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The journey of shea butter
Product case

The journey of shea butter

Identifying opportunities and converting them into successful logistics concepts. That’s what drives us. By approaching the supply chain in a smarter way, Van den Bosch is contributing to tangible change in various sectors. This also goes for the shea butter supply chain, where we’re creating new opportunities for the West African market.

Shea butter is a vegetable fat extracted from the fruit of the West African tree Vitellaria paradoxa. Its nuts are separated from the pulp, dried and ground into a fatty mass: shea butter. Shea butter is mainly used in cosmetic products, such as moisturisers, ointments or lotions. It is also used as an edible oil, in margarine, in soap and even in medicines.

Sustainable and ethical
“Shea butter is a natural product that’s becoming increasingly popular,” says Bart van de Vorst, General Manager at Van den Bosch DMCC in Dubai. “This is in line with the growing demand for sustainable and ethical products. Shea butter has nice properties. It’s natural, soft and good for the skin. What’s more, it’s not extracted using mass production techniques because the tree only occurs in a limited part of the savanna. This reinforces its ethical characteristics.”

“The popularity of shea butter is in line with the growing demand for sustainable and ethical products.”

Stearin and olein
Delving deeper into the processing process, you discover that shea butter is first split into stearin and olein. Olein is a sustainable alternative to sunflower oil, palm oil and olive oil. Stearin mainly goes to the cosmetics sector. “Where splitting previously took place in Europe, we see that multinationals are now investing in local processing centres so that the product is processed at source”, says Van de Vorst.

Shipping as bulk freight
Van den Bosch ships raw shea butter and stearin to Europe in 20ft ISO tank containers. “The product is loaded at the right temperature and cools down during transport. In Europe, we bring it back up to the right temperature at strategically located heating stations close to the unloading location. This provides a lot of advantages over traditional modes of transport”, says Van de Vorst. “The usual method of transporting it as a block requires a lot of physical handling. What’s more, heating up is a time-consuming process. The move to bulk transport in ISO tanks is ideal in terms of reduced labour, increased capacity and heating options.”

Processing at source
In collaboration with our partner Savannah Fruits, we’re helping the local population to start up their own processing centres. Van de Vorst: “The tree doesn’t grow on the coast, but inland. This creates logistical challenges. We provide tank containers in which the shea butter is temporarily stored before it goes to the port. In this way we help the local population to process the product at source and still export it as bulk cargo: a win-win situation.”

Interested in the possibilities for your product?
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At Van den Bosch, we are happy to share our experience to improve the world of bulk logistics together. Please feel free to contact us with any challenge, question or request.

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