Fermentation: How We Create Sustainable Ingredients for Beauty to Beverage Brands

News December 16, 2020

Oftentimes, when we think of fermentation many food and drink related things can come to mind like beer, bread, yogurt, cheese, wine, sauerkraut and kombucha. Though when coupled with science, the possibilities that fermentation brings seem magical.


So what is fermentation, exactly? In the simplest terms, it’s the process whereby a microbe (yeast) interacts with a natural sugar molecule to produce an end result. Although the process has been used for thousands of years, fermentation was officially discovered by scientist Louis Pasteur in 1857.


Taking the fermentation process further, in 2003 a group of scientists from Amyris, UC Berkeley and Sanofi found a way to create an anti-malaria drug precursor, resulting in the development of a cure that saved the lives of thousands of children around the world. Using this same fermentation process, Amyris began the journey of developing sustainable alternatives to the ingredients we use every day.


Through our proprietary sugarcane fermentation process, we are able to replicate the molecular structure of natural ingredients that come from non-sustainable resources such as animal, endangered plant or petrochemical sources. By using sugarcane feedstock and engineering yeast to follow metabolic pathways, we have discovered how to create a diverse library of natural molecules that can be used as ingredients for everything from luxury cosmetic and fragrance products to a zero-calorie sweetener, and even cannabinoids and a vaccine adjuvant.


What makes these ingredients sustainable is their source – Brazilian sugarcane.  Instead of depleting natural resources that come from vulnerable animals or plants or even from harmful petrochemicals, we use sugarcane, which is one of the most regenerative plants on earth. Our fermentation process and clean manufacturing adds further sustainable benefits so that we can produce unlimited quantities to meet whatever the market demand, without any environmental tradeoffs.


Using sugarcane, a rapidly renewable resource, means there will always be plentiful feedstock supply to scale for what is needed. For instance, our squalane requires less the .1% of a hectare of sugarcane to produce 1 kg. That’s about the land size of an 8×10’ rug. Compare this to shark derived squalane which requires killing around three sharks to get the same amount. Also take into consideration that sugarcane crops renew themselves on an annual basis, but it takes a shark 10 years to grow to maturity and large enough to harvest their liver for squalane. This shows how devasting using this cosmetic ingredient is when sourced from the vulnerable shark population. The answer, clearly, is fermentation.


When it comes to Amyris developing new ingredients through fermentation, the sky really is the limit. Exciting things are currently in the pipeline, so make sure to follow us on LinkedIn to hear the latest news!