Source of Innovation: The Story of Ingredients

Buriti fruit
Buriti fruit

Beauty ingredient suppliers are constantly working on innovative ingredient options, seeking out inspiration from nature, science, unique environments, and consumer and marketplace demands. Collaboration between ingredient suppliers and beauty brands is incredibly important in ingredient innovation, matching skills and knowledge with demands and needs from the beauty market. Innovation often comes in the form of looking at the development process in a new light.

Beauty brands and industry ingredient suppliers must have the courage to innovate if they are to survive. And to do so boldly. The processes of and search for innovation are continually evolving. It not only inspires new product development, but also is driven by new product development. It takes time, energy and resources to do it right, but for those that want to fill a niche in the market no one has previously been able fill with new or more effective solutions—it’s worth it.

Out in the field

As innovators often discover, sometimes the information comes to them, and other times they have to go out and get it. Ingredient supplier Naturex’s head office is in Avignon, France, but the company continually invests in the research and development of new products from around the globe via an extensive worldwide sourcing program.

Chris Kilham, sustainability ambassador for Naturex, travels the world to find new botanicals that have beneficial properties for beauty products. He helped Naturex source ungurahui oil, which was part of the company’s botanical range that launched in Fall 2013 and is already being expanded.

On a regular basis, Kilham is in the Amazon, primarily the Peruvian Amazon. “In my work, I am always looking for what’s out there, what’s new, what I am missing,” he explains.

Specifically, Kilham notes that he is constantly on the lookout for bioactive ingredients or plants that have oils with physical properties that are at least consistent with those required by beauty companies for their development. “There is a constant and seemingly unceasing appetite in the cosmetic industry for oils,” he says. “[It is] even better that, if in addition to having the basic physical qualities, [the oil] also demonstrates some sort of activity above and beyond what is required for a good cream or lotion base.”

In his travels, Kilham observed many fruit trees, with the ungurahui being one of them, and he was once given a drink made from the fruit. It was very rich, really creamy, he says, due to the presence of oils. “The aroma was pleasant, and the question occurred to me, ‘Why are these oils not in the market?’” So, he brought some back to Naturex, which conducted research to find out potential uses. The company discovered ungurahui oil is useful from a functional standpoint in terms of basic physical properties, and ungurahui oil from the fruit pulp also has a nice composition of omega oils and lipid content, as well as anti-inflammatory activity, making it beneficial for sensitive skin.

“It basically came about from my knocking around in the Peruvian Amazon,” Kilham shares, and Naturex allows him to go all over the world and investigate what he wants, because looking around is part of the job. “Sometimes we don’t actually act on it for years,” Kilham says. “But for us, it is essential for now and for the future.”

A companion oil with biologically active functional properties, buriti, is from the same region. Kilham was first exposed to buriti fruit in 1997 when he lived in the Amazon for about a month. “In the markets of Peru and Brazil, you see buriti everywhere; it is very common—but at the time, nobody was doing anything with it,” he says. Now, it’s part of the company’s Nat Oleis botanical range.

Being in the field, Kilham can evaluate certain parameters of sourcing, from the environment to the native people, to ensure the exchange is benefitting both. In terms of informed consent, the indigenous populace want to sell the fruit, because they are plants of commerce anyway, according to Kilham and, by selling the fruit to a supplier, they also get a better price than if they were just selling them at an open market. In addition, women participate greatly in the activities around the harvesting of these plants. “This is good news because there are cultures where women are cut out of the income stream, and that puts them at a tremendous economic and cultural social disadvantage,” Kilham says. There also is no damage to the environment because the fruit is abundant and, if they aren’t picked, they would just fall to the ground and rot.

These are important issues in the market today, because many beauty companies want the assurance of sustainably sourced ingredients. “They want the warmth of knowing they are obtaining sustainable ingredients, and they want the opportunity, should they choose to do so, to market sustainability to the distributors or the consuming public,” Kilham notes.

Naturex has eight sourcing offices throughout the world, each responsible for a different geographic territory, and Kilham will travel with representatives from those offices to check out sourcing and work toward improvements in that sourcing. “We maintain contact with existing suppliers, and constantly are searching for new ones, because it may be possible to make improvements in the chain,” he notes. He meets the people and sees the harvesting and how things are handled, as well as where the oil is pressed. “Controlling the growing and processing of raw materials is crucial in meeting quality requirements. There is no way to shortcut that and actually know in any meaningful way what you are getting and, therefore, what you are selling.”

Naturex also dedicates 1% of gross revenues to community development activity in the villages. Maintaining the good relationships with sourcing programs that are going well gives you long-term durability, according to Kilham. “Sustainability has higher stakes for now and for the future,” he says. “Those companies that do not engage in sustainable sourcing are going to be lost in the dust bins of history, because they fail to understand what the market needs.”

Following the successful launch of its botanical oil range, Naturex is already expanding the line to feature botanical butters along with new premium oils. Referred to by Himalayan inhabitants as the “butter tree,” the chiuri tree is native to Nepal. The main product of the tree is a butter extracted from the seeds and popularly known as chiuri butter. It has a wide range of traditional beauty uses, including skin-healing, moisturizing and even the alleviation of rheumatic pain. It also can easily be incorporated in a range of beauty applications for an exotic twist.

Also a product of Nepal, dhatelo oil has long been used by the native population to soothe and heal skin conditions, and to add strength and shine to hair. Both Nepalese products also are wild harvested through a cooperative that gives villagers a stake in the production.

Collaborative efforts

Partnerships between suppliers and beauty brands are quite important to continuous innovation. This collaborative approach has developed into open innovation, and it is now an integral part of the industry.

“Evonik has a unique innovation process because we introduce anywhere from 10–12 new products every year on the personal care side,” says Paul Washlock, vice president of personal care, North America, Evonik. Washlock explains that besides one-on-one conversations with clients to identify potential needs, Evonik uses a broader network to review trends and potential actives for the marketplace. “Very early in the development process, these scientists and consulting firms who are experts in their niches work with us in a mutually beneficial way to identify potential solutions for the marketplace,” he explains.

Once an active is considered, Evonik brings in additional scientific and academic colleagues and collaborators to do their own independent testing and ensure the data is on the right track. “It is once testing is completed that we start talking to customers, particularly those with whom we have a strong collaborative relationship and whose needs fit the solution we are developing,” says Washlock. Evonik provides a win-win situation in which brands get total access to the data, as well as potentially limited exclusivity for a particular active ingredient. “Meanwhile, we are still in the innovation mode, so we are able to work with the client to understand the trends or solutions they are looking for with the active, enabling us to personalize the solution for their product or brand.” It could be as fast as six months, Washlock says, but typically it may take 12–18 months.

When a beauty brand goes to Evonik with a specific question, such as how to improve skin elasticity, the supplier launches into research rather than simply providing a list of available products. “For [an inquiry on skin elasticity], we screened more than 100 different types of algae that could potentially assist in skin elasticity,” says Washlock. The three most promising options from this research were selected and cultivated by algae experts. Depending on growth properties and potential desired effects, some of these micro algae were further explored.

Finally, a unicellular red micro algae was extracted that had the results they were looking for, to protect stem cells to provide rejuvenation of skin cell activity in the skin. Cyanidium caldarium is available only in acidic hot springs and hot soils, such as the Grand Prismatic Spring of Yellowstone National Park, and the unicellular micro algae is able to survive under extreme conditions. The strain that is used for the production was isolated on the Sunda Islands in Southeast Asia from Mount Lawu fumaroles on the island of Java. Production of the bioactive algae extract is a natural and ecofriendly process from biorenewables. “We bring in the engineering, chemistry and technical expertise to make it naturally within the laboratory at high volume without an external carbon source,” says Washlock. After cultivation, the algae cells are processed by a proprietary mild extraction method followed by a filtration step, enriching the bioactive compounds.

By helping and collaborating with a customer, Evonik identified a solution and brought it into the marketplace at a commercial scale via Tego Stemlastin, an innovation that is part of the industry’s move toward algaculture within beauty and personal care. In a more recent collaboration, Evonik worked with a natural remedies producer to help find solutions for an environmental stress defense for skin. The result was Tego Cistus, a standardized plant extract highly enriched in polyphenols from the pink rock rose, a perennial shrub found on dry or rocky soils throughout the Mediterranean region. The active ingredient, Cistus incanus extract, provides protection by neutralizing free radicals to combat undesirable effects of sun exposure, reducing the appearance of sunburn. The medicinal plant makes new the old, as it has historical use in traditional European medicine, and Greek mythology reports use of the flower in healing warriors.

Trend tracking

Keeping up with the latest developments and news in beauty through different media, such as specialized journals and magazines, themed exhibitions and continuing education, is another key to innovation.

Cobiosa, an ingredient supplier based in Spain, looks for lifestyle trends determined by social, economic, technological and cultural changes in attitude and behavior. “In a globalized and standardized world, regionality and locality are creating specific desires,” says Lorena Sánchez, R&D with Cobiosa. “There is a trend toward natural, organic, botanic products and to rediscovering of ancient ingredients.” Based on its continued research and ongoing knowledge, as well as extensive experience with multinational companies, Cobiosa develops ingredients with the desired functionalities that meet these demands.

Cobiosa’s Pore Reductyl was developed to answer a demand for ingredients with astringent and oil-reducing effects. “Maintaining clean, healthy pores is important for maintaining healthy and healthy-looking skin,” Sánchez says. Thus, Cobiosa’s goal was to find a natural astringent of botanical origin with a higher bio affinity for the skin. The purified, concentrated active is extracted from the pulp of Fomes officinalis, a basidiomycete mushroom that grows in East Europe on the trunk of the alerce cypress tree, believed to be the second-longest-living type of tree on Earth. Cobiosa chose this mushroom because it is well known for its medicinal properties and because of its high purity agaric acid, which exhibits astringent, tightening and moisturizing properties.

Pore Reductyl can be used in a variety of beauty and skin care applications to enhance the action of anti-aging, anti-wrinkle and firming products, as well as in anti-irritants and cellular renewal products targeting wound-healing and problem skin. It is also appropriate for hair care designed to enhance and focus on scalp therapy.

Continuing in the trend of innovation based on tradition, Cobiosa also launched Cobiolive, a natural liquid olive extract. A symbol of the Mediterranean culture, the olive tree is extremely long-living due to its content of potent antioxidant compounds. Cobiolive 20 is characterized by its high content of hydroxytyrosol (20%), tyrosol and other polyphenols. Hydroxytyrosol is reported to perform several biological activities and is a powerful scavenger. “This combination produces positive, synergistic effects resulting in highly antioxidant properties,” notes Sánchez.

Outside the box

Simply gaining a new perspective with some out-of-the-box thinking can be the key to finding solutions, as well. “The market demands both innovation and functionality,” says Liki von Oppen-Bezalel, vice president of business development and marketing, IBR Ltd. “Sometimes you can find that by combining simple observation with a new way of thinking.”

IBR-Gapture is uniquely sourced from a desert plant that has capabilities to resist the harsh environment—the jojoba tree. “It provides a twist and a sustainable angle to jojoba as a source of raw materials, since it is made from the leaf,” von Oppen-Bezalel explains. The jojoba leaf provides the tree protection in dry desert conditions. The harsh environment in which the plant thrives and the leaf’s role is what piqued IBR’s interest. “The trees are being trimmed annually, and we basically use the waste for our production,” von Oppen-Bezalel notes. The harvest is done under controlled conditions to allow reproducibility of the extract content, and the extract itself is environmentally friendly, because it is without organic solvents and is water-based. The activities of the product are unique, as well, providing the skin with strength and smoothness through the stimulation of the expression of proteins, such as keratins, fibronectin and reducing water loss.

For unique ingredient innovations or beneficial combinations, patents also can play an important role. Patented ingredients and formulations give brands an edge, some of which may be based on the claims put into the patent or the viability of the patents being unique to the formulation, which competitors may not be able to claim. “Innovations that are not easily copied allow brands the top shot for exclusivity, whereby they would enjoy first-to-market rights on that particular formula,” explains Shaheen Majeed, marketing director, Sabinsa. Such early adapters would differentiate themselves from their competitors.

The majority of Sabinsa patents—which recently grew to 87—have been ingredient-based, looking at their composition, process for development and for their use. Innovation hardly stands still, and sometimes companies push forward a simple process patent while the clinical work is underway to effectively apply for a patent on that product’s use. “In many cases, we’re able to apply for both, including the composition, at the same time,” says Majeed.

Often, the process itself is the major reason Sabinsa is able to obtain that ingredient. In such cases, where the ingredient itself may or may not be novel, the process taken to get there is, and certainly can be worthwhile protecting. The novelty, not the monopoly, of such unique processes and innovative ingredients helps reduce the number of generic or counterfeit products that enter the industry, which ultimately affects consumer confidence with regard to the types of ingredients or formulas being offered. The processes Sabinsa embarks on for patenting have been scientifically validated through high levels of scrutiny. “We want to ensure it’s not only the best way to obtain such a product, but the safest way,” Majeed says. “Another reason to patent unique processes might be to protect how well we’ve optimized the yield in which we obtain the final product.”

One of Sabinsa’s most recent patents is for Boswellin from the dry, hilly parts of India. The European patent discusses the unique therapeutic potential of boswellic acids from the gum resin in combination with selenium amino acids to effectively manage inflammatory conditions of immunological origin, such as psoriasis.

Ensuring that patents are protected also allows forerunners to continue to invest in innovation. “Innovation is a major driving force in almost every industry,” says Majeed. “For much of it, changing government policies, shifting demographics and economic pressures often create a necessity for innovation.”

Sara Mason is a freelance writer based in the Chicagoland area. She was previously managing editor of GCI magazine.




Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of GCI magazine and is being reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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