Selling Morocco’s secret of eternal youth

By Lucia Sconosciuto

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Workers at Nectarome, Morocco - EBRD

Moroccan small businesses, Nectarome and Les Riads de Jouvence, use EBRD expertise to promote health and lifestyle brands.

The promise of a healthier look is Nectarome’s business: a brand of cosmetics made exclusively with natural ingredients that are all sourced in Morocco.

They are processed in the small rural town of Ourika, close to Marrakesh, where the company employs 65 local staff.

Of the dozens of herbs and plants that Nectarome uses, some, such as the argan tree, are native only to this area. The oil produced by the kernels of its fruit has been used for centuries in the region to season food and protect the skin against the ageing effects of continuous exposure to the sun. In recent years, its use in cosmetics has become increasingly known abroad. 

A revival of interest in these ancient practices and the rediscovery of the benefits of aromatic plants means that Nectarome must stand out against its competitors.

In order to improve its reputation on both local and international markets the company decided to remodel its brand.

To complement Nectarone’s own entrepreneurial drive, the EBRD’s Small Business Support (SBS) team put the company together with a local marketing consultant to introduce an appealing brand design for potential customers, including luxury hotels, spas and individuals.

Now, the firm’s revamped creams, gels and oils are exported to 15 countries around the world, from Canada to Japan, and the client base is rising steadily both abroad and at home.

Developing the private sector through SME support is among the EBRD’s priorities in Morocco, where funding from the European Union, the EBRD Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) Multi-Donor Account and the SEMED cooperation funds account is used to enable SMEs to access external advice.

Not far from Ourika, another small company is making a profitable business out of a healthy lifestyle. Family-run retirement home Les Riads de Jouvence (literally, the riads of youth) provides a tranquil haven for elderly and disabled people, as well as a holiday residence for younger clients. Several riads – traditional Moroccan palaces – overlook gardens and a swimming pool area.

“We wanted to create an environment where elderly people can get medical assistance and at the same time fight isolation by enjoying the company of younger guests,” said Mr Alaoui who opened the doors of his resort in 2014, after five years of hard work building its facilities.

This innovative concept, however, needed a convincing set of marketing tools, an area where Mr Alaoui had little expertise. So the SBS team put him in contact with local business advice company Dataland to conduct market analysis and plan for better communication.

After six months the project was complete. It resulted in a new website and marketing activities targeting potential customers in Switzerland and France. Positive reviews are multiplying: “Ideal place for healing and rest,” writes a guest from Geneva.

“These are just two examples of the 145 projects we have carried out since the end of 2012,”said Rachid El Aamrani, the SBS National Programme Manager for Morocco. “Moroccan SMEs are dynamic and the business advisory sector is growing: our work helps both SME and consultants grow and reach their potential.” This is the EBRD’s recipe for a strong, young and healthy private sector.

SEMED MDA donors are: Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taipei China and the United Kingdom.

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