5 Oct 2021 --- Finnish natural beauty ingredients brand Innomost uses Nordic birchwood to develop and produce active ingredients. We spoke to the brand’s CEO and Founder Sami Selkälä to find out more about the company’s innovative use of Finnish wood.
Can you tell me about your inspiration behind launching Innomost?
I have long-standing professional experience within organic chemistry and as a chemist. I’m curious about life and how everything is built. This is why I also started to look deeper into the cosmetics my wife used to sell as a hobby and my family used every day.
Focusing on the ingredients lists on the bottles, I started to dig deeper into the world of cosmetics ingredients. I was an expert in precursors for pharmaceuticals, but now I was really fascinated by the ingredients present in my own bathroom. I dived into Harry’s Cosmeticology and I saw I could make these ingredients myself, and so I did!
What are consumers demanding from their favorite beauty products and brands?
Consumers want to use natural, renewable and sustainable cosmetics that are good for them and for the world.
What was missing from the mainstream beauty market that you sought to fill with Innomost?
I found out that the majority of cosmetic ingredients originated from palm oil or fossils. I also found out that there were only a few ingredient producers in the Nordic countries. To my surprise, our Nordic woods were undervalued as a sustainable source for cosmetic ingredients.
The demand for ingredients is growing all the time and, due to climate change, we cannot continue to deforest rainforests or use fossil fuels until the reservoirs are empty. We need to find alternative sources. Here I saw the huge possibility inside streams from the Nordic forests and wanted to turn this opportunity into reality.
What was your inspiration behind your product range?
Click to EnlargeInnomost gives new life to natural resources. Source: Innomost.We wanted to upcycle side-streams from the woods. Why woods? Because we have a lot of them in Finland. The industry uses certified woods in their processes, but the bark is not used in the main process. These side streams are today used for low-value purposes like burning them for energy.
Why birch? We looked into many side streams before deciding to go for birch. Birch bark has many valuable bioactive compounds like betulin and betulinic acid. It also contains a group of valuable hydroxylated omega fatty acids, called suberin.
Birch bark is the protective skin of the birch that keeps the birch in good shape for over a hundred years. Betulin protects the tree from outer attacks and suberin keeps the moisture balanced so the tree doesn’t dry out. By combining these ingredients and by mimicking nature, we can formulate great anti-aging and protective formulations for our skin.
How do these answer consumer demands?
We use natural sources that are renewable and don’t contribute to deforestation. Instead of burning these side-streams, we give them a new life. We don’t use the land for food or feed. We want everyone to use our ingredients with good conscience. Additionally, consumers demand products that work. We can combine efficacy with sustainable solutions.
What did the process to launch involve from conceptualization through to commercialization?
Click to EnlargeScience meets nature to create sustainable ingredients. Source: Innomost.We started in 2016 by screening possible ingredients. I had a good understanding of processes, how to separate, extract and purify. Maria Svinhufvud, one of our core team members, has over 20 years of experience within the cosmetics industry, bringing different, valuable knowledge to our team.
For several years we have worked directly with customers and other formulating and testing laboratories, which have helped us develop ingredients suitable for specific demands.
We are still on this journey and are open to new cooperations, both in the short and long term. For instance, suberins C18-C22 have a very wide range of possibilities. They have film-forming properties, they don’t oxidize, and some compounds have anti-aging properties. It’s not always possible to replace these one by one - you need to reformulate. We need partners with the same passion.
What were the greatest challenges to achieving your vision for Innomost?
We have seen a lot of interest from the customers’ side. Our biggest challenge was that we needed more capacity and in order to have more capacity, we needed capital. We looked for partners for many years that could take us to the next level.
Finally, we found a win-win situation with our present lead investor Metsä Spring. Metsä Spring is a daughter company of Metsä Group, a major Finnish forest industry group that operates in international markets.
They wanted to produce valuable products out of their side streams and we needed to secure our material supply. We have now completed a successful funding round of approximately €5m (US$5.9m) consisting of private investments and public financing. Now we can build our first bigger pilot plant, invest in research and development and live up to our motto ‘endless innovation’.
What are your short and long-term hopes and goals for Innomost and the wider beauty industry?
We want to cooperate with companies within the beauty industry that see a need for alternative sustainable carbon sources. It would also be great to share a common vision of a future where upcycling and a circular economy have important roles.
In the long run, we see the Nordic clean forest as a major source of sustainable ingredients and Innomost as an important provider of next-generation sustainable ingredients for the beauty industry.
By Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe, BPC Insights Senior Journalist