Late last month, San-Diego based biotechnology company Genomatica announced that French personal care giant L’Oreal will be its third and final founding investor to expand operations and innovation in developing plant-based alternatives for cosmetic and personal beauty care product formulations. L’Oreal’s investment follows Unilever and KAO Corporation to bring the collective member revenue in excess of $100 billion.
Genomatica’s biotechnology platform focuses on harnessing proprietary microorganisms to ferment plant sugars and produce sustainable surfactants for personal care product formulation and production. L’Oreal plans to utilize these surfactants throughout their product lines as part of its sustainability program, L’Oreal for the Future, in which the company has committed to formulating products with 95% renewable ingredients by 2023.
Founded in 1998 by Christophe Schilling with partner Bernhard Palsson, Ph.D., the biotechnology company has achieved several important milestones in the last twenty-five years in the sustainable material production and manufacturing space. Notably, in 2017 the company announced the Geno BG (butylene glycol for the beauty industry) process, and in 2019, Genomatica began commercial-scale shipments of Brontide for natural cosmetic products.
In June 2022, “Geno and consumer goods company Unilever announced the launch of a $120 million venture to scale and commercialize an alternative to fossil fuel-derived ingredients,” Kyle Huston, Product Director at Genomatia, told CosmeticsDesign-USA.
Further, he added, “the venture is set to disrupt the $622 billion home and personal care market and will focus on commercializing Geno’s technology to produce a plant-based ingredient that can be used in tens of thousands of everyday cleaning and personal care products.”
Additionally, in September 2022 “KAO joined Geno’s venture to scale and commercialize plant-based alternatives to fossil-fuel-derived cleansing ingredients as a founding member,” explained Huston, furthering the company’s vision to provide manufacturers and suppliers to global industries like cosmetics and personal care products with the sustainable plant-based alternatives that will result in greener and more renewable options for consumer use.
About the L’Oreal investment
The importance of an investment of this scale and by a global leader of the size and scope of L’Oreal is significant and represents the crucial nature of the industry transition to more sustainable and renewable ingredients for product formulation.
“The cosmetics and personal care consumer-base has been becoming increasing educated in the last year between media coverage, dedicated beauty websites, and industry certifications,” said Huston, and while “brands are doing their best to keep up with the consumer demands, recently it has been the ingredient supplier-base that is scrambling to develop new and innovative ways to offer more sustainable, more natural, and more transparently-sourced ingredients.”
Regarding the secured final founder investment, “the joint venture with Unilever, Kao, and now L’Oreal unlocks a lot for the industry,” Huston said. In addition to allowing “surfactants to be made at large scale from something other than fossil fuels…what this means for brands is they can now take a large part of their ingredient and supply chain-base and give consumers more of what they have been demanding for the past several years: transparency.”
Moving forward, Huston said, “the joint venture (with Unilever, Kao, and now L’Oreal) is a $120 million endorsement to biotech as avenue for innovation in the home and personal care industries.” The investment is a tangible demonstration of the commitment by major industry players to platforms dedicated to researching significant innovation in the renewable and sustainable ingredient category.
“Like all technologies,” he added, “innovation evolution is a curve where it starts as an idea and increasingly becomes faster to develop and thus more accessible for more applications and markets.” Regarding future developments, Huston concluded, “it certainly feels like we’re at an inflection point with biotechnology where it can disrupt the extremely large and well-established surfactants marketplace.”