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A Bio-Based Alternative to Tio2: Finnish Startup Company Focuses on Birch Bark

A Bio-Based Alternative to Tio2: Finnish Startup Company Focuses on Birch Bark

Finnish startup company Innomost has launched Betuinno.Betulin, a sustainable and biodegradable ingredient made from birch bark that is ideal for replacing synthetic white pigments, such as titanium dioxide, in the surfaces, coatings and beauty industries. PPCJ spoke to CEO Sami Selkälä about its potential benefits compared to synthetic pigments

Birch bark ingredient and scrub made of it

Q. Firstly, can you give a brief overview of Betuinno.Betulin – what does it do and how did the idea for Betuinno.Betulin come about?

A. The development of Betuinno. Betulin was inspired by the nature’s own unique multifunctionality. If you walk around in a Finnish forest, the most abundant white colour you see in the forest is the white colour of the birch bark. We started to study what is the white pigment of the birch bark and we found out that the white colour is due to highly pure betulin. Betulin content of the birch bark is about 25-30% in the outer bark of the birch. We did a lot of research and process development to isolate and produce highly pure white betulin from forest industry side streams.

The result of the development work was a simple, energy efficient process to produce white pigment grade betulin. Betuinno. Betulin is a 100% natural, non-nano, multifunctional white pigment. Besides being a pigment, Betuinno. Betulin is water repellent, antioxidative, antimicrobic, upcycled and a sustainable alternative to synthetic white pigments. Unlike synthetic white pigments, Betuinno. Betulin is biodegradable and non-toxic. Produced from upcycled birch bark from certified forest industry side streams, it is environmentally friendly and has a low carbon footprint. Betuinno. Betulin matches the whiteness and reflectivity of synthetic white pigments.

Q. What are the main challenges that you face when creating bio-based alternatives to chemical pigments?

A. Existing chemical pigments businesses have very large volumes and to create a real alternative to existing pigments, you need a reliable sourcing for the raw material. We have solved this problem by having a strategic relationship with a large forest industry company, Metsä Group, one of the biggest birch wood processors in Europe.

Q. It seems as though you mainly cater to the beauty industry at the moment. Do you have plans to move into the coatings sector and have you tested Betuinno.Betulin in coatings formulations yet?

A. We have commercial beauty industry customers since 2018 and today our products are used on three different continents. The launch of Betuinno. Betulin supports our international growth plans in various industries. To support the launch of a new ingredient together with a growing client base globally, the two existing investors, Metsä Spring and Innovestor, have invested an additional €1.4M in Innomost. The new investment is enabling us to expand into coating applications as well.

Q. This pigment is designed to replace TiO2. The regulations surrounding TiO2 in the EU were repealed last year and paint manufacturers no longer have to declare it as carcinogenic. Do you think there is still an appetite in the coatings industry for TiO2 replacements?

A. Consumers of today want to use natural, renewable and sustainable products that are good for them and for the environment. Our innovations enable our customers to replace environmentally harmful ingredients with bio-based, non-toxic and a safe to use option. We answer to the market demand for sustainable, bio-based and biodegradable alternatives for existing materials in the market. Our pigment is multifunctional and gives more to the formulation that just pigment.

Q. What benefits does Betuinno.Betulin offer paint manufacturers over TiO2?

A. Betuinno.Betulin is a bio-based, upcycled and sustainable alternative to synthetic white pigments. Unlike synthetic white pigments, Betuinno. Betulin is biodegrable and non-toxic.  Produced from upcycled birch bark from certified forest industry side streams,it is environmentally friendly and has a low carbon footprint. Betuinno. Betulin matches the whiteness and reflectivity of synthetic white pigments. Betuinno. From the technical point of view, betulin is an organic material, hydrophobic, antioxidative and antimicrobic.

Q. And finally, do you have any plans to create bio-based alternatives for any other coatings ingredients?

A. Birch offers almost endless possibilities for innovative new products. Our current range of bio-based and sustainable products from birch is only the beginning of our company’s innovation potential and growth opportunities in the global market. We are looking at different options in coatings, such as fillers, binders and dispersants, where there is a natural advantage to use birch-based ingredients.

innomost.com

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