The Business of Shea Butter - Q&A with Amari Shea

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

Read part two of our interview with Amari Shea about the business of shea butter in the East African region.

What is the difference between East African and West African shea butter?

The consistency is very different. The East African is nilotica shea butter so anything that grows along the Nile. It's a different species [from] the West African shea in terms of consistency. It’s much softer and it melts very easily. It [has] a lighter texture to it, highly absorbent, high in vitamins A, E and F. It’s a natural collagen, natural anti-inflammatory as well. The species of the West African shea (Vitellaria paradoxa) [is one] that you find all along Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Ghana. The East Africa one is just a subspecies of the tree so a very different type.

What is the process for sourcing your shea butter?

I have someone locally based who keeps me informed of when the seasons are. I ask them to tell me in advance and when I travel there, we literally go together. They drive me to the regions and we source the shea butter from different farmers.

How can producers of raw products increase the value of their sales?

The problem I see is that [local producers are] giving away all these raw materials for very little. Then these companies buy the raw materials, manufacture them then sell it back to us for five to ten times the price. Whereas if we purchase it ourselves and manufacture it ourselves, then you increase the value.

So for coffee, we [Africans] sell coffee as the berries.There’s no value in it. But if you sun dry the berries, you take off the shells, then you increase the value. You can sell it a lot more. Local farmers need to realise they need to increase the value of it before they sell it off.

I grow it [the coffee], I sun dry it, remove the shells, transport the beans. I roast it myself, grind it and package it. I’ve taken out all of those middle men by doing it myself - to the point where it is shelf ready. Now I can add value to it because I know what I did to get to that stage. So many people just exploit the locals, this[increasing the value of products] is an example we need to show our people in these countries as well.

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