Entrepreneur works with Filipino farmers to bring coconut oil to Japan's beauty aisles

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

Entrepreneur works with Filipino farmers to bring coconut oil to Japan's beauty aisles
To support the Philippines - the world’s largest coconut oil producing country, Cocowell Corp is putting its money where its mouth is by re-investing revenue made from exports to Japan, in seedlings and fertilizer for Filipino villages.

The company led by ambitious entrepreneur Yu Mizu is seeing strong demand for coconut oil-based cosmetics in Japan which is boosting its imports of the substance from the Philippines.

Coconut oil is derived from the kernel of the coconut (Cocos Nucifera) unlike palm oil which is extracted from the pulp of the fruit.

It is regarded as a more renewable resource, particularly for cosmetics formulations as it can be grown again, unlike other fossil and mineral raw materials.

Mizui, 39, went to a university in the Philippines in 2002 to study environmental issues in developing countries and recognized that utilizing the local resources in the right way would help increase the income of the country's farmers.

After negotiating with the Philippine Coconut Authority, Cocowell began selling coconut oil and personal care products made from coconut trees in 2005 which was slow at first but reached ¥200 million in 2014 which is projected to reach ¥1 billion ($8.3 million) this year.

To date, the company has expanded to four factories in the Philippines, and Mizui has big plans to make coconut oil a part of the Japanese lifestyle rather then just a trending fad in 2015. 

Cosmetics industry opting for more sustainable oils

Producing cosmetic ingredients in a sustainable way has become a pressing issue for the beauty industry and companies have certainly felt the pressure to adopt greener strategies.

Coconut oil derivatives are increasingly being used in personal care, and with over 15 billion, the Philippines is one of the leading global producers of coconuts a year, covering about 26 per cent of the country's land.

One recent project, partly financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, was established to process oil from the coconut flesh in a more sustainable way on the southern island of Mindanao.

German chemicals firm BASF got involved and after a three year period succeeded in establishing the world's first certified production of dried coconut flesh or 'copra' to oil in the Philippines.

As a result of the project, 300 small farmers from the region now produce the world's first Rainforest Alliance certified copra meeting the standards of the SAN.

The recognized certification system will help them to improve social and environmental standards and increase their revenues as BASF and Cargill pay a premium for high quality and certified copra. 

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