Beeswax Wraps are made from cotton fabric coated with a compound of beeswax, coconut oil and gum rosin
Here’s a deep dive into the what, why and where from of our beeswax wrap materials
Finding the perfect combination of natural ingredients to make our beeswax wraps has been a passion project and responsibility. As a pioneer in a new industry I’ve had to make decisions about what goes into the product. What ingredients I should use and in what quantities. Where they should be sourced and how far I can go in finding out exactly how those ingredients are produced. After 10 years in operation, it’s fair to say we’ve made our share of mistakes along the way and we’ve learned A TONNE about how to correct them. All to ensure that you – our fellow Apiwrappers, bring only the best quality ingredients into your kitchens and homes.
So what exactly are beeswax wraps made from then?
It all starts with GOTS Certified Organic Cotton
For our first big production runs we bought certified organic cotton from sources in India and South Korea. When you’re buying textiles there’s a lot of information you don’t have access to about how those textiles are produced. There are several certifications you can get for ‘organic cotton’ which have different criteria.
Getting really nerdy with the research resulted in my looking for GOTS certified organic cotton exclusively. It’s the highest organic certification you can get. GOTS certification covers all aspects of ethical textile production and harm minimisation practices. The cotton is organically grown and processed – meaning no harmful chemicals in waterways.
Only certain ingredients are approved to be used throughout each stage of the production process, and they can all be used safely with food! Only certified organic dyes can be used and the colour is sealed using a heat treatment instead of chemicals. GOTS also ensures that workers are protected from coercion and child labour – a particularly sinister and pervasive side of the textile industry.
Discovering hidden chemicals
Those early days were still trial and error as we figured out what would work and what to avoid. One of our first large scale production runs showed up an opportunity to improve when we realised there was a finish on the fabric. With the help of my Korean-speaking textile agent I learned the fabric I’d ordered (which had met all of the GOTS controls) had a silicone finishing agent. This is standard in the textile industry as it improves the appearance of fabrics for retail purposes… Think clothes, linens, and bolts of cotton at your local fabric shop.
While I don’t believe it was necessarily harmful to the food I would be using the wraps for. It was unnecessary. I am all too aware of the fact that the chemical burden of unnecessary practices is contributing to health issues all around the world. Washing over 4 kilometres of fabric was a huge task, but delivering the cleanest possible product has always been at the core of what Apiwraps delivers.
Our current cotton supply is grown in Asia, then processed in Korea where it is washed, dyed, and cured. We’re working on the possibility of sourcing our textiles here in Australia, from Australian grown cotton. How it can be so hard to make that step is one of the most frustrating aspects of being a small business. If we were double the size we’d be able to make the change tomorrow, but with the middling-sized amounts of cotton we consume, we can’t commit to the quantities we’d need to to justify the investment for our suppliers. Watch this space!
Did you know that Australian Beeswax is the purest in the world?
We source our pure Australian beeswax from the single apiary in NSW. The beekeeper we’ve worked with for over 8 years supplies us with reliable, trustworthy and ethically sourced beeswax. Some of the cleanest beeswax in the world. Your can find out more about why Australian beeswax matters here.
The family business is run by a third generation Australian apiarist. He’s always happy to spend an hour with me on the phone (regularly) explaining each step of the beekeeping practices he follows. And he’s also ready to talk about what he definitely doesn’t do. My relationship with him has been utterly invaluable along my Apiwraps journey and we are so happy to continue to support his work. Which also means you get only the very best. The beauty of this apiary is that the bees spend most of their time out in the state forests around NSW. There they access beautiful bush flowers far away from monoculture farming and sprays.
The catch is that we can’t apply for organic certification in this case. Certification requires that the bees must stay in a 40km radius of ‘certified organic’ farmland in order to maintain the certification. This is one of a few cases (along with kangaroo harvesting) where ‘wild’ or ‘bush’ is usually superior to ‘certified organic’. I would need to increase the pricing on our beeswax wraps to almost double in order to cover the costs of certified organic beeswax. Keep this in mind if comparing our wraps with other makers.
There’s one exception to our beeswax supply in the ten long years we’ve been in operation. In 2017 circumstances short supply with our usual beekeeper meant we sourced from a small apiary in Queensland, and from a co-operative in Victoria. While I know they run their group fastidiously and I completely trust the quality of their product, a co-op means the waxes from several apiaries are pooled for distribution. Unable to build relationship with each beekeeper to learn their individual beekeeping techniques.
For my product – which I designed to safely store food – I am not ethically comfortable risking the chance of trace fungicides or viral treatments.
Thankfully we have few issues that require medical treatment in Australia, and our strict quarantine controls and broad landscapes offering lots of space for bees have helped to ensure our beeswax is the purest in the world. So pure that medical companies around the world source it, driving the price up too – which we don’t mind a bit. An eco-system without happy, healthy beekeepers isn’t going to support our population for long
Organic Coconut Oil gives our wraps that quick and easy seal
Beeswax is brittle by itself, and without a softening agent like a food-grade oil to make it malleable it would crack and become unusable fast. When I first started researching oilskins, I learned that they were typically made using linseed oil that was treated with lead (a drying agent). Raw flaxseed oil was boiled with lead pellets. It creates a product that is dry to the touch, non-sticky and smooth, perfect to use on sails and tarpaulins – but it’s not food safe! I wasn’t going to put lead in my product, and without the lead the oil would go rancid quickly.
I realise some companies use jojoba oil – which is actually a wax. I know from my background in sports therapy, and biochemistry that jojoba doesn’t warm and soften. It makes wraps that have a fairly consistent softness and don’t seal well.
Coconut oil on the other hand, is a food product with a long shelf life. Its properties allow a quick transfer from hard to soft and back again quickly. It is flexible without staying floppy. Perfect for a gentle hand-warming to create a product that seals better, faster and lasts longer.
Could we improve it?
So far we’ve found that it isn’t possible to get Australian made coconut oil. We don’t have the right climate, and the coconut production process is very manual. It would be very expensive and resource intensive to farm and process here. So we source our organic coconut oil from Sri Lanka, it’s considered to be the best coconut oil in the world. The climate is perfect, it is produced in large quantities, always fresh and affordable. It is sourced for us by an Australian import company and we can purchase whatever amount we require so that it’s always supplied with a long date to expiry.
Natural Pine Gum Rosin
The last ingredient is gum rosin. We use this as a plasticising agent – not to be confused with plastic – the product! It adds essential malleability to prevent cracking. Pine gum rosin comes from multi-purpose forests, where the trees are tapped to extract the natural sap. It’s then distilled using heat to remove the naturally occurring turpentines (a natural toxic product) from the residual rosin.
We source our gum rosin from old established forests in the highlands of North Vietnam. Far from polluting cities. At the moment, my research indicates this is the most pristine source of pine gum on the market, though regulations do differ between countries. We are still looking for an even better alternative, and we would love to be able to source from New Zealand in the future. If you know of a supplier do let us know!.
Compared to other recipes out there, we use 3-4 times less rosin. There seems to have been a rumour going around that it was the rosin giving the wraps their stickiness – perhaps because gymnasts, tennis players, and other athletes who require a firm grip use pine rosin powder to dust their hands and improve their grip… 🤔. But larger quantities of rosin actually make the wraps more stiff!
Is there anyone who shouldn’t use Apiwraps? Actually, yes…
While all the ingredients used in Apiwraps are 100% food safe, the ingredients in our compound can be allergenic in some people. Those who have propolis allergies (related to bee products), coconut allergies or sensitivities, or pine allergies (where even having pine needles nearby makes you break out in hives), should not use Apiwraps.
If you do fall into one of these categories I’m so very sorry, but Apiwraps are not for you – you might be better off looking at vegan alternatives or glass storage options.
What are beeswax wraps made from?
Apiwraps beeswax wraps are made from the highest quality natural food ingredients we can source. GOTS organic cotton, pure Australian beeswax, certified organic coconut oil and gum rosin, combined carefully here in Australia to make a long lasting, flexible and easy to use kitchen wrap that you can trust is safe to use on your food.
Good for you, good for the bees, good for the planet.
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