At the turn of the millennium, Argan oil was literally unknown outside of Morocco. Only small volumes were made locally for domestic consumption. Since then, the picture has drastically changed. Today, Argan oil has become big business: More than one million gallons are produced yearly. Vast amounts of Argan oil are mass-manufactured. Unfortunately, the quality of the Argan oil is often less important than profitability. Today, thousands of Argan oil products flood the market, most containing industrially mass-produced oil.
Exceptional Quality through State-of-the-Art
Small Batch Production
The World Artisan Guild Difference
With the support of Germany’s Technical Development Agency GIZ, the production teams from the Al Amal women cooperative and Argand’Or Maroc have developed a strict production and quality management plan. The quality management plan incorporates modern HACCP principles (Hazard analysis and critical control points), indentifying all critical steps during the production process that require constant monitoring. Samples of our Argan oil are analyzed twice, once at the women co-operative and a second time at the Argand’Or Maroc facility. Before accepting the oil in our US warehouse, we take a third sample to ensure that the imported Argan oil indeemeets all of our strict quality expectations.
The Al Amal women co-operative utilizes a non-intrusive small batch production process, to guarantee that all beneficial ingredients remain in the Argan oil. While the oil is extracted with modern mechanical screw-presses, all preparatory production steps are manual.
On the morning of the day the Argan oil production is scheduled, the women of the co-op transfer sun-dried Argan fruit from the dry-storage room to the work area. Thereafter, co-op member separate the dried fruit pulp from the Argan nuts. In the next step, the nut shells are cracked with traditional hammer stones. Next, the Argan seeds are removed from the shells, collected and transferred to the oil-extraction area. The very short time between the removal of the seeds and the oil extraction guarantees that the seeds do not oxidize (Oxidation is a major problem in the production of mass produced Argan oil).
World Artisan Guild’s Argan oil is not mass-manufactured. We work closely with our partners, the Al Amal women co-operative and Argand’Or Maroc to guarantee the highest possible quality.
Our Argan oil is 100% pure, cold-pressed from freshly opened seeds and certified USDA organic. Our oil exceeds the strict Moroccan government standards for “extra-virgin Argan oil”.
The Difference between Industrially Produced Argan Oil and Co-op Argan Oil
According to a study by the German Development Agency GTZ, less than 5% of Argan oil is made by women co-operatives*. The vast majority of Argan oil is mass-produced by industrial presses in Morocco’s coastal cities. To increase profits, these companies use high yield oil presses, which apply considerable pressure to maximize the yield. The mechanical friction caused by industrial presses heats the oil well above temperatures acceptable for cold-pressed oil. Heat alters the chemical composition of the oil, with an adverse impact on quality. Worse, some factories extract Argan oil with chemical solvents such as Hexane.
Another issue with industrial produced Argan oil is the quality of the raw material. Argan seeds used by industrial presses are often oxidized or pre-digested by goats. To eliminate the rancid odor of oxidized or pre-digested seeds, industrial Argan oil is often deodorized through a high temperature steam process. It is a safe assumption that Argan oil without any smell is either deodorized by steam processing or extracted with chemical solvents.
The actual extraction of the oil is done with a low-pressure screw press. The capacity per screw-press is around ten gallons of oil per shift. After extraction, the oil is decanted for three days and subsequently strained. At this point, a sample is taken and analyzed. Finally, the Argan oil is transferred from the rural co-operative to the Argand’Or Maroc facility in the coastal city of Agadir to be prepared for export.
Artisanal small batch production
Argand’Or Maroc's modern Filtering Facility
Argand’Or Maroc is a state-of-the-art facility established by German-Moroccan engineer Mohamed El Karz. The facility is in close proximity to the Argan forest. The location is registred with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and has an organic certification from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). At Argand’Or Maroc, the Argan oil is filtered to our exact specifications. Before the filtered Argan oil is transferred into export containers, another sample is taken and analyzed to ensure that all important quality criteria are met.
Final controls in the USA
The final steps of our strict quality regime are undertaken in our facility in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After we receive the import clearances from US Customs and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), our experienced staff takes another sample to ensure that the quality of the oil was not compromised during the transport from Morocco to the United States. After ensuring that our oil meets all our quality standards, we issue a Certificate of Analysis. All our oil meets not only our internal norms, but also the strict Moroccan Government standards for Extra-Virgin Argan oil.
It all starts with the Seed
Argan oil is extracted from the seeds of the Argan nut. The current Argan oil boom has resulted in a shortage of Argan seeds. Agents of industrial Argan oil producers comb through the Moroccan countryside to buy large volumes of seeds in the rural markets, whatever the quality. Often, these seeds are broken, oxidized or pre-digested by goats.
The Al Amal women co-operative uses only seeds of the highest quality. Before removing the seeds from the Argan nut, the women ensure that the nut shells are not cracked or otherwise compromised. The co-operative never stores open Argan seeds for longer than one day to avoidl premature oxidation.
No to Bisphenols!
Most Argan oil in the American market is sold in glass bottles. Glass, while more expensive than plastic bottles, is safer: Unlike plastic, glass does not leach unsafe Bisphenols. However, what most companies will not tell their customers is that their Argan oil has been stored and shipped in large plastic containers before it was filled into glass bottles. The journey from Morocco to the USA on a container vessel takes several weeks, plenty of time for Bisphenols or other chemical compounds to leach into the oil. Our Argan oil is never stored or shipped in plastic containers. Our production partner, the Al Amal women co-operative, fills the oil into 100 lbs metal containers immediately after extraction. After decanting and straining, these metal containers are transferred from the co-operative to the Argand’Or filtering facility in Agadir. There, the oil is transferred into large metal tanks. For export, the oil is pumped into metal export containers of various sizes. In the US, we transfer the Argan oil directly from these metal containers into brown glass bottles. Thus, we are able to guarantee that our Argan oil was never stored nor transported in Bisphenol leaching plastic containers.