Shea processing and products quality

Quality of shea nuts and shea butter in relation to processing and biodiversity

 PhD  Student: G.F Honfo Zannou, MSc, Benin  (Sandwich PhD )


Prof. Dr. M.A.J.S. van Boekel
Prof. Dr. M. Soumanou
Dr. Ir. A.R. Linnemann
Dr Ir. N. Akissoé            

 Project term: April 2010 – April 2014

 Sponsor: NPT/NUFFIC project


In Benin, shea (Vitellaria paradoxa or Butryospermum paradoxa) is an important economic crop because of the high demand for its butter, both locally and internationally. Shea nuts contain 40 to 57% fat, which is traditionally extracted by women to give butter. The sweet pulp of the shea fruit is widely consumed in areas where the species occurs. The exploitation and the processing of the shea constitute an opportunity in general for Benin and for the farming women in particular, to alleviate poverty and achieve economic autonomy. To date, numerous quality problems exist that are associated with the production, the processing and the packaging of shea products. The extracted butter is often high of free fatty acids and peroxide values due to hydrolysis and oxidation reactions. Consequently, the product does not satisfy the customers’ requirements. Moreover, the role of shea fruit pulp in alleviating hunger during the period of seasonal food scarcity has not been highlighted.


This project is aimed to study the critical processing operations that affected shea products quality. The hypothesis underlying this aim is that the quality of the shea products produced under conditions in Benin can be enhanced significantly by improving their processing.


1.     Assess the state-of-the-art and determine the endogenous knowledge of the shea and the processing of its nuts, and define butter quality according to local actors;
2.     Assess the impact of processing on the quality of shea products (nut and butter), and determine options for improvement that fit the local production conditions;
3.     Assess the impact of storage methods and conditions on butter quality, and determine options for improvement that fit the local production conditions;
4.     Assess the impact of genetic diversity of the shea population on the quality of its products (fruit, nut, butter).