Certified organic triglycerides: the future of natural cosmetics? Certified organic triglycerides:
We talked with Frank Möllering about the importance of bio-certified, structured triacylglycerols (TAGs) for the future of the cosmetics industry
Head of the R&D department at Nutriswiss
EURO COSMETICS:The search for sustainable and environmentally friendly ingredients is an ongoing mission. Nutriswiss plays a leading role for its expertise in the sourcing and processing of vegetable oils and fats. Why is the development of organic-certified, structured TAGs so crucial for the cosmetics sector? Frank Möllering: For us, it’s important to not only align with current market developments, but also take proactive steps to meet future industry requirements. At a time when sustainability and ecological responsibility are of the utmost importance, Nutriswiss is pioneering innovative, environmentally friendly solutions. The need for such oils and fats is growing. On the one hand, it results from increasing demand for natural cosmetics of organic quality and, on the other, from the desire to find alternatives to palm oil in natural cosmetic products. Organic palm oil is often used instead of mineral white oil and, together with sunflower oil and soya oil, is a common ingredient in natural cosmetics. However, the use of palm oil is increasingly being criticised for ecological reasons so we want to offer more sustainable solutions.
EURO COSMETICS:How important is palm oil for the industry? Frank Möllering: It’s important to state that we are not against palm oil, but the source has to be right. All the palm oil we use is RSPO-SG certified. In Switzerland, we fulfil the criteria of the Palmoil Network Switzerland and are strongly committed to organic quality. However, we are also aware of the importance of offering alternative solutions and responding to the needs of consumers. Organic certification plays a key role in this. In addition, the quantities available on the market are limited. We have already received enquiries from customers who want to buy up practically all of our available organic palm oil. In terms of demand alone, we therefore need to find alternative raw materials.
EURO COSMETICS:What do we mean by structured TAGs? Frank Möllering: Up to now, this group of substances has only involved fractionated or hydrogenated oils and fats in order to achieve components with higher melting properties. Their properties are specifically influenced for the desired application. This is important for creams or body butter. Here, palm oil is used for organic products in particular, as only tropical fats and sometimes waxes can be used for organic products in the plant-based sector – i.e. without mineral or animal fats. Lip balms, for example, are often based on shea butter, which naturally contains nourishing waxes – the raw material fits perfectly with the application, but this is the exception rather than the rule.
EURO COSMETICS: Is cocoa butter a possible substitute? Frank Möllering: Cocoa butter has very good properties and is widely accepted by consumers. However, the TAGs of cocoa butter must be restructured in order to achieve higher melting points and a suitable consistency for creams. A flat spectrum of solid fat content (SFC) is favoured here – one which hardly changes over the entire temperature range from 10 to 40 degrees Celsius. Cocoa butter has a very high solid content in this range. Restructuring can be achieved by conching – i.e. controlled crystallisation – which is not so easy to handle. For a better understanding, conching is also used in chocolate production and changes the crystallisation properties of the fat to achieve a more pleasant texture and consistency. We perceive this as the “melting” of the chocolate. However, this process is complex and time-consuming for the production of creams, for example.
EURO COSMETICS:So it’s a purely physical process that doesn’t stand in the way of organic certification? Frank Möllering: Yes, that is an important point: the certified organic production of oilseeds and oil plants, and the organic-compliant extraction of crude oils in the countries where they are grown is one thing, but no crude oil or fat can be used directly in a cosmetic formulation without further processing and purification steps. The structuring of the triglycerides (TAGs) comes into play for the desired consistency, which of course must also fulfil all organic criteria. In addition to the above-mentioned recrystallisation, certain enzymatic processes can also be used, depending on the organic label, in which fatty acids are specifically swapped. The certified organic process developed by us results in products with the desired crystal profile and simplifies their use in cosmetic formulations. Partial hydrogenation of the triglycerides with the aim of hardening the fat, for example, is not possible according to organic criteria. That is why domestic vegetable oils have so far been ruled out for organic cosmetic products such as lip balms or body butters. A lot of research is still needed here to develop organic-compliant processes and perhaps do away with tropical fats altogether. We are also working on this, but there is still a long way to go.
EURO COSMETICS:Are there other promising fats that offer similar properties to cocoa butter? Frank Möllering: Other certified organic fats could also be modified in a similar way to achieve higher melting points and produce alternative cosmetic products. We will be reporting on this in the near future.
EURO COSMETICS: How do you ensure the organic conformity of the structured triglycerides? Frank Möllering: We use enzymatic treatments and distillation to produce the structured triglycerides and pay particular attention to the choice of enzymes in order to guarantee organic quality, i.e. only biocompatible, explicitly authorised non-GMO enzymes from natural sources are permitted. In addition, our production facilities and purification processes comply with the strictest organic quality standards. In terms of sourcing, whether organic or conventional fat, we have established secure, traceable, food-grade supply chains from the producer to our plants.
EURO COSMETICS:What is the current market situation for certified organic structured triglycerides? Frank Möllering: We are seeing a steady increase in demand and have expanded our production capacities accordingly, as we see great potential here. The importance of structured bio-certified triglycerides in the cosmetics industry is expected to increase further. Companies that invest in these sustainable alternatives today are not only positioning themselves as market leaders, but also as pioneers in terms of sustainability and responsibility.
EURO COSMETICS:Thank you for the conversation.
Frank Möllering is Head of the R&D department at Nutriswiss, Switzerland. After 20 years of experience in the fields of refining, product and process development in a global company, he moved to the more specialised Swiss refinery. At Nutriswiss, he is responsible for the integration of new plant and processes and supervises his team’s research activities.
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