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Colombia's Golden Triangle—Biodiverse and Market-friendly

By: Nancy Jeffries
Posted: April 27, 2012, from the May 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 5 of 7

In the Antioquia region of Medellin, Ecoflora, a 13-year old agro-business that originally developed insect control products based on plant extracts, utilizes natural ingredient extracts for cosmetics. Its agro- and non-agro businesses are based on the study of natural ingredients, with each Ecoflora company having its own team to focus on added value for color, dyes, pigments, oils, waxes, natural surfactants and exfoliating agents.

According to Juan Fernando Botero, president and CEO, Ecoflora’s strengths include 11 successful home care brands, resource access in the region, partnerships with universities and indigenous communities in line with its commitment to creating sustainable supply chains in communities located in the biodiverse regions of Colombia. (The organization works with the Union for Ethical Biotrade and recently received the National Prize for Technology in Colombia). The group’s development of the pigment Cosme Blue—derived from the jagua fruit (Genipa americana), which has been used for centuries by the indigenous groups of Colombia as a temporary dye pigment for body paint—is the outcome of one such commitment to a sustainable supply chain. 

The jagua comes from the Choco region of the Colombian rain forest, located between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes, which has a long rainy season. This has enabled its sustainable growth and makes it highly competitive for use in the U.S. and European markets. Utilizing it for Cosme Blue, Ecoflora has developed a safe and non-staining process for colors, applicable in hair dye and cosmetic formulas—as well as textiles and foods.

In addition to jagua, the group cultivates the fruit of the Sapindus saponaria, or soap nut tree, which yields a naturally occurring surfactant for use in cosmetic products, including shampoos and body and facial washes. Botero noted that for developing supply chains to source science-backed, sustainable materials and communicating their properties is important for the welfare of communities, as well as for enabling the group to be competitive worldwide. 

Regional Beauty Brands Leverage Unique Regional Ingredients; Relationships

In addition to the presence of multinationals, regional brand owners are also developing original cosmetic products that utilize the natural ingredients of the region, providing the ingredient efficacy and appeal that customers seek. Waliwa Amazonian Natural Products, co-founded by CEO Myriam Moya Suta and marketing manager Marta Janneth Neira, markets beauty products that complement traditional knowledge with technology, combining high performance with natural ingredients. The Waliwa facial care-based line of products was created with the European market in mind, while the Piudali brand, a “celebration of abundance and the natural environment,” is designed with the U.S. market in mind. Both are based on the natural plant resources found in various regions of Colombia—including the Amazon, the Caribbean, the Pacific, the Paramo (high mountains) and the Andes.