Charting a Greener Path: Dialogue with IFF Chief Sustainability Officer Renee Henze

Renee Henze
VP Chief Sustainability Officer, IFF

How is sustainability-related regulations within beauty and personal care influencing R&D investment?

The personal care industry is experiencing a notable shift towards biobased sustainable and traceable ingredients, driven by mounting consumer and regulatory pressure. The European Green Deal, for example, whose goal is to reach climate neutrality by 2050 is further driving change amongst brands to adapt their product development and offering strategies to those that are sustainable by design.

Yet for customers and consumers alike, performance remains a key factor when it comes to making a purchasing decision. Without achieving performance equal to or greater than fossil-based synthetic materials, biodegradable and bio-based alternatives will not fully replace incumbent materials nor satisfy customer and consumers’ needs.

Increasingly, innovations using the science of biotechnology are being developed and adopted; creating products that deliver on both consumer expectations of performance and sustainability.

Can you give an example of an R&D innovation that addresses sustainability-related regulations?

IFF’s proprietary Designed Enzymatic Biopolymers (DEB) technology is a biocatalysis proess that gives rise to a new-to-the-world class of alpha-glucan polysaccharides through the enzymatic polymerization of glucose obtained from feedstock such as sugar beet or sugar cane from Europe.

The alpha-glucan molecule has high purity, and as a result of the enzymatic polymerization processes, a multitude of tailored morphologies and functional modifications are accessible, including addition of polar/non-polar, charged, and other functionalities. The DEB manufacturing process operates at ambient temperature and pressure, allowing for the polymerization process to take place in mild conditions without the use of harsh solvents. It also creates a fructose co-product which can be used for other applications to prevent sugar waste. All of which leads to very attractive Life-Cycle Analyses for the technology.

The technology platform offers manufacturers the opportunity to meet regulatory changes and mounting consumer demands to replace traditional fossil-based synthetic polymers while delivering high performance attributes.

Moreover, the DEB process is designed to be produced at scale. To drive a sustainable transformation in the beauty and personal care industry, scaling up allows us to deliver quantities to brands that will make a meaningful impact. Leveraging the economy of scale is pivotal for driving innovation, reducing costs and enhancing sustainability. This means increased production volumes at lower per-unit costs, making sustainable products more accessible and competitive in the market, potentially influencing broader consumer behaviour toward more eco-conscious choices.

Can you scientifically back up these sustainability claims?

IFF has performed a cradle-to-gate life cycle assessment (LCA) on our first commercially available personal care ingredient, AURIST™ AGC, enabled by the DEB technology. CatG1 (alpha-glucan hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride), the polyglucan backbone of AURIST™ AGC was subjected to a peer-reviewed LCA model and demonstrated an exceptionally low environmental footprint across climate change potential, land use, and energy use, in addition to providing biodegradability.

Beyond biodegradability and being bio-based, what benefits do you think the DEB platform can bring to the Personal Care industry?

The promising potential of this innovative technology platform has already been demonstrated across several industries. In Personal Care applications, AURIST™ AGC is the first personal care ingredient enabled by the DEB technology.

It is a skin and hair conditioning biopolymer. Launched in March 2023, AURIST™ AGC has won the prestigious gold in the In-Cosmetics 2023 innovation zone functional ingredient category.

Testing shows that AURIST™ AGC can significantly improve wet and dry combability in shampoo formulations; while in skin cleansing and body wash applications, it can significantly reduce skin roughness feel and improve rinsability.

Published in SOFW Journal 4-2024.

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