August 14, 2018

Procter & Gamble embraces the bio-based future

Bio-based detergents like Tide purclean are on a mission to replace your petroleum-based cleaners, without sacrificing performance. Source: Carsten Schertzer (flickr).

This story is brought to you by Procter & Gamble, which uses biotechnology to create bio-based consumer products that perform as well as conventional products at the same price. Learn more about P&G’s sustainability goals at https://us.pg.com/sustainability

Natural. Bio-based. Post-consumer recycled.

Increasingly, these are the labels consumers are looking for. Sustainability has become a significant factor in deciding what to buy. Major companies like Procter & Gamble (P&G), with global reach and impact, are listening to their customers and responding to the demand for environmentally responsible products.

In the last few years, P&G brands have answered the call with products like Tide purclean, PampersPure, and Downy Nature Blends. They are part of an exponentially growing market of sustainable household products. Consumers are rightfully concerned about the impact their purchases have on the environment. They are also more mindful of any potential health risks from chemicals they use in their homes or put on their skin. Products which incorporate with non-synthetic ingredients can help allay these concerns and allow consumers to live their daily lives with a better peace of mind.

The bio-based concept is simple: Develop products using plant-based materials instead of synthetic ones. But making viable products with these components is a significant challenge. Many plant-based materials are less absorbent, don’t have the same cleaning power, or are simply rougher on the skin than their petroleum-based counterparts.

These obstacles have not deterred research and development scientists. Mikah Coffindaffer, a molecular biologist at P&G, is adamant that consumers get the same high level of quality from products containing bio-based materials as they do from standard ones. “Consumers aren’t willing to compromise when it comes to performance and safety,” she says. She emphasized that P&G’s goal is to ensure that its customers never have to make trade-offs in performance when they buy products containing naturally derived materials.

For many products, however, this kind of quality typically comes at a cost. Currently, bio-based products are more difficult to scale, which adds to the cost of production. This extra cost may discourage the average consumer. Mikah says P&G is working hard to provide cost effective options for the consumer seeking products in the natural space. “No one should have to feel bad about what they use,” says Mikah. “We want you to feel good about the products you use on your family and on yourself.”

P&G

What’s the best way to approach companies like Procter & Gamble about partnering on your synbio tech and products? On Tuesday, August 14 at 9am Pacific, John Cumbers will be live from Chicago with P&G’s Amy Trejo, who will share tips on developing partnerships with CPG manufacturers. Amy will discuss goals for partnering, models for partnering, successful examples of P&G bio-based products, and some specific R&D areas of interest to P&G.

When it comes to infants and children, many consumers are willing to pay a little more for products with fewer chemical ingredients. Sara Giovanni, a scientist for Pampers, was inspired by her twins to create a diaper that could meet the needs of moms seeking a more natural lifestyle, but with the great protection and softness that they are used to from Pampers. She designed PampersPure, a line of diapers with a 50% bio-based top sheet, no chemical bleaching or added preservatives like parabens.

Todd Cline, a researcher and developer in fabric care, says he and his family’s love of nature dovetails perfectly into his work. Cline’s wife recently gave up plastic bags and straws. Their two children collect trash and recyclables. Cline’s sustainable efforts focus on developing the bio-based laundry detergent, Tide pureclean. Downy Natural Blends, and Gain Botanicals are other laundry products aimed at providing options for the naturals consumer.

Beyond containing bio-based materials, Tide pureclean was developed with a more holistic view of sustainability. The formula was designed by P&G to work efficiently in cold water. This is a critical capability as 80% of a washing machine’s environmental impact comes from the use of hot water. In addition, these products also incorporate at least 25% post-consumer recycled plastics in the bottles.

Utilizing plant-based materials isn’t the only way P&G is establishing greater product transparency with their consumers. This may not seem significant until one realizes that P&G is a world-leading fragrance producer with over 2000 scented products. Fragrances aren’t just limited to perfumes and body sprays. They can be found in everyday items from candles to car-fresheners, detergents to diapers. In 2017, P&G announced  they would list all of their fragrance ingredients down to the .01% by the end of 2019. But P&G is going even further: They will also provide context as to where else fragrance ingredients are found, whether in nature or other synthetic sources.

P&G’s sustainable efforts are paying off. Their new products have been well received and they are continuing to expand their bio-based portfolio. True, these products are still sold at a slight premium, comparable with other bio-oriented brands. But the natural products market is still in its infancy. As demand grows and bio-based becomes even more mainstream, Mikah Coffindaffer, like many experts, expects prices to drop as natural materials become less expensive and production more efficient.

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