The NYC-based synthetic biology company, C16 Biosciences, is developing novel ways to produce next-generation oils and fats. Recently, the company announced the successful completion of its first industrial-scale, 50,000 L, fermentation. In addition, the company launched a biomanufactured alternative to palm oil—called Palmless.

Palm oil, the most popular vegetable oil in the world, is found in nearly 50% of products on supermarket shelves—from ice cream to baby formula, and from shampoo to lipstick. And demand for the ingredient continues to grow; U.S. imports of palm oil have increased by nearly 30% since 2014. Indeed, palm oil was a $60 billion industry in 2016.

Palm oil is also the most destructive vegetable oil from a greenhouse gas and a social perspective. Palm-driven land use in Indonesia and Malaysia—the two countries that make up 85% of palm production—has emitted roughly 500 million tons of CO2 each year, contributing 1.4% of global net CO2 emissions. A palm oil substitute will be required, C16 noted, to solve climate change without changing consumer expectations around the products they love.

Pilot scale fermentation system used to generate C16’s microbial palm alternatives. [C16 Biosciences]
Palmless has similar functional attributes of palm oil but is created with precision fermentation using yeast (instead of harvesting palm plants in the rainforest.)

After identifying a yeast strain that produces oil like palm oil, C16 used adapted laboratory evolution and strain engineering—as well as bioprocess engineering around fermentation conditions—to improve the strain’s performance and profile.

Palmless will be relevant across a wide range of consumer packaged goods (CPG) applications, including beauty, personal care, home care, and food. The first products containing a Palmless ingredient will be launched in the beauty sector in early 2023.

“The launch of Palmless is a big step forward in making a palm oil alternative a reality. Consumer brands have been seeking a palm alternative for years, but have lacked a real solution—until now,” said Shara Ticku, co-founder and CEO of C16 Biosciences. 

“Palmless is more than the start of commercial roll-out of C16 Biosciences’ technology. It’s also about holding manufacturers and brands to a higher standard: a better option is available. There are no more excuses,” continued Ticku.

At C16 Biosciences, the initial focus is on palm oil, but the company has a broader vision focused on the entire oils and fats spectrum and finding ways to decarbonize consumer product supply chains.

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