Monoï de Tahiti, a natural treasure with strong export potential

May 30 2022

Tahiti Oil Factory create celebrated beauty and wellbeing products with the sacred Tahitian tiaré mā’ohi flower, achieve global protections for Polynesian product and traditions, and explore new export markets.

The Tahitian islands of French Polynesia are a tremendous reservoir of biodiversity, with more than 60 per cent of their botanical species being endemic to the area. Over centuries the Tahitian people developed the art of healing based on these sacred plants, known as ‘Raau Tahiti’. Today, companies such as Tahiti Oil Factory specialise in working with the native natural flora to create unique products for the beauty and wellbeing industries.

 To supply such production lines, it is estimated that more than 110 million tiaré mā’ohi, or tiaré flowers, scientifically named Gardenia taitensis, are harvested each year in French Polynesia. The small, subtly fragrant, five-petalled white flower is not only the Tahitian national flower, but a treasured innovative active ingredient in skincare. The petals are traditionally soaked in coconut oil, to create the renowned monoï oil, or ‘sacred oil’ in Mā’ohi.

Monoï oil is found in many hair and skin products, including bar soap, shampoo, tanning oil, and bug repellent. The oil has notes of honey, chocolate, and earth combined with a floral scent for a truly exotic smell. As well as being used as a skin and hair preparation, monoï has many practical and ceremonial applications in Polynesian culture. Mā’ohi used it as a massage oil for thousands of years to stimulate senses and feed imagination. Every island in the archipelago has its own recipe and continuously reinvents the product.

 In 1992 the the manufacturing process of monoï oil was regulated and obtained the label “Appellation of Origin” to ensures its Tahitian authenticity. In English this is known as “Protected/Controlled Designation of Origin, and monoï oil was the first cosmetic product to have obtained this certification worldwide. It guarantees a quality product, respects Polynesian traditions, and protects the Polynesian economy.

 Founded in 1982, the Laboratoire Cosmétologique de Tahiti, known today as Tahiti Oil Factory, were fundamental in achieving this milestone by creating the ‘Interprofessional Grouping of the Monoï of Tahiti’. More recently, Tahiti Oil Factory have founded the ‘Monoï de Tahiti Association’, whose mission is to develop knowledge of monoï, its promotion, and the protection of the 'Monoï de Tahiti' Appellation of Origin.

Supported by significant growth in the local market as well as the expanding cultural protections and appreciations for the product, Tahiti Oil Factory is now exploring exciting international development potential. The trade team at Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) New Zealand recently introduced Tahiti Oil Factory to a leading New Zealand importer of natural ingredients for cosmetics manufacturers. This resulted in the first export of monoï to New Zealand, facilitating a connection bound to lead to more fruitful collaborations in the future.

Jeremy Biau, General Manager at Tahiti Oil Factory says export opportunities are important for the company, especially at this time.

“Exporting to the Pacific region is an essential part of our development. The opportunity to collaborate with Pacific Trade Invest has given us a great advantage in this period of health crisis " said Biau.

Tahiti Oil Factory now exports to a dozen of countries in Europe, including France and England, as well as the United States, Canada, Korea, Japan, and Australia.