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May 2018

Watch Your Polystyrene!

The state of California has added food packaging as a priority area under the Safer Consumer Products Act, identifying four classes of hazardous chemicals found in food contact packaging: bisphenols, perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), phthalates, and polystyrene. In parallel, the state of Washington is the first state to ban fluorinated chemicals in food packaging. Other states are examining similar regulations.

Recently published research found 35% higher phthalate levels in people who dined out the day before. Phthalates are found in several food contact materials including most flexible film wrap (also known as saran wrap).

Other research identified PFAS in many food contact packaging materials. PFAS pass from packaging to food and into our bodies. The Center for Environmental Health recently published a report on PFAS in disposable food ware.

Bisphenols are used in many plastics and also in thermal paper receipts. Previous research shows that bisphenols absorbs faster through our skin in the presence of oils and grease.

Despite the shrinking use of Styrofoam containers and cups, polystyrene, the underlying polymer, remains in use for a wide range of food contact packaging. Watch for the number 6 in the recycling symbol on your coffee cup lids, clear clamshells, and clear plastic cups. You may be surprised how often it shows up.

What Happened to Bio-based Chemicals?

Bio-Amber, a Canadian company making drop in replacements for petroleum commodity chemicals (succinic acid and its derivatives) filed for bankruptcy this month. Unfortunately there are other recent examples of less than ideal endings of what we may call first generation bio-based companies such as Rennovia, Rivertop Renewables, TerraVia (f.k.a. Solazyme), and Zeachem.

These first generation companies focused mostly on drop in replacements for existing commodity chemicals. With drop in replacements, success depends on the ability to scale industrial processes and reach certain cost milestones. Companies are often vulnerable to changes in commodity prices. Also the amount of capital required to reach scale is often a high bar.

A new generation of bio-based material startups such as Bolt Threads, Ginko Bioworks, and Zymergen have been able to raise significant amounts of capital. The companies in the second generation usually focus on existing functional needs and engineer solutions to address them. They often develop new chemistry and materials that deliver new performance. In some cases they are building new brands. We are keen to see them be successful.

Despite setbacks we still see many consumer brands differentiating by using bio-based and natural ingredients. They usually create differentiated performance through new chemistry, or build new brands that win with a message of safety and sustainability.

The Case for Prevention

This video by scientist Bruce Lanphear makes an excellent case for focusing efforts on disease prevention. The case for prevention should be obvious, but sadly it does need to be made. This other video about the impact of toxic chemicals on the developing brain is also interesting and heart wrenching.

The Leaves Are Back to the Future

The apparel industry is hungry for new, better materials. Stella McCartney is making a biodegradable mushroom leather handbag in collaboration with Bolt Threads. Allbirds is launching a eucalyptus fiber shoe. Fashion for Good recently announced its latest cohort that includes companies using waste methane, algae, and citrus as feedstocks for new fibers.

The sector is also hungry recycled materials. Adidas recently announced that it will make all of its products from recycled ocean plastics by 2024. H&M announced that its Conscious Exclusive collection features recycled silver and ECONYL yarn, a fiber made from fishnets and other nylon waste produced by Acquafil. The North Face announced a new collection of t-shirts and tote bags made from cotton and recycled bottles sourced from three national parks.

Safer Made Report: Safer Chemistry Innovation in the Textile and Apparel Industry

With support from Fashion for Good and the C&A Foundation, we are about to publish a report on safer chemistry and materials innovation opportunities in textile and apparel. This report identifies the key innovation areas, showcases young innovative companies working to bring safer materials to market, and presents examples of successful brand and retailer engagement with the innovation ecosystem. Stay tuned!


GreenMantra Technologies, a Canadian company that depolymerizes and recycles waste plastic has received investments from Bioindustrial Innovation Canada and The Business Development Bank of Canada, who join existing investors Cycle Capital Management and ArcTern Ventures.

Rael, a Buena Park, Ca.-based maker of organic feminine care products, raised $2.1 million in pre-Series A funding co-led by SoftBank Ventures Korea and Thrive Market Ventures.

BioConsortia, a Davis, Ca.-based company that makes microbial agriculture products to increase crop yields reducing the need for fertilizers, has raised $10 million from Otter Capital and Khosla Ventures.

Smarter Sorting, an Austin, Tex.-based startup that helps reduce retail chemical waste, has raised $5 million in seed funding from RTP Ventures and others.

Ecovia Renewables, an Ann Arbor, Mi.-based biotech company focused on developing bio-based super absorbent polymers, has raised an initial $1 million in seed funding fromSeppic Group.

A-Mansia, a Belgium-based microbiome company that makes novel nutritional supplements, has raised $15.7 million in funding led by Seventure Partners.

True Botanicals, a skincare startup, raised $8.5 million in Series A funding from Sonoma Brands, Unilever Ventures, and Cue Ball Capital.

Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Santa Monica, Ca.-based wellness media and e-commerce company raised $50 million in Series C funding at a $250 million valuation. Investors include New Enterprise Associates, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Felix Capital.

Phlur, an Austin, Tex.-based fragrance company using responsibly sourced ingredients raised $2.4 million towards an $8 million financing round. Initial backers include Next Coast Ventures.

Food Financings

Financings in the food space reached the furious level. Here are a recent few.

Wild Type, a meat culturing startup, raised $3.5 million in seed funding.

Future Meat Technologies, another meat culturing startup, raised $2.2 million round of funding, co-led by Tyson Ventures.

Impossible Foods, developing a plant-based meat alternatives raised $114 million from Singapore's Temasek Holdings and Sailing Capital.

Good Catch Foods that sells vegetarian tuna, crab, and fish like products made of legumes, raised $5.5 million from Stray Dog Capital.

Perfect Day an animal-free dairy raised $24.7 million in new funding from

The Primal Pantry, a U.K.-based natural snack bars company raised $4.2 million in funding from NVM Private Equity.

Beta Hatch, a producer of insects as protein for animal feed, raised $2.1 million in seed funding from Cavallo Ventures, Element 8 Fund, Keiretsu Capital, NQV8, and Frontier Angels.

FoodLogiQ, a software platform for food safety and traceability raised $19.5 million.


Givaudan bought 40.6% of Naturex, a company that uses plant extracts to develop ingredients and ingredient systems for the food, health and beauty sectors, for $649 million.

International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. bought Israel based Frutarom Industries Ltd. for $7.1 billion. Frutarom, maker of natural flavors and ingredients, acquired 25 companies in the last few years.

Mondelez spent $500M to acquire Tate's Bake Shop. Tate's sells premium cookies that use natural ingredients.

Clorox acquired health and wellness company Nutranex for $700 million. Nutranext generated roughly $200 million in 2017.

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