Mibelle founder: Biotech innovation is ‘where we need to go’ in beauty

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Biomimicry, for example, opens plentiful opportunities for beauty, so industry must continue to advance technologies and capabilities [Getty Images]
Biomimicry, for example, opens plentiful opportunities for beauty, so industry must continue to advance technologies and capabilities [Getty Images]

Related tags biotech Sustainability Cosmetics Technology Innovation biomimicry Regulation

Greater investments in biotechnology will help truly advance beauty innovation, satisfying consumer needs and addressing planetary woes, says the founder of Mibelle Biochemistry.

The ongoing climate crisis and far-reaching climate-neutral goals set by the European Union (EU)​ had surged sustainability and ‘going green’ into a brighter spotlight in recent times. And as the world continued to navigate new ways of doing business, technology and innovation had been cited key to creating change​.

And this was also true for the cosmetics industry, according to Dr Fred Zülli, founder and business development director of Swiss cosmetics supplier Mibelle Biochemistry.

“We have seen a lot of interesting stories in the market, but we haven’t seen a lot of new technologies,”​ Zülli told CosmeticsDesign-Europe at last month’s in-Cosmetics Global in Paris.

New, new, new – technologies for the future

Bringing new technologies onto the market, he said, was one of Mibelle Chemistry’s top priorities in the coming five years. Following on from its decade-old plant stem cell technology PhytoCellTec and its more recent cultivation of moss in bioreactors known as MossCellTec, he said the company wanted to continue bringing “new technologies to the cosmetics industry”.

“…It’s not just about making nice extracts of interesting plants, but really bringing in technologies,” ​he said.

For the beauty industry, Zülli said innovative technologies, specifically in the biomimicry space, were about creating fresh opportunities to work with rare plants, for example, whilst supporting sustainability as they could be grown in bioreactors – creating real “added value”​ for manufacturers.

“I think that’s really where we need to go,”​ he said.

Drawing inspiration – medical devices for delivery and efficacy

Moving forward, Zülli said it would be essential the wider cosmetics industry looked to draw inspiration from other sectors.

“It’s really good to make that fusion with other industries,”​ he said. Around five years ago, for example, Mibelle Chemistry had expanded into nutraceuticals where there were “very interesting synergies”​ with cosmetics, he said.

The company was now looking more closely at the medical devices industry – a space full of “interesting concepts”​ that could be potentially applied to beauty and cosmetics, he said. Delivery systems was one interesting area here, he said, along with advanced and highly efficient products targeting niche dermatological needs like diabetic skin.

Derma beauty, he said, was an increasingly important and exciting space that would benefit from technology advances and learnings from other fields.

Challenges? Regulatory patchwork and market fragmentation

Asked what the biggest challenges in beauty today were, Zülli said there were two: regulatory patchworks and market fragmentation.

“The regulatory hurdles change very fast, and in each country they are different. So, you have to adapt to different markets, and this makes it quite difficult. We have to increase our regulatory department every year to match this situation, so that’s definitely one big challenge for the future,” he said.

The other challenge, particularly for suppliers, he said, was market fragmentation. “There are so many new companies coming up (…) It’s not one big customer anymore; you have to serve many, many different customers in different areas. That’s challenging but it’s also interesting and opens up new opportunities, I think.”

In terms of advancing biotech efforts in beauty ingredients, Zülli said the challenge would be communicating the product and developments clearly with manufacturers and ultimately end-consumers around these “quite complex”​ concepts.

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