corporAID: Is marula oil still an insider tip or has it been a mainstream product for a long time?
Reinhardt: Marula oil is certainly no longer an insider tip. That was different 15 years ago when I first came across it on a trip through Swaziland. I was so enthusiastic about this high-quality and pleasantly mild care oil that I tried to find a source in Europe. At that time without success. There are now some mostly small importers similar to Aurum Africa, which I founded in 2016 with an Italian partner. Although marula oil is used by many cosmetics manufacturers today, it is still not mainstream.
Where do you import your marula oil from?
Reinhardt: We source the oil from Namibia. Every spring, several thousand women collect the fruits of the wild and widely scattered trees. The villagers then separate the pits from the fruit and take them to a collection point, where an initial quality check takes place. Then it goes to Windhoek for further processing. Our local cooperation partner extracts the oil by cold pressing and filters out suspended matter, yeast and mold. The result is a certified organic, stable oil. We import up to two tons of marula oil every year, which we mainly sell to cosmetics manufacturers in Germany, Italy, Austria, France and Switzerland. We also sell our own care products.
How is the business developing from your point of view?
Reinhardt: We were on a growth course until 2020, then the pandemic slowed us down. At least we were able to stabilize volumes and are now expecting increases again. However, the margins are lower because the transport costs have risen exorbitantly. At around 33 euros per hundred milliliters, marula is a rather high-priced oil, which is why it is used as an additive in skin creams or hair shampoos. For further commercialization, marula trees might need to be cultivated. But this is only in its infancy. But even if the wild harvest is logistically complex, I don't think plantation cultivation is desirable.