28 May 2021 --- As global calls to create real, sustainable change gather momentum, the natural trend has evolved into one that puts sustainability in the supply chain, front and center, and biotechnology-based formulations are leading the way.
The beauty and personal care (BPC) industry is undoubtedly in constant flux, shifting and shaping to keep up with ever-evolving consumer demands. The sweeping feeling that the BPC space needs to do more to truly make sustainable change to meet global needs and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals sees biotech as a formidable solution.
Click to EnlargeBiotech can help to enhance the sustainability of BPC products.Benefits of biotech
Using biotech to create BPC formulations, scientists can mimic nature by producing nature-identical ingredients directly in the laboratory, rather than traveling around the world to obtain raw materials from the source using farming or raw harvesting processes, either on land or in the ocean.
By marrying science with nature to mimic its attributes, brands and industry can significantly lower their carbon footprint, avoid disrupting biodiversity and preserve the natural environment it seeks to protect with its sustainable pledges. Reducing the physical footprint attached to producing these materials, in turn, means the land and ocean can also be used for other agricultural or aquaculture uses.
2. Quality and efficacy
For BPC businesses, biotech also presents clear commercial benefits by strengthening consumer trust and confidence. The use of biotech helps to ensure quality and efficacy, while using scientific communication to convey product safety. These efficacious benefits are communicated throughout the industry. Key areas where biotech has been shown to reach particular prominence is in skin rejuvenation-based formulations, Innova data highlights.
By growing and processing biotech-derived ingredients in the controlled environment of a lab, the safety and science of lab-based formulations will likely play an increasing role in alleviating consumer concerns about hygiene, health and safety.
3. Supply chain
Unlike the variables in global supply chains and its potential fragility, using biotech enhances supply certainty as the ingredients that mimic nature are concocted in a lab.
How biotech has ‘exploded’
Scientific advancement has taken place over the past 10 years. Describing the science behind biotechnology as having ‘exploded’ in this period, Innova details the innovations present in BPC in its Top 20 Industry-Wide Trends report released in September 2020.
Advances in genomics, recombinant gene techniques (whereby materials from multiple sources are used together) and immunology are leading biotech areas that are seeking to improve BPC formulations. The problem today, however, with biotech in BPC is that it is not widely accepted. Even the use of the word biotechnology is deemed unfriendly to consumers.
Advances in biotech
Ingredients derived from biotech are highly sought-after among brands. Made from microbes that have undergone DNA editing, biotech-derived ingredients have the potential to create replicable molecules that are commercially viable. By replicating the molecule produced and then preserving it, formulators and scientists can use it to “reproduce almost an infinite volume of materials,” Innova’s trend report reveals. Replicating a single material sample can lead to the production of multiple nature-mimicking samples, which can subsequently replace the need for cultivation or wild plant sourcing, increasing its sustainable profile.
The formulation benefits biotech creates leads to the production of innovative ingredients. Marine-based ingredients are one of the most significant developments in recent years, driven by biotech development. “Microalgae has undoubtedly become the leading biotechnology-derived ingredient for the industry,” the report relays. Looking at microalgae production, for example, the easy-to-control and efficient nature of the lab process ‘infinitely’ improves the sustainability profile of the end product. Minimizing uncertainty is also a crucial benefit of biotech in BPC.
But biotech innovation does not just stop at these leading industry ingredients, as interesting and unusual plant based extracts are also becoming more widely available in BPC.
Biotech is also being used to develop bioplastics, a new generation of plastic packaging that appeals to consumer and industry calls for more sustainable and environmentally friendly BPC packaging options.
Click to EnlargeAcquisition activity is centering on nature-mimicking ingredients.New product launches and acquisitions are prominent in the biotech space as the BPC industry explores nature-mimicking ingredients.
If we take the popularity of microalgae alone, we can see that ‘the vast majority’ of algae in BPC is sourced from nature and produced in a lab by using biotech to ensure its sustainable production, Innova reveals.
A number of multinational BPC giants are leading the way with algae and biotech-based launches, with Givaudan, Croda, DSM and BASF all unveiling algae-based ingredients.
Specialist ingredient providers, including Gingko, BioWorks and Terra Via, have also grown ingredient portfolios with a focus on algae ingredients.
Nature-based preservative solutions are also notable, as brands pitch their formulations to consumers looking for effective BPC items that are 100% natural. Mibelle Biochemistry, for example, is a key name in this field, recently launching a biotech-derived Alpine Rose active.
Looking at ingredients, the larger international BPC players are acquiring smaller businesses with proven expertise to boost their portfolios, expand their efforts and excel in their investments in biotech. Givaudan, Firmenich and IFF are some of the names investing in biotech in BPC. Mibelle Biochemistry has carved a global reputation in biotech through its business strategy and product launches.
What’s next for biotech?
Currently, when it comes to finished products, brands are largely steering away from using the word ‘biotechnology’ in their product labeling and marketing, as concerns and skepticism prevail over genetically modified organisms.
However, industry insights indicate once consumers understand the science behind it, these worries should reduce and biotech will become more accepted, especially as assurance over product safety conveys trust. As the industry translates their heightened efficacy and sustainability benefits, it is expected that consumers will become more familiar with, and welcome, biotech-derived ingredients.
Scientifically advanced natural ingredients are relatively underdeveloped at the moment. Innovations in this space in BPC are, therefore, set to produce significant developments in the coming years, especially in the area of natural preservatives.
For these reasons, biotechnology is still in its early days. Yet, “because it is serving to bring a greater choice of natural ingredients that are more sustainably produced, it can only become more popular in the future,” Innova reveals in its trend report.
By Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe, BPC Insights Senior Journalist