Safe+: Enhancing commercial capacities of cosmetics in Colombia

Safe+: Enhancing commercial capacities of cosmetics in Colombia

Essential oils have helped people heal and improve their health, cleanse their aura and attract happiness into their homes for thousands of years. More than 200 types of natural oils are consumed around the world annually. Usually associated with the Middle East, the natural oils industry and related cosmetics market is gaining popularity in Colombia, where the government believes it has great export and growth potential.

14 Mar 2019

Essential oils have helped people heal and improve their health, cleanse their aura and attract happiness into their homes for thousands of years. More than 200 types of natural oils are consumed around the world annually. Usually associated with the Middle East, the natural oils industry and related cosmetics market is gaining popularity in Colombia, where the government believes it has great export and growth potential.

Oscar Santiago Lemus is one of the local entrepreneurs who shares this vision. After years of work in formal institutions, the Colombian entrepreneur and chemist by training decided to do something that almost no one in his country had done: to set up a natural oil production. Oscar and his wife named their company “Aromas del Sol”, which literally means aromas of the sun.

The company produces essential oils for the cosmetic market. The oils are extracted from aromatic plants – which are also cultivated by the company  using methods that respect the environment and ensure a sustainable biodiversity management. Over the years, the small family enterprise’s production capacity gradually increased, reaching a point where their production exceeded the local demand. This is when the Lemus family knew they needed to boost their capacity to export their products internationally.

And here came the Cosmetic Sector Quality Programme “Safe+”.

Oscar Santiago Lemus

From 2015 to 2018, the programme aimed to stimulate the sector’s growth and generate employment for Colombians by strengthening the national quality infrastructure, improving the trade capacity and achieving international recognition of cosmetics manufactured using natural ingredients. It was implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) with funds from the Productive Transformation Programme (PTP) of Colombia’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MINCIT) and Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

Located in the rural town of Barbosa in the Northeast of Colombia, Aromas del Sol S.A.S. is one of 24 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which benefited from the technical support provided through Safe+ during its four years of implementation.

“The trainings that we received from the Safe+ Programme were on a variety of relevant topics such as: quality of essential oils, different analysis techniques, applications and market trends. One of us was certified as auditor in ISO 22716 on good manufacturing practices in cosmetics and another took a course in organic agriculture,” said Paola Ximena Garavito, Director of Production of Aromas del Sol S.A.S.

The ISO standard 22716 provides guidelines on Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for cosmetics in the stages of production, control, storage and shipment of cosmetic products. By having a certified auditor within the company, Aromas del Sol S.A.S. is able to prove compliance with this specific standard and to better monitor the production activities according to the external markets requirements.

“We are in the process of starting to commercialize at an international level. In the near future we want to focus our marketing on some target countries, including the United States, Australia and France,” Garavito added.

In an effort to increase their export capacity, Safe+ provided support to help the company comply with internationally recognized standards, among others through the creation of new processes and documentation, as well as by improving the infrastructure of the company in line with the strict guidelines for organic agriculture under the ECOCERT standard.The course in organic agriculture undertaken by the company set a precedent for the obtention of the ECOCERT certification.

The company now has 31 natural ingredients and 17 crops certified under Ecocert Organic Standard (EOS) and USDA National Organic Programme (NOP). These certifications are of great importance because they demonstrate the organic quality of the products, allowing them to enter the European, Canadian and US markets. “Thanks to the Safe+ Programme our essential oils are now recognized by the standard NOP in the United States and Canada and by the EOS standard in Europe,” said Lemus.

By complying with international standards, Aromas del Sol S.A.S contributes to the development of the regional production chain. Its products stand out by their diversity and highly certified quality. According to the company's webpage, Aromas del Sol S.A.S “looks for a better way to coexist with our planet, to take advantage of the innumerable resources it supplies and to provide a more pleasant environment.”

“The Safe+ Programme supported Colombia’s objective to be recognized as a regional leader in the production and export of cosmetics made from natural ingredients. It also served as a precedent for the UNIDO-SECO Global Quality and Standards Programme, a four year global programme focusing on strengthening the quality infrastructure systems, enhancing SME compliance with international standards and technical regulations, and raising awareness about quality in 8 countries, including Colombia. In the future, the programme will focus its interventions on the chemical value chain to foster Colombia's global competitiveness in the sector,” said Juan Pablo Diaz Castillo, UNIDO Industrial Development Officer and Project Manager of Safe+.