Sustainable shea butter solution

appealing to consumers' hearts and minds

Sustainable skin care innovation

In this special Co-Development project, we supported our customer Beiersdorf to develop a limited-edition skin care product that would deliver on multiple sustainable sourcing targets as well as on a number of sensory performance targets.

The multinational skin care company Beiersdorf, which owns the NIVEA brand among others, launched its corporate purpose and sustainability agenda “Care Beyond Skin” in 2020. This is reflected in a holistic approach to sustainability, focusing on the three pillars Environment, Society, and Consumers.

Today, consumers are increasingly interested in natural and sustainable skin care, combined with a desire to align consumption choices with making a tangible and positive social impact. The ambition of this project was to demonstrate leading-edge thinking with regard to sustainable innovation.

Understanding the better opportunity

The idea behind this Co-Development opportunity can be traced back to an internal Beiersdorf Christmas gift in 2018 when AAK helped the Germany-based company to create a moisturizing lip balm containing 100 percent ethically sourced shea butter from women cooperatives in Burkina Faso, West Africa. The product was an instant success with Beiersdorf’s employees. 

A joint team from Beiersdorf and AAK then pioneered an initiative to develop and launch – online and in NIVEA’s flagship stores in Hamburg and Berlin, Germany – a commercial version of the product as a limited edition for NIVEA. Our joint team was represented by colleagues from the entire value chain, including Marketing, Customer Innovation, Sustainability, and Sales. Together, we identified two main challenges to solve.

The first one was to show what is possible in terms of sustainable sourcing. Together, our sustainability and marketing specialists defined an ideal list of success criteria. These included sustainably sourced shea – naturally derived and directly traceable to the women cooperatives in West Africa, a ‘clean’ formulation of 100 percent shea butter and vegan as the ultimate endorsement of pure and natural raw materials.

The second challenge related to functionality: A number of sensory performance targets were defined, covering the experience on the skin, including a creamy texture, rich skin feeling, skin moisturizing, and a smoothening ability. The final product also needed to be stable and consistent in the jar, requiring it to crystalize in an optimal way during processing, cooling, and filling. A number of prototypes were developed at AAK’s Customer Innovation Center for Personal Care in Sweden. These were evaluated by our joint team to identify the most appealing and robust solution.

A positive impact on many levels

Pilot trials revealed that the basis for our solution already existed in a newly developed product, Lipex SheaSoft TR. In its pure form, this single ingredient could deliver the desired sensory experience as well as hit the mark regarding our extensive list of sustainable sourcing targets. Specialist AAK guidance relating to processing and choice of packaging ensured consistency and stability of the product in the jar.

In 2019, Beiersdorf joined the Global Shea Alliance and engaged with AAK in a five-year sustainability partner program supporting 10,000 women shea collectors within Kolo Nafaso, our direct sourcing program in West Africa. 

Authentic storytelling played a central role in the product launch. In close collaboration between our marketing and sustainability departments, a narrative was created based on the social impact of the initiatives for the women within the Kolo Nafaso program, from whom we source the shea kernels directly. We could tell the story and show the positive effect on the livelihoods of the women shea collectors. In this way, a direct and tangible connection was forged between the product on sale, sustainability initiatives, and the women it empowered. This, combined with the functional performance of the solution, appealed to both the hearts and minds of NIVEA consumers.

Beiersdorf promoted this NIVEA limited edition with 100% pure and sustainable shea butter widely. The sustainability story generated significant press coverage, as well as a feature and interviews on a German prime-time TV show popular with the core target market.

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