Between Alcantarilha and Porches, on a five-hectare plot of land parallel to the EN125 road, there are 12,000 Aloe vera plants growing organically and naturally.
The Algarve’s climate, with over 300 days of sunshine, provide the ideal conditions for the production of this Mediterranean species which, despite being native to Northwest Africa, has long grown spontaneously in the south of Portugal.
Indeed, it was the Algarve landscape which motivated two Indian couples living in Germany to choose the region as the location for their Aloe vera cosmetics business.
“With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, we decided to leave Germany. We explored some options and, as we were on holiday here, we decided to move to the Algarve,” Aloegarve director Atul Dua told Barlavento newspaper.
“I remember seeing Aloe vera plantations in Aruba and several local companies using the plant. I thought I could make a difference in the Algarve. It started out as a simple idea, but when I researched it, I saw that there wasn’t anyone producing Aloe vera on a large scale,” he explained.
It was later in 2020 when he discovered that his friend Sumit Anand, whom he had known for many years in Germany, had also moved to the Algarve with his family.
“We got in touch and agreed that we had monotonous jobs linked to IT. So we created the company and bought the land. As we had zero experience in agriculture, we learned how to produce organically, sustainably and healthily,” he said.
The concept was developed in 2021 and the first Aloe vera plants grew very well. The decision to use the plants to create cosmetics came after studying the market and investigating their potential.
“We understood that it is a plant with countless medical benefits and has been used widely forever. We started working with companies that specialise in this area and developed our own range,” Atul Dua said.
Thus, Aloegarve was born at the start of 2022, with its first store opening in Olhos de Água, Albufeira.
The second store opened in June, and two months later the brand already had eight stores in the Algarve: Alcantarilha, Armação de Pêra, Carvoeiro, Portimão, Olhos de Água, Quarteira, Silves and Vilamoura. Next year, the company is planning to open a store at MAR Shopping Algarve in Loulé.
“This whole process was very quick and, in a way, we benefitted from the consequences of the pandemic because several stores closed, and we were able to find several vacant spaces in excellent locations, some very close to the beach,” said Dua, such as in Armação de Pêra and Olhos de Água.
Aloegarve’s range of products includes creams, masks, lotions, shower gels and even sun lotions, all vegan and produced organically without any chemicals or testing on animals.
Another “extremely important” principle for the company is that Aloegarve is a “100% Portuguese brand”.
“This has always been our motto. We didn’t know if it was possible, but we did it. Our consulting company is Portuguese, the cosmetics specialists who help us develop the formulas are Portuguese, as are our suppliers and the whole chain of production. We only worked with Algarvian real estate agencies and even the furniture at our stores is produced in Portugal,” Dua said.
The entrepreneurs have not said how much they invested in the brand, revealing only that it came from their own pockets. However, they do not rule out the possibility of applying for community funding in the future.
The goal for 2023 is to bring the total number of stores in the Algarve to 15, and while the company will look to expand to other parts of Portugal, the owners guarantee that the brand will never lose its “Algarve essence”.
There is also the possibility of expanding beyond Portugal.
“I was recently in Dubai and took some samples with me. There are companies interested in selling our range of products. It is incredible because we are a very new company but are already in talks. Besides, we have been contacted by other brands that want to work with us, mostly hotels which want to use our products in a smaller format, but that is something we do not have yet.”
When asked whether Aloegarve can become an internationally known brand, Atul Dua says that is a possibility that is very far down the road but not impossible.
“It would be great for everyone, but we will not force things,” he said. “If opportunities arise, we will seize them. Luckily, the Algarve welcomes people from all over the world and we do not have to go abroad to be seen. Those who visit us will talk about our brand if they like it. In that sense, I think we will be successful.”
Even the names of the products are inspired by the Algarve.
The most sold items in summer are the ‘Sotavento’ and ‘Barlavento’ sunscreens (the Portuguese names for Eastern Algarve and Western Algarve, respectively), which can be used by children and adults and protect the skin whilst hydrating it.
The sun lotions use ingredients such as olive oil, rose oil and evening primrose oil.~
“We knew it was fundamental to create an alternative product. Most sunscreens on the market are made with chemicals. Ours are made from 98% natural elements,” he said.
Prices are “below average”, according to Atul Dua. “We decided we would always have discounts and benefits. For example, a small ‘Mergulho’ (a hand and face gel) costs €11.99, but a pack of three of the same size costs €20, including the gift wrapping.”