Around the same time we started getting inquiries from stores outside of California, it also began to make sense to get our supplies in larger quantities, which meant ordering base oil from a soapmaking supply company all the way in Columbus, Ohio. Whoa, not local so much! For a while we just kept making soap, but after the holiday rush, we started again trying to work our way back to original ideals. The biggest breakthrough at this point came when I found a local supplier for our olive oil, a grower near Modesto, CA.
It also might have been obvious in the last article that, although we originally found our supplies at local retailers, those same suppliers did not necessarily get their oils from local farms, etc. We were lucky that Rainbow Grocery did in fact get some of its olive oil from a local farm, which is the same place we eventually began to buy it in bulk.
Olive oil alone makes an okay soap bar, but not with quite the lather that our customers came to expect. We also use coconut oil, for example. I spent about a month scouring soap making forums, and it turns out you need a saturated fat to contribute some of its properties to make the excellent soap bar that we were used to producing. Our only choices are to use an animal fat or a plant source that grows mostly in the tropics.
Today we do have an all-local soap bar available: the Savon de Castille bar, which, being just pure saponified olive oil, is also our most hypo-allergenic. Developing it was an excellent experiment, and I haven't yet completely given up on sourcing more of our ingredients locally. An inexpensive source of milk fat might work in place of coconut oil, and there are a few species of palmetto growing wild in California that produce the right type of oil if we ever get big enough to charter a Metaphor Organic farm. You never know.