18 November 2011

University of Liverpool awarded £2.8 million to research plant-based personal care products

New ingredients to be developed from plant sugars and will be as effective, but without using petrochemicals

The University of Liverpool will work with consumer giants Unilever and sugar producer AB Sugar (formerly British Sugar) to develop plant-based alternatives to petrochemicals used in personal care products.

The new plant-based ingredients will be made from plant sugars and could be used in the manufacture of shampoos, cleaners, moisturisers and many other products.

Professor Andrew Cooper, who is leading the research, said: “Consumers don’t always realise that these products have some very sophisticated molecules in them based on oil and therefore there is a long-term issue about sustainability.”

“These products will still have to work and be every bit as effective, but without using the petrochemicals. It could also make the industry less of a slave to the cost of oil,” he added.

The worldwide market for renewable chemicals is growing by nearly 10 per cent each year and what was once a niche market is now a lucrative and diverse industry. It has attracted interest from a range of pharmaceutical and consumer product manufacturers, including Unilever. “This research aims to contribute to the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan through shifting our focus to biomass-derived materials for home and personal care applications,” said Jean Philippe Courtois, Biosourcing Manager at Unilever.

The research is being partially funded by a grant from the Government’s £1.4 billion Regional Growth Fund and will be used to build a micro-refinery at the University.

Source: National Center for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials (NNFCC), 2011-11-18.

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