On a mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable consumption, Amyris’ family of clean beauty, health, and wellness brands are available to consumers online, and through the world’s leading retailers — including Sephora. Together, we can preserve the health and beauty of people and our planet.
Amyris’ partnership with Sephora began in 2017 with the debut of Biossance clean skincare products in stores and on Sephora.com. Today, Sephora shelves showcase three Amyris brands: Biossance, JVN Hair, and Rose Inc, a line of high-performance color cosmetics and skincare.
This week, Annie Tsong, Chief Strategy and Product Officer for Amyris, participated in Sephora’s “Red Bag Speaker Series,” an internal Sephora speaking series for employees featuring external innovators and thought leaders.
Under Annie Tsong’s leadership, Amyris has developed revolutionary technology that’s been implemented at scale and transformed Vitamin E and squalane markets, the Flavors and Fragrance industry and more.
She’s deeply ingrained within the Product Innovation division at Amyris, where she’s led the establishment of an ingredient development pipeline. This innovation helps the planet by reducing the use of rare and precious natural ingredients from vulnerable ecosystems — without compromising on cost or performance.
Hosted by Mackenzie Milton, an Associate Merchant, Skincare at Sephora, the Red Bag Speaker Series virtual event invites speakers to share their creativity, stories, and learnings from their area of expertise, with the goal of expanding ideas and inspiring collaboration across all of Sephora.
This week’s conversation drew hundreds of engaged Sephora employees interested in learning more about Amyris’ science-backed beauty. Below are a few highlights:
Mackenzie Milton (MM): Welcome, Annie! I know our audience is eager to learn more about you and Amyris. Can you tell us what the company does and explain your role within the company?
Annie Tsong (AT): Absolutely, and thank you so much for having me, it’s wonderful to be here with Sephora. Amyris is a renewable products company. It may sound a little bit like science fiction, but we’ve created a new way of making ingredients. Today, most ingredients are either sourced from petrochemicals (fossil fuel) or they’re sourced from nature — plants and animals. Each of these methods has environmental challenges associated with them. Petrochemicals, by definition, aren’t renewable. And many ingredients which are natural are not sustainably harvested.
At Amyris, we combined cutting edge advanced biotechnology with the ancient art of fermentation. We use yeast — the same yeast traditionally made to make bread, or beer for example — to make sustainable ingredients. We use sustainably sourced sugarcane and yeast to ferment new, sustainable ingredients for clean beauty, health and wellness products.
What’s probably lesser known to Sephora is that Amyris is also an ingredient supplier to other companies. Nine out of the top 10 world’s beauty companies use our ingredients, and our ingredients are in around 20,000 SKU’s worldwide, reaching more than 300 million consumers.
As Chief Strategy and Product Officer, my role is really, really fun. I get to choose which ingredients Amyris focuses on and create our pipeline. My history at the company is pretty eclectic. I’ve been at Amyris for 14 years and started on the bench in R&D as a yeast biologist. It was so exciting to apply my academic background in yeast biology to something so immediately impactful.
MM: Wow. It sounds like your role was meant for you. Can you back up and explain to us how do you go about choosing those ingredients?
AT: The beauty industry is still incredibly dirty — there’s still a lot of petroleum, harsh chemicals, and threatened animals and plants used in the industry. I lead a team to identify the ingredients that we can make using fermentation. We have a really comprehensive diligence process where we review different ingredients. In general, what we target are ingredients that provide an alternative to an incumbent that we can offer at the best price, the best performance, and with the most sustainable process. With the growth of our consumer brands increasing, I also work really closely with our new product teams to select ingredients that consumers will love. There is a huge opportunity for us to apply our advanced science and technology to create new, clean ingredients for the beauty and personal care space. We see that as an area that’s ripe for disruption and innovation.
MM: So, you’re a pioneer at the world’s leading manufacturer of sustainable ingredients — what’s your personal vision of a sustainable future in 10 years, or even 50 years?
AT: Great question, thank you for asking that. The technology that Amyris has developed has so much potential. We’ve already created major changes in ingredient sourcing in the Fragrance and Flavor and beauty industry, and I want us to begin to branch out really deeply into other industries as well. If I think about the technologies of the future that are going to lead to a better planet, some of the critical technologies include transition to renewable sources of energy, and electrification of transportation. In that same way, I think fermentation is one of the pillars for sustainable living moving forward. I think it’s going to be a cornerstone for how we source rare natural ingredients without destroying sensitive ecosystems, or unnecessarily tapping into petroleum reserves. I can see that as a cornerstone in 10 years.
In 50 years, I hope to see fermentation plants all over the world, and I can see this technology impacting every industry which is today dependent on chemical inputs from petroleum, plants, and animals.
MM: Well, if anyone can achieve that vision it’s certainly Amyris! One of our attendees has asked about resources for consumers to learn about product ingredients in a quick, and easy way, when they go shopping. Do you have any recommendations?
AT: There’s no perfect resource, yet. When shopping on our own brands’ websites, we do a good job of explaining our ingredients. On Biossance.com for example, we launched a full Clean Academy with tutorials and educational references for shoppers, and we also have ingredient libraries providing details on each ingredient that we use. Outside of our own sites, I know a lot of consumers use the EWG database, which aggregates information around ingredients. But I haven’t really seen one single, excellent resource, to be honest. I do think there’s an opportunity there.
MM: Another question from an attendee — I love this one: What are some of the differences or challenges that come from creating a makeup line or working with a makeup line versus a skincare line?
AT: I’ll start by saying I’m not a formulator! But what I’ve learned working with all of our different teams is that there’s an added level of complexity working with color. Rose Inc for example, is characterized by multifunctional products. So the formulators for Rose Inc need to be balancing skin benefits and color performance at the same time. We’re also learning more all of the time about things like color perception, and how elements like an undertone are critical for delivering a good color match.
MM: Annie, thank you so much for taking time with us. We sincerely appreciate you and your passion for clean chemistry, and the work that Amyris is doing to deliver natural ingredients for a more sustainable planet.