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A bio revolution is coming as industry investment scales up

Poster that reads "break free from fossil fuels"
Eelco Böhtlingk/Unsplash
Apr 01, 2022 By WGSN Insider

Investment, research and development is accelerating the scalability of bio-based ingredients and materials, fuelled by the high environmental and financial cost of fossil-fuel made products.

According to Google Trends data, search interest in “bioplastics” has rebounded, with searches surging throughout 2021 and peaking in February 2022.

“Innovators are investigating the potential of bio-based materials that can match the price and performance of conventional petrochemical plastics,” says Claire Lancaster, Senior Strategist at WGSN Food & Drink. 

“As the field advances, the focus will be on the true sustainability costs and benefits, prioritising resource inputs that don't compete with agricultural crops for land or water and evaluating potential for recycling and end-of-life disposal. 

“Pay attention to single-use packaging innovations using natural bio-based materials and emerging reusable bioplastics that can be recycled within existing infrastructures.”

Google Trends data for interest in bioplastics
Google Trends data

Food and drink innovation

Bio-based plastics are poised to scale in food and drink packaging. Coca-Cola has launched its first 100% plant-based plastic bottles. Partnering with Changchun Meihe Science and Technology and Finnish forestry bioeconomy firm UPM, the commercially scalable tech is set to help the brand reduce reliance on oil-based plastic.

In Brazil, beer brand Cervejaria Colorado uses compostable and recyclable bioplastic can carriers made of corn straw waste, said to lower CO2 emissions by 50% and electricity by 25% vs paperboard.

Hangzhou-based industrial biotech firm Bota Bio has raised over $100m in a Series B funding to accelerate global operations and build lab-to-pilot facilities to scale up production of consumer goods, foods, nutrition and pharmaceuticals produced with living cells and enzymes.

Eight bottles of different drink varieties lined up in a row
Michael Morse/Pexels

Fashion futures

Fashion's investment in biofactured mycelium alternative leather is growing. Since Stella McCartney, lululemon, adidas and the Kering group invested in US innovator Bolt Threads' Mylo Unleather in 2020, US startup MycoWorks has raised US$125m in Series C funding to invest in a new manufacturing facility and Ecovative has launched a cooperative with Bestseller and PVH Corp to co-develop products.

Mylo swatches, courtesy of Bolt Threads
Mylo swatches, courtesy of Bolt Threads

How you can action this 

As biotech innovation looks for investment to reach scale and industry demand, become a pilot partner and see how biomaterials could fit with your sustainable product strategy.

WGSN clients can read more of the latest sustainability stories and strategies from across product design industries in Sustainability Bulletin: March 2022.

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