The nuts fall to the ground during the harvesting period (typically June until August). They are then buried in pits, which helps the pulp to ferment and disintegrate, and produces enough
heat to prevent germination. The nuts are dried for a few days and are later shelled and cleaned, usually by hand. The kernels are dried further to reduce moisture content from about 40 % to maximum 7 %.
The following is a typical composition of the shea nut required for cosmetics:
- Free Fatty Acids (FFA) < 6%
- Moisture content < 7%
- Oil content > 45%
- Latex from 4% to 10%
The oil content is the most crucial element of the shea nut. If the oil content is
higher and the FFA and moisture content is lower, then the shea butter will be used as premium ingredient for cosmetics.
The oil extraction can be done by cold-pressure or by solvent. Cold pressure is
usually done in Africa by local producers. It is a natural and solvent-free process that preserves the original properties of shea butter. However, this
process has a low yield and a high cost. Solvent extraction (for example by hexane) is usually done in Europe by multinationals. This process is less
natural, but it offers an optimal yield and a low cost added-value to the product.
Acid value, iodine value and melting point are also important data; needless to say
the product should be free of foreign bodies. Users in the cosmetic industry want a very highly refined butter product. That's why the refining steps
are made in France, at Sophim, in order to control the process closely. For each batch, Sophim can supply a detailed analysis of the different fatty
acids, the refractive index and a saponification value.
A process of fractionation can be added to separate the liquid fraction ( olein, enriched
in unsaponifiable matter) and the solid fraction (butter or stearin). This is done also in the Sophim facilities, where the extraction can be done through
a 100% quality controlled process and through soft heating and filtration for the resultant oily materials.
The product is packed under nitrogen, stored and transported in cool conditions to avoid
Thanks to high performance technology, Sophim is expert in the manufacture of refined
shea butter and shea olein. We have firmly established our place in the market by supplying a wide range of very clean and pure shea products.
Our refining process includes melting, de-gumming, drying, bleaching-earth treatment, filtering, deodorizing, packing and labelling. This environmentally friendly refining unit meets
customers' expectations on natural products.
We use natural bleaching earth in our process in order to remove possible traces of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), dioxins, etc. that may cause allergic issues. These traces
are also prone to give an odour to the butter.
All products are accompanied with full certification and safety data sheets, including for organic and fair trade materials. By controlling the supply and the production of this material from
the source in Africa until the finished product which is delivered. Sophim is in a position to ensure high quality standards, security of supply and stability of prices.
Vitamin E is added only upon request for anti-oxidant purpose.