Apiculture and Natural Cosmetics in Brazil
The global demand for bee-products, specifically honey and propolis, is expanding due to increasing incentives for their consumption. Comparable to tea and wine, honey has the potential to expand its market in the natural foods industry due to its varied qualities and flavours, diversity of use and form and the aesthetics and geography of production. There is growing understanding and increased promotion of its benefits to health and wellbeing. Beekeeping itself has also gained attention through the heavily documented decline of the honeybee and its impact on crop pollination and food security. Apiculture is a versatile and sustainable method of food production, almost unique in its positive impact on biodiversity. Bees and bee products are therefore seen as vital both for human and environmental health and sustainability.
Brazil is an important player in apiculture. It can produce high yields of quality product including raw honey and GM-pollen free honey, due to its land mass, diverse floral source and ability to produce honey all year round. For these reasons, Brazil has a strong global apicultural presence. It is the world’s leader in organic honey production (yielding over 1000 tons per year), the fifth largest exporter of honey and the eleventh largest producer worldwide (38k tons in 2010). Production is forecast to continue to grow over the coming years. Brazil exports half of its honey crop, the other half is consumed domestically. Brazil is the third largest producer of propolis (after China and Russia). Brazilian propolis is highly sought after as it is considered some of the most nutritious with the highest concentration of flavonoids. Brazilian beekeepers also harvest and market pollen, beeswax and royal jelly.
The medicinal and nutritional properties of bee-products have made them key ingredients in cosmetics and personal care. Honey is renowned for its antibacterial, antifungal, anti inflammatory, moisturising and soothing properties. Honey is also a humectant which can be used to maintain the moisture content in a product in changing environmental conditions. Beeswax is a protective emollient which is compatible with a wide variety of cosmetic ingredients. It is an excellent base for moisturisers, increasing permanence on skin and lip surfaces, it also increases the protective efficacy of sunscreen and it reinforces detergent activity. Propolis is increasingly sought after in the cosmetics industry for its wealth of benefits. It is sebum equalizing, anti-bacterial, anti-dandruff, anti-irritant, anti- microbial and a purifying agent which can be used as a safe preservative. Royal jelly is less prominent in cosmetics due to its low yield compared to other bee-products, it is a firming and elastifying agent and has been used in anti- aging and anti-stretchmark products.
Brazil is the fourth largest consumer of cosmetics and personal care products globally and the third largest for natural cosmetics. Whilst multinational companies occupy the majority of the market share, Brazilian companies Natura and O Boticário hold significant positions. Both companies are defined by their range of active natural ingredients including many derivatives of native Amazonian plants. The combination of an increasing supply of locally sourced ingredients (which can be compounded with bee-products for an effective formulation) with the growing consumption of cosmetics makes Brazil an ideal site for setting up a social enterprise based on natural cosmetics.