Care Products, Treatments and Fragrances: Essential Oils are Real All-rounders

Interview with Arti Sharma, Director of
Aroma Atsiri Indonesia

Patchouli, clove and citronella oils – Indonesia is known for its essential oils. But what makes the essential oils "Made in Indonesia" so special?

Indonesia produces a large number of spices and essential oils. Indonesia is the world's largest supplier of patchouli, clove, nutmeg and citronella oil as well as eugenol. In addition, the country exports around 40 other essential oils. Indonesia is known for its biodiversity and the soil and climate create the conditions for this large range of essential oils. The patchouli plant, for example, thrives in hot weather but not in direct sunlight. Indonesia is ideal for its cultivation and also currently a leader in the production of patchouli oil with around 90 percent of the world market share. In addition to these natural conditions, the production itself is an important quality factor. The products are 100 percent made in Indonesia - from the raw material to the distillation to the packaging. Many small farmers and collectors, as well as distillation and processing plants, are involved in the production and they are all experts in their fields. This is what defines the quality of essential oils from Indonesia.

In your opinion, which essential oils are in particularly high demand in the cosmetics sector?

A large number of essential oils are used for body and skin care. Patchouli, clove and citronella oils, as well as eugenol are among the most sought after. 

Specialties from Indonesia are cananga and cajeput oil. Cananga oil is distilled from the blossom of the ylang-ylang or cananga tree and used in perfumed soaps. In contrast to ylang-ylang oil, which is used in many perfumes and cosmetics, cananga oil smells less intense. Cajeput oil is an oil from a special myrtle plant that is native to Indonesia. It consists largely of eucalyptol and has the distinctive eucalyptus smell.

Can you give us an insight into the functions of your oils in cosmetic products?

Essential oils take on a variety of functions and are real all-rounders. Let's take patchouli and citronella oil as examples.

Patchouli oil is used in a variety of cosmetic products. It is highly prized for its signature scent - woody, spicy and sweet. Because of its cleansing effect, it is often used in skin care. It also helps with skin irritations, such as dry and cracked skin, and diseases like dermatitis and acne.

Cosmetics based on citronella oil improve the complexion by evening out the skin tone, clearing clogged pores and also reducing various signs of aging. Due to its antiseptic properties, the oil also prevents wounds and injuries and promotes healing. It is commonly used in soaps, perfumes and other products in the cosmetics industry.

Where do the raw materials you process come from?

We obtain our raw materials primarily from small farmers in the regions of Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi. Aroma Atsiri works closely with over 500 partners. We visit them regularly and check the cultivation and work processes as well as the quality of our raw materials. The purity of our end product has top priority, which is why we pay special attention to botanical origin, chemical composition and naturalness when selecting the raw materials.

Depending on the origin - Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi - there are differences in the natural raw materials that influence the composition and colour of the oil. For example, patchouli oil differs in acidity and patchouli alcohol content as well as in colour, depending on the Indonesian region from which the patchouli leaves come. In addition to the raw materials, we also obtain oils from some partners. We check them carefully and use the peroxide and acid value as well as the anisidine value as quality indicators. Quality has the highest priority.

How do you ensure quality production?

Responsible sourcing of raw materials, optimal production processes and modern technology go hand in hand. We have our own research team that develops new and improved distillation techniques and supports our partners in the agricultural processes. In addition, we continually invest in innovative technologies and work with an integrated control system to standardise our production processes and consistently ensure high quality.

The extraction method depends primarily on the raw material being processed. Most essential oils are obtained by steam distillation. This is how we ensure that distillation is carried out at low temperatures and that the ingredients are preserved. Two types of distillation are used in Indonesia: indirect distillation and steam distillation. The most common method is indirect distillation, in which the leaves are hung in strainers inside the tank. In steam distillation, the water is heated in a separate tank.

Other extraction processes we use include fractional distillation and molecular distillation. We have recently invested in new facilities and have been able to increase the capacity of molecular distillation and fractional distillation sixfold - from 400 kg to 2400 kg per day.

What experiences have you already had with your products on the European market?

A few months ago, we were at the international trade fair "in-cosmetics" in Paris and were able to present our essential oils at the booth of the Import Promotion Desk (IPD). In October 2021 we participated in a virtual B2B event for natural ingredients for the cosmetics industry, also organised by the IPD. Both events clearly show that there is a great interest in essential oils among European buyers and that Indonesia is in demand as a traditional country of origin for spices and oils.

Of course, the quality has to be right in order to survive on the European market. In addition to the support at trade fairs and matchmaking mentioned above, the IPD, as an import promotion initiative, has helped us to gain an understanding of the EU market and the requirements of importing companies. For example, we have registered our products patchouli, citronella and clove oil as well as eugenol under the European REACH regulation, so that European companies no longer have to perform this function when importing. We are convinced that we can meet the requirements of European trading partners and look forward to expanding business relationships in Europe.

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