Palm oil is a controversial ingredient. Its popularity has been muddied lately as a result of hyperlinks with deforestation in biodiverse areas and the conversion of carbon-rich peat soils.
But the worldwide palm oil market stays sturdy. In 2021, its worth was estimated at $50.6bn and is anticipated to achieve $65.5bn by 2027.
Palm oil is essentially the most consumed vegetable oil on the planet. And being impartial in color and flavour, the ingredient is a favorite amongst meals producers.
What if a substitute oil existed that might change the contentious ingredient in meals formulation, however with none impression on deforestation, biodiversity loss, or local weather change?
British start-up Clear Meals Group is working to develop simply that.
A bio-equivalent to palm oil
Christopher Chuck, Professor of Bioprocess Engineering on the College of Bathtub’s Division of Chemical Engineering, has been engaged on a yeast-based various to palm oil for the final eight years.
In Q1 2022, the related mental property was acquired by Clear Meals Group, of which Prof Chuck is Group Technical Advisor.
“Our dependence on palm oil comes at a fantastic environmental price,” mentioned Prof Chuck.
“We’ve labored over a few years to create sturdy palm oil options that give us an actual likelihood to chop the impression of a spread of merchandise that till now have solely been attainable to provide with palm oil and the deforestation, air pollution and emissions that include it.”
The beginning-up’s Clear Palm Oil is a bio-equivalent to the actual factor by way of dietary and fatty acid make-up.
“It’s impartial in style and color – as with palm oil from palm, its pure color is orange/crimson however might be made colourless by a easy refining course of,” defined Clear Meals Group CEO Alex Neves. “It performs the identical method as palm oil.”
How is Clear Palm Oil produced?
Clear Meals Group’s palm oil substitute is comprised of yeast grown in a lab.
The beginning-up has developed a proprietary yeast pressure, which Neves defined has developed, utilizing a ‘pure course of’, from a pressure of yeast generally discovered on the floor of grapes utilized in natural winemaking.
“Our yeast pressure has been developed over eight years by Prof Chuck utilizing a pure course of known as ‘Directed Evolution’, which is a non-genetically modified course of related in some ways to plant-breeding,” he informed FoodNavigator.
Utilizing food-safe waste as a feedstock and renewable vitality as an vitality supply, Clear Meals Group is leveraging fermentation know-how to develop the yeast in tanks much like these used within the brewing business.
“In actual fact, somewhat than producing our oil in a lab, we are going to manufacture our oil in a meals manufacturing unit similar to a brewery, utilizing very related tools,” Neves defined.
“We then extract the oil from the yeast simply as palm oil is extracted from palm to be used in merchandise or for additional processing into palm oil by-product elements.”
As soon as in the marketplace, the start-up mentioned its palm oil various will have the ability to be utilized in all product purposes the place palm oil is at present used.
Challenges to commercialisation
Key challenges going through Clear Meals Group embody attaining scale, value parity, and regulatory approval.
Value parity with palm oil – or being inside an appropriate margin of value parity – is feasible, recommended the CEO, and is ‘immediately linked to scale’.
From a regulatory perspective, the start-up is initially specializing in the European market the place its ingredient is taken into account a Novel Meals.
“Our oil is taken into account a Novel Meals as a result of despite the fact that it’s bio-equivalent to palm oil, our yeast-based oil has not been offered inside the UK or European space earlier than 1997.
“We’re at present engaged on making ready our Novel Meals file which we’re planning to submit by the tip of 2022.”
That mentioned, the start-up is ready to promote its palm oil various elements to the cosmetics and private care industries with out passing by means of Novel Meals regulatory pathways, as these industries are ruled individually.
Funding and subsequent steps
With submission for regulatory approval deliberate for the tip of the 12 months, the start-up expects to have its palm oil elements in the marketplace in 2023.
“We’re at present in session with our regulatory marketing consultant relating to how our elements will seem on-pack as a part of our preparation for Novel Meals,” Neves revealed. “It’s probably that as bulk oil, it’ll seem as ‘yeast oil’.”
Mobile agriculture-focused Agronomics has led Clear Meals Group’s financing rounds to-date, together with its recently-completed seed spherical of £1.65m (€1.97). Agronomics holds a 35% curiosity within the firm.
Different early buyers embody SEED Improvements Restricted and enterprise capital buyers.
Clear Meals Group feels ‘properly positioned’ to take the subsequent step on the trail to brining its palm oil various to market, mentioned the CEO.
“Along with our acquisition of the mental property for the palm oil various know-how and our collaboration with the College of Bathtub to scale the know-how, we will probably be investing in securing regulatory approval for our palm oil various elements in a number of markets.
“We can even be investing within the growth of a large-scale pilot plant which can enable us to enter into that means collaborations with business companions and to exhibit our palm oil options with completed merchandise.”