Amyris CEO: “You cannot compromise on clean ingredients,” as demand for reduced sugar solutions accelerates


29 Oct 2018 --- With sugar reduction dominating innovation and strategy globally, consumers are looking for high-quality calorie reduction solutions that taste as good as sugar. Amyris is tapping into these trends and enabling some of the world's leading brands to achieve sustainable growth through natural solutions that offer alternatives to sugar. According to John Melo, Amyris President & CEO, the company will soon be making announcements that cover the globe, “in a new set of partnerships across Europe and Asia.” 

Earlier this month and just a few weeks after Amyris was given GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status on its sugarcane-derived zero-calorie ingredient, the company revealed it is joining forces with the American Sugar Refining, Inc. (ASR) in a major supply and distribution deal. The move comes at a time when consumers are looking for high-quality calorie reduction that tastes as good as sugar.

“Our investors and prospective customers are as excited by this news as we are. We have the ability to deliver the lowest cost, natural sweetener to market,” said Melo, at the time. 

“We’ve known for a while that our plant-based, zero-calorie sweetener tastes really great – our testers have said it tastes just like sugar and that’s because it’s made naturally from sugarcane. Besides taste, it has zero calories and no chemicals that are bad for you or for our planet. Now, we can provide a better option for people, including those who may be managing diabetes or other health concerns.”

Speaking exclusively to FoodIngredientsFirst, Melo confirmed that there would be further announcements coming from the company, relating to their ingredient portfolio. “We are having active discussions in Asia, specifically in Japan, China and Taiwan. We are also very close to an agreement within the Brazilian market.”

“Global factors and such as diabetes and obesity are concerns that we cannot ignore. Also, the very simple fact that the millennial population shares a lot about diet and ingredients on social media, for example, is key. More people care about their food labels than ever before and as a result, we see a significant shift in the food and ingredients industry. One piece of data that I find fascinating is that one in three of all briefs from food companies to the flavor houses relate to sugar reduction,” he muses. 

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John Melo, Amyris President & CEO of Amyris

“That was the rationale and drive behind the partnership with ASR,” Melo confirms. “They are the perfect fit for us, as one of the largest sugar cane players in the world. There were many other contenders of course, that from one time to another expressed their interest. But for Amyris, we had to think about synergy, culture and leadership in very focused space and ASR is by far, the clear winner.”

“For us, commitment and passion for doing the right thing are essential. We see this throughout the world, whether it is in China, Japan, Brazil, France and the US. It’s global, it’s moving extremely rapidly and I call it ‘a shift to clean’ ingredients,” he says.

“You cannot compromise on clean ingredients,” Melo notes. “This means that what we are offering has to perform better than the current source (in this case natural sweeteners) and they must be sustainably sourced. Brands are aiming for this level in ingredients, they must be sustainable, cost-effective and they must meet the demand of the end consumer,” he explains. 

The company claims to be delivering on its “No Compromise” products and services across a number of markets, including specialty and performance chemicals, flavors and fragrances, cosmetics ingredients, pharmaceuticals, and nutraceuticals.

Outside of sweeteners, Amyris has an extensive portfolio of ingredients, “covering everything from sandalwood, patchouli and vanilla,” says Melo. “But the biggest opportunities the company sees is in the sweetness and sweeteners markets,” he adds.

One major ingredient player that could benefit from innovation at Amyris is DSM. DSM shareholding in Amyris is just under 20 percent. In May 2017, DSM made an initial equity investment in Amyris of US$25 million, translating into a shareholding of ~12 percent. At the same time, the companies entered into a development cooperation focused on products for the global health and nutrition markets (including vitamins and other nutritional ingredients). 

Amyris’ technology supports DSM’s strategic markets in health, nutrition, and materials as well as a growing consumer shift to (bio-) natural-like products derived from sustainable sources. For Amyris, DSM’s channels and market access and keen understanding in selecting the right products for the animal nutrition, human nutrition and consumer health markets provide strategic value.

“DSM is developing a very disruptive technology for the vitamin E markets. This is one the most critical drivers for DSM,” Melo says. “So when we started supplying vitamin E, we found a vitamin supplier in China that does chemistry and vitamins very well, so we partnered with them. Our disruption was that together we made the purest, most sustainable vitamin E in the world with the lowest cost and with a 30 percent cost reduction. The disruption was the 30 percent more cost reduction, and at the level of disruption disturbed the markets and impacted DSM. As a result, DSM then approached us and asked about buying that technology from us,” Melo continues. “DSM is also very focused on sustainability and has a significant pipeline of products that actually overlap somewhat with our technology.” 

“DSM is our biggest shareholder and they also view us as their biggest competitor,” he adds. “We like the idea of being independent and being the best competitor DSM has. We expect to go to the market independent. We will remain independent in sweeteners and vitamins mainly because we have better technologies and we like to compete directly with DSM,” Melo notes.  

“Regarding sweeteners, the idea of delivering a better taste, with no bitterness and lower costs is the disruption that is exactly what we are seeing from all the people who are formulating and testing our ingredients. People love the taste profile, but actually, at the cost we are selling at, we can really see it accelerating the transition to a lower sugar consuming society,” Melo states.  

Over the next few weeks, Amyris will continue to be busy on the ingredients and innovations side with further announcements coming this way. The company has a commercial rollout event in December, which Melo tips as the “official unveiling for the financial and customer markets.”

By Elizabeth Green

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