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Press release
Products & Solutions
December 18, 2019

Evonik and Unilever team up for large-scale production of world’s first “green” biosurfactant

Evonik is taking the next step in commercializing biosurfactants: With its fermentation technology, the specialty chemicals company is the first in the world to invest into industrial-scale quantities of biosurfactants.

  • Evonik is the first company to produce biosurfactants on industrial scale and is well positioned to capture future growth
  • Sustainability is the key driver for Evonik’s portfolio transformation for its Care Solutions business line
  • Evonik started engineering project to design a global scale production plant for rhamnolipids

Evonik and Unilever have partnered to commercialize a new hand dishwashing liquid based on Evonik’s biosurfactant technology.

Unilever has successfully launched the product under its “Quix” brand in Chile this summer, the first time it has been used in a household cleaning product anywhere in the world. Evonik’s rhamnolipids - a type of biosurfactants made via fermentation - provide Unilever with the exceptional foam-forming properties and high-performance cleaning results it demands for its consumers – but with the environmental benefits of being fully based on natural sugars and 100% biodegradable.

Evonik’s manufacturing capabilities on a commercial scale differentiate it from the market, making the specialty chemicals company a pioneer in biosurfactants and well positioned to capture future growth in the biosurfactant market. Following Veramaris, a joint venture of DSM and Evonik producing an algal oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids that helps conserve the natural biodiversity of our oceans, biosurfactants are the next game changer in Evonik’s innovation portfolio.

With the focus on the growth engine “Health & Care”, Evonik is meeting the demands of the global trend towards more bio-based products: “For us sustainability is the key driver for our portfolio, and Unilever has been an ideal partner due to its strong commitment to sustainable innovation”, explained Dr. Tammo Boinowitz, Senior Vice President of Evonik’s Care Solutions Business Line.

Following the successful launch, Evonik has started the engineering project to design a world scale plant to support further scaling of this innovation globally by Unilever, and to fulfil the growing demand for sustainable and high performing surfactants. Dr. Hans Henning Wenk, Vice President R&D Care Solutions, added: “Biosurfactants are a game changing technology in home care and beyond, and we continue to lead innovation in this field. This cutting-edge technology has the potential to fundamentally transform the way we produce cleaning ingredients”.

Peter ter Kulve, President of Unilever's Home Care business said: “Our R&D team has been aware of rhamnolipid for some years, but the technology and the science weren’t at a point where we were able to scale it and it remained an invention in a lab, until now. That’s why we are so delighted to be partnering with Evonik. Together, our teams have worked hard to deliver a sustainable and safe product with even better performance.”

With its fermentation technology platform, Evonik was the first company in the world to use biotech methods for producing industrial-scale quantities of high-quality surfactants - key components of modern shampoos, shower gels, and household cleaners. Evonik’s expertise in biosurfactants and close cooperation have helped fast moving consumer goods company Unilever to develop and to launch this world-first innovation in the household cleaning industry.

About Unilever

Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Beauty & Personal Care, Home Care, and Foods & Refreshment products with sales in over 190 countries and reaching 2.5 billion consumers a day. It has 155,000 employees and generated sales of €51 billion in 2018. Over half (60%) of the company’s footprint is in developing and emerging markets. Unilever has around 400 brands found in homes all over the world, including Dove, Knorr, Dirt Is Good, Rexona, Hellmann’s, Lipton, Wall’s, Lux, Magnum, Axe, Sunsilk and Surf.

Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) underpins the company’s strategy and commits to:

  • Helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being by 2020.
  • Halving the environmental impact of our products by 2030.
  • Enhancing the livelihoods of millions of people by 2020.

The USLP creates value by driving growth and trust, eliminating costs and reducing risks. In 2018, the company’s Sustainable Living Brands grew 69% faster than the rest of the business, compared to 46% in 2017.

Since 2010 we have been taking action through the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan to help more than a billion people improve their health and well-being, halve our environmental footprint and enhance the livelihoods of millions of people as we grow our business. We have already made significant progress and continue to expand our ambition – most recently committing to ensure 100% of our plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. While there is still more to do, we are proud to have been recognised in 2019 as a leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, and as the top ranked company in the GlobeScan/SustainAbility Global Corporate Sustainability Leaders survey, since 2011.

Company information

Evonik is one of the world leaders in specialty chemicals. The focus on more specialty businesses, customer-oriented innovative prowess and a trustful and performance-oriented corporate culture form the heart of Evonik’s corporate strategy. They are the lever for profitable growth and a sustained increase in the value of the company. Evonik benefits specifically from its customer proximity and leading market positions. Evonik is active in over 100 countries around the world. In fiscal 2018, the enterprise with more than 32,000 employees generated sales of €13.3 billion and an operating profit (adjusted EBITDA) of €2.15 billion from continuing operations.

Disclaimer

In so far as forecasts or expectations are expressed in this press release or where our statements concern the future, these forecasts, expectations or statements may involve known or unknown risks and uncertainties. Actual results or developments may vary, depending on changes in the operating environment. Neither Evonik Industries AG nor its group companies assume an obligation to update the forecasts, expectations or statements contained in this release.