetics revolution.
Organic Bioactives founder Andrea Taimana’s business has grown to supply ingredients like rimurimu, Mānuka leaf, harakeke and kawakawa to cosmetic manufacturers in over 24 countries.
Taimana says all ingredients are sourced locally and harvested by hapū from specific rohe with a focus on tikanga Māori, including regenerative replanting programmes.
Now she’s just been approached by a US retailer looking to incorporate the ingredients into a new skincare line to supply some 500 American stores.
“The impact of the pandemic has seen an acceleration in the shift toward more natural cosmetics, and New Zealand is increasingly being recognised internationally as a biodiversity hotspot that is abundant with bioactives found nowhere else in the world,” she says.
The focus, Taimana says, isn’t just about taking mātauranga and rongoā Māori to the world but on growing Māori enterprise in Aotearoa with her collaborative He Tautawhitia Nga Pakihi Wāhine Māori business model, which targets business, economic and educational opportunities to remote communities across Northland, Bay of Plenty and Waikato.
“Collaborative agreements are in place with local iwi to harvest a range of natives including red seaweed, Mamaku black fern, manuka leaf, harakeke and kawakawa, which are then processed using chemical-free green biotechnologies to create high-value ingredients for the cosmetic industry.
“While the efficacy of manuka honey is established internationally there are many native and New Zealand- grown natural botanicals that offer benefits to the skin that are not yet well understood.
The focus isn’t just about taking mātauranga and rongoā Māori to the world but on growing Māori enterprise in Aotearoa. Photo / Supplied
Taimana says she thinks the business could be huge for Māori and working with chief executive Mario Vulinovich, has created a purpose-built laboratory to scientifically prove the effectiveness of the products the group is producing.
“Over the past five years there has been a significant migration from the use of synthetics in cosmetics to all-natural and sustainable ingredients.” Vulinovich agrees.
“We know that as a country of origin, New Zealand has high appeal – particularly to US consumers. However, it is essential that we are able to demonstrate the efficacy of our products to build on our reputation and long-term credibility within the industry,” he says.
Vulinovich says with the active ingredients within cosmetics making up to 5 per cent of most skincare products, even small quantities of raw material can have significant export value – earning up to $250,000 datonne.
Within the global skincare ingredients market, natural actives is the fastest growing segment, Vulinovich says, and is valued at around $4 billion per year.
“Historically, Aotearoa’s distance from major manufacturing hubs has been a disadvantage for the export market. However, our innovative extraction methods and cultural ethos, with regenerative harvesting approach, has helped create a significant point of differentiation within our industry,” Vulinovich says.
The company has raised $700,000 from investors including the government’s innovation incubator Callaghan, which is helping study how they can freeze-dry one of their more successful products to reduce the weight and associated impact on the environment through shipping. Photo / Supplied
The company has raised $700,000 from existing investors including the government’s innovation incubator Callaghan, which is helping study how they can freeze-dry one of their more successful products to reduce the weight and associated impact on the environment through shipping.
“This will be a game changer and will significantly reduce international shipping costs, not to mention our carbon footprint.
“This will mean rather than shipping 1,000kg of finished product, we transport the equivalent of 50kg of powder, which will then go into the final formulation.” Vulinovich says.
“We are about 50% into this project with results looking extremely positive.
The pair say cosmetics are only the start and in the future they will scale their model and look into everything from haircare to beauty supplements.
“We believe there is significant potential for this model to be expanded and for this sector to become a billion-dollar export vertical for New Zealand,” Taimana says.