What the first bio-based vitamin A means for sustainability

The solution to produce the world’s first fully bio-based vitamin A emerged from a common microorganism found in countless food products.

Dutch health, nutrition and bioscience company DSM has started customer sampling of the new bio-based vitamin A. It is the result of pioneering research by company scientists and the development of a proprietary manufacturing process perfected for initial use in environmentally friendly environments. cosmetic products.

“We realized we had something revolutionary at our fingertips when we first isolated vitamin A from a bio-broth with a profile consistent with our existing process,” said Ronald Gebhard, vice president of Biosciences and Process Innovation at DSM, in a public statement. “Our new all-bio process relies on commonly available renewable raw materials and results in a lower carbon footprint and less waste while delivering the premium quality expected of DSM.”

What is vitamin A and how is it made?

Vitamin A is considered essential for good health, immunity and the digestive system. It is found naturally in eggs, dairy products, and some vegetables and fruits, but the form used for commercial products must be manufactured. DSM is one of the world’s leading producers of vitamin A, manufacturing the vital ingredient in a state-of-the-art facility in Sisseln, Switzerland, from where it is then applied in human and animal health products, in human nutrition and animal health, as well as for the personal care and cosmetics markets worldwide. The form of the vitamin used in skincare, known as retinol, is one of the most effective treatments for the signs of aging, commonly used to reduce fine lines, wrinkles and blemishes as well as to increase collagen production.

Large-scale manufacturing of vitamin A became possible following a 1947 scientific discovery at Hoffmann-La Roche, whose vitamin business was acquired by DSM in 2003. Traditionally, vitamin A is derived from liver oil fish or synthesized from acetone, a colorless organic liquid compound. which is highly volatile and flammable. Additionally, acetone is derived from fossil fuels, which presents a long-term sustainability challenge.

Instead, DSM’s new vitamin A production process uses a specially developed strain of yeast, discovered in DSM’s research and development labs in Lexington, Massachusetts, that converts a renewable, locally obtained carbon source into the vitamin A. The nature-inspired process has since been refined and proven to be scalable through a global collaboration between six DSM sites in the United States, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland.

New manufacturing process reduces carbon footprint and reduces waste

The proprietary all-organic production method has the potential to transform the industry, advancing the environmental ambitions of DSM and its customers in the personal care and cosmetics, food, human health and healthcare markets. animal.

“Until now, the only way to meet the growing demand for vitamin A has been to build new multi-stage chemical production facilities that require more limited resources,” said Joerg von-Allmen, vice president of management. categories of vitamins at DSM, in a press release. . “DSM’s new bio-based process will significantly reduce the carbon footprint and waste of vitamin A manufacturing while producing the premium quality customers have come to expect.”

Going forward, DSM will increase its manufacturing capacity solely through its biological process using renewable resources, von-Allmen said.

“As an advocate for climate action and a leader in this field, we expect this breakthrough to prompt all vitamin A manufacturers around the world to reconsider how they will invest to accelerate the transition to a brighter future. healthy for people and the planet, away from traditional chemical processes that rely on limited resources,” he continued.

The new process has received an “overwhelmingly positive response” and DSM plans to commercialize the bio-based vitamin A in the personal care industry from 2023, said Parand Salmassinia, vice president of personal care at DSM.

“Vitamin A is one of the most demanded and trusted cosmetic ingredients on the market, and we will now be able to offer an alternative with significant environmental benefits,” Salmassinia said in a statement. “Our innovation will help DSM customers lead their product categories in sustainability, providing a significant contribution to their climate change actions and zero emissions goals.”

Salmassinia told PersonalCareInsights that she hopes the innovation will give brands, particularly in skincare, “the opportunity to give consumers more choices that align with their values.”

“Retinol, in particular, enjoys high consumer awareness thanks to its trusted image and superior efficacy and we expect an increase in retinol products,” she explained.

The development of the fully bio-based vitamin A and the manufacturing process of the ingredient are in line with DSM’s strategic position that “sustainability is a core value”. The company has set itself four key nutritional goals, including promoting healthy and balanced diets for all, improving the nutrient content of feed and food, being able to feed a global population growing on the basis of the limited natural resources available and reducing the ecological footprint of food production, “which means keeping it within planetary limits”.

“Our pioneering work is a testament to our scientific capabilities and the passion of our scientists around the world who strive to improve the health of people and the planet,” Gebhard said.

This series of articles is sponsored by DSM Animal Nutrition and Health.

Image credit: fidaolga/Adobe Stock

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