Ekos Pataua: the challenges of scale production of a Natura product

6 de December de 2017

Creating a new Natura product line is a great challenge: it involves years of research, the investigation into multiple ingredients, their chemical and biological properties and the way they interact with the human body. This extensive lab work is intersected with insights from the marketing arena about consumer needs and market trends. In the end, we have the project of a unique, innovative line, able to meet the expectations of the most demanding customers. This is, for instance, how Ekos Pataua was born.

But designing a product is just the beginning of the process. Then, another stage begins, where we concretize this plan, by establishing the path that will allow for a large-scale production. Again, Ekos Pataua illustrates this story for us.

After the company decided to move forward with production, a phasing project was launched in 2014. Its goal was large-scale oil production.

The Pataua oil used by Natura has very specific characteristics. It doesn’t go through refining process. Instead, it is used in its crude form, preserving the diversity of the bioactive components and thus guaranteeing biological activity. So, in order to maintain the properties, the fruit must be handled correctly. “Guaranteeing this care in an industrial production scale represents a huge challenge and Natura faced it ahead on, through fieldwork and, once again, research and innovation,” says Cintia Ferrari, scientific manager of Natura.

“We validate the whole process of extraction of the Pataua oil, seeking the best way to do it,” says Caroline Stüker, a researcher at Natura. “The process of extracting oil from the pulp was a challenge for us and working with this part of the fruit is critical because it’s so perishable. We work with crude oil due to the benefit that comes from preserving secondary metabolites”, says Stüker. “Any change in this extraction process would prevent us from obtaining the benefit studied for Pataua oil.”

“We initially worked with three cooperatives, but they didn’t reach the volume required for the demand (the production scale),” says Stüker. “It was then necessary to establish new supply chains.”

To get an idea of the delicacy required in the extraction process, and the criticality of the oil, the Natura researchers discovered, for example, that when harvested, the Pataua bunch cannot be thrown on the ground from the top, because since the oil is obtained from the pulp, if it is bruised, there will be changes in the quality and chemical composition of the Pataua oil. Therefore, a new harvesting process of the Patua fruit was established, in which a chair attached to the trunks of the trees was specially developed for greater safety in this process. After collecting the bunches, the fruit is removed and placed in bags for transportation. During transport, the fruit is covered with dark canvas to prevent photo-oxidation and consequently the degradation of the bioactive compounds present in the oil.

Following collection, the fruit must be delivered within 48 hours to the factory or kept frozen at a determined temperature, in the dark, until shipped to the factory, at the risk of losing their properties. “We discovered all these things throughout research, because we realized that when the fruit was crushed, or spent time exposed, the oil was damaged. At the same time, we expanded the supplier areas to obtain a larger volume, and we tested many lots to evaluate if there were differences among the fruits obtained in different communities”, according to Ferrari.

These are all examples of a not so very well known dimension, but necessary to obtain an innovative product, involving researchers from different areas and, in this case, great effort to make viable the scale production of the Pataua oil.

After harvesting and freezing for transportation, the fruit goes through the thawing and pulping step. The pulp is then dried through a process developed by Natura and then pressed to obtain crude oil from Pataua. The oil obtained is subjected to a chemical screening, which involves cutting-edge analytical techniques with the objective of guaranteeing the presence of the substances responsible for the biological activity related to the benefit offered by the product. On average, 1 kilo of Pataua fruit yields 40 grams of crude oil used in the Ekos Pataua line.

With this process and following the Good Practices of Crop and Industrial Production, it was possible to preserve and verify the real functional benefits to hair through high technology, combining nature and science, directing its application to the development of more appropriate and effective products .The story of Ekos Patauá illustrates Natura’s research and innovation path in the development and manufacturing of a new product. Innovation is the result of a lot of effort and dedication into solving sometimes complex problems. But in the end, the result is worthwhile as it benefits for consumers, consultants, the environment, and a generation of values for society in a broader sense.