Allanblackia seed oil enters market
“Launch of the first spreadable margarine is a major milestone for this sustainable oil”
After over a decade of research and work on the ground, allanblackia oil has made its introduction into the consumer market, and its success can benefit local communities, help restore degraded landscapes and conserve local biodiversity.
In February Unilever launched the first organic margarine with allanblackia oil on the market, under the brand Flora. It’s called Flora Ekologisk and can be found in store at Swedish retailers. This is the first consumer product to use allanblackia oil.
Unilever has been working with local and global companies and organizations in the ‘Allanblackia Partnership’ to develop sustainable sources of allanblackia oil in a way that provides social, economic, and environmental benefits for the countries producing it.
“Our partnership has pursued Allanblackia not as another wonder-crop promising to save Africa, but as a model for how to build a sustainable value chain based on local resources, local input, and with clear benefits to local communities, the climate, and consumers around the world,” said Chris Buss, Deputy Director, Global Forest and Climate Change Program at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). “This product launch is a major milestone for sustainable allanblackia oil.”
Allanblackia oil is obtained from the seeds of the allanblackia tree in tropical Africa. Its properties make it excellent for use in margarines and spreads. Villagers in Tanzania harvest the seeds in the wild and Novel Tanzania, a local processing company, extracts the allanblackia oil used in Unilever’s margarine. In July of 2014, the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT) certified the supply chain for the first time as meeting its sustainability standard.
This means that allanblackia oil generates income for local communities in Tanzania, while supporting local development and contributing to local biodiversity conservation,” explains Rik Kutsch Lojenga, Executive Director of UEBT.
Since early 2016 the wild harvesting of allanblackia oil in Tanzania is also certified organic, following a full supply chain audit by Control Union.
“This wild harvesting alone cannot meet long term demand for the oil. Therefore the partnership is continuously exploring ways to cultivate more allanblackia tree in Tanzania, Ghana, and Nigeria in a sustainable manner to grow the production of allanblackia oil” said Dr. Daniel A. Ofori, Director of CSIR-Forestry Research Institute of Ghana”. Planting allanblackia trees on cocoa and other farms provides an additional source of income for the farmers and can complement existing crops. Deploying degraded lands can help restore those lands back into productivity and preserve biodiversity.
The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) is coordinating allanblackia research activities to establish an appropriate domestication strategy for cultivating allanblackia as an additional crop in smallholder farms and in larger agroforestry plots. This participatory research includes the farmers and the communities, national agricultural research systems, civil society organizations and universities, and it focuses on sourcing and deployment of quality planting stocks and tree improvement.
To test commercial upscaling potential of cultivation and to demonstrate that sustainable large-scale agroforestry can be done in a feasible manner, Form International established a demonstration farm in Ghana.
Even after a decade of work, allanblackia is still in its infancy compared to what it could become, and it still faces many challenges ahead. Allanblackia is already providing additional income to local communities and helping to restore degraded landscapes.
The challenge going forward is to maintain these benefits and sustainable practices while increasing production to meet demand. Allanblackia oil will need to establish itself in the marketplace, and it will need continued research and participation from local farmers and agroforestry experts to increase production from the slow-growing tree.
Planting allanblackia will not solve climate issues or completely change local economic conditions. However, the Allanblackia Partnership hopes this crop can become a model for how to develop local resources in a way that provides tangible benefits to local communities and the environment. By prioritizing social, environmental, and economic sustainability from the outset, and including participants from local communities, governments and international corporations, allanblackia has a good chance of meeting these goals.
The launch of Unilever new spread is a major milestone in the process, and the success of this new product will be a strong indicator of allanblackia’s future potential.