In recent years husband and wife team Tetautiare and Nick Toomaru have worked hard to ensure the company’s three principal oils – virgin coconut, monoi and tamanu oil - secured Bio Organic, Ecocert and Cosmos certifications.
Underlining the quality and purity of the oils, the pair now want to take the business to the next level by ensuring it also has USDA organic certification so they can start supplying the North American market as both a beauty brand and an oils supplier.
Eyeing USDA organic certification
“Because we already have the other three European-based certifications this means that the USDA certification will be just a formality so we are currently processing the paperwork to do just that,” said Nick Toomaru during an exclusive interview at the sidelines of the recent Cosmoprof North America event, in Las Vegas.
“Once this is complete we can start to supply our products throughout the important North American market, which we believe will soon become a vitally important part of our business.”
However, the business owners are not looking to supply in huge volumes to other suppliers, nor do they have ambitions to be present in the larger mass market retail channels as a brand.
“We want to share the story about our oils and our family’s history with our new customers and to build lasting, meaningful relationships,” said Tetautiare Toomaru.
“We want to ensure that our branded oils are positioned at the top end of the market, reflecting both the quality and the smaller volumes we produce them in. Likewise, if they are included as an ingredient in formulations we want to be sure they form a part of either luxury or prestige products.”
A craft perfected by many generations
This positioning reflects the fact that the family's craft is the culmination of hundreds of years of careful cultivation and is something that has always played an important part in the lives of both Tahitians and throughout the Polynesian archipelago – an area that is the same size as Europe.
“Our ancestors travelled all over the Polynesian archipelago collecting plants from other islands and then brought them back to Tahiti to ensure we have the rich and varied eco system the island enjoys today,” said Tetautiare.
This tradition goes hand-in-hand with a longstanding respect for the environment and a way of life that has always been strictly adhered to. Indeed, it is a crucial part of life on a small island, where pollution can play an immediate and long lasting effect on the fragile ecosystem.
Going the organic route ensures the tradition
“This is why we chose to be organic from the early stages. This is extremely important to us because we wanted to ensure that our traditional oils can continue to be produced by our family and for the next generation of consumers,” said Nick.
So what makes these oils so special? The company’s eponymous monoi oil is created from a coconut oil blended with essences from carefully selected and crafted flowers.
“These flowers have to be picked by hand at the right time - not too open and not too closed. Then we have to carefully press them within 24 hours of harvesting to ensure that the active properties are preserved while minimizing the amount of processing,” said Nick.
“We use a technical process for the filtration process that takes place in three stages to make it as fine as possible and to ensure the best quality. Once this process is finished, it means that the molecules remain undamaged and the active properties are preserved.”
Working as a cluster
Rau Hotu Tahiti is part of a small group of oil producers that work throughout the Tahitian islands as a cluster of businesses that have been recognized by the government since 2009. They are all family businesses incorporating small-scale plantations.
Each of these businesses specializes in a certain type of flower or plants, following a system that has enabled the Tahitian businesses to meet demands, as well as making it easier to comply with organic certification standards.
“This way we can try to meet bigger orders, say of up to 200 kilos, by combining our resources. However, it also means that we avoid negatively impacting the environment because we don’t have to put too much pressure on any one producer at any one time,” said Nick.
“We don’t want to sell in the super market or mass market. The price has to be broken down for these channels because it’s about volumes. But with organic products it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality and that is the focus of our business.”