Naturals and men’s grooming driving demand for Caribbean essential oils in Europe

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

France, Germany, the UK, Netherlands and Ireland make up the top 5 markets importing essential oils from the Caribbean - Getty Images
France, Germany, the UK, Netherlands and Ireland make up the top 5 markets importing essential oils from the Caribbean - Getty Images

Related tags Essential oils Caribbean Natural cosmetics men's grooming exports Trade European union Fenty Beauty black castor oil Hair care

Europe’s growing natural cosmetics market and increased interest in men’s personal grooming is driving demand for Caribbean essential oils, particularly black caster and coconut oils.

Exports of Caribbean essential oils to Europe are on the rise – up 33% in the past year, according to the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export).

In 2018, Caribbean countries exported essential oils valued at more than €32m to the EU – the top five markets were France, Germany, the UK, Netherlands and Ireland.

Health and wellness, men’s grooming and naturals

Damie Sinanan, manager for competitiveness and export promotion at Caribbean Export, said the cosmetics category had contributed significantly to increased essential oil demand.

“There is growing awareness around health and wellness, personal grooming particularly for men, which is causing this increased demand,”​ Sinanan told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.

On top of this, he said more consumers were choosing natural and organic products which often featured essential oils.

“We are seeing this demand increase year by year, in large part due to greater concern about sustainability and ethics on the part of European consumers.”

Black castor oil ‘distinct and different’

Tapping into European essential oil demands, therefore, required a sharp focus on production, Sinanan said.

“It all boils down to quality. Companies and consumers want to feel assured that what they are buying is 100% natural oil and that there’s no synthetic components, carriers or that it’s been diluted,” ​he said.

The Caribbean had its strength in the production of black castor oil, for example - an oil widely sought after for its purity and high levels of vitamins, minerals and protein, Sinanan said, as well as coconut oil.

Importantly, black castor oil was “distinct and different from regular castor oil”,​ he said. Produced largely in Jamaica and Haiti, it was made through roasting, grinding and cooking castor seeds to extract a 100% pure, dark brown oil high in vitamin E, minerals, protein and omega 6 and omega 9.

“What sets it apart is its ability to heal and carry moisture to the hair, skin and body. There aren’t any other oils that have this much ricinoleic acid.”

The Fenty Beauty effect?

Sinanan said the Caribbean region hoped interest and demand in its essential oils continued to increase – something already happening and fuelled by big names like Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty.

“As more awareness and education comes, as it relates to the benefits of some of our indigenous products, there’s increased demand and market opportunity for our producers in the Caribbean. It’s already happening, as we’ve seen the success of Fenty Beauty – it’s opening the door for more cosmetic producers to trade with Europe,”​ he said.

Fenty Beauty was launched in 2017 by Barbadian singer Rihanna to create cosmetics for all skin types and tones.

Sinanan said for Caribbean essential oil producers, the UK cosmetics market was particularly important given its “multi-cultural make up”, ​with the diaspora population a “natural target audience”.

Asked if the Caribbean faced competition in essential oils, he said: “We’re having to compete with much larger markets such as Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico and Morocco, for example, who are exporting essential oils to Europe.”

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