L’Oréal acquires minority stake in French microalgae firm Microphyt

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

Microphyt works with a patented process to create a range of microalgae varieties in a low-carbon, controlled environment [Getty Images]
Microphyt works with a patented process to create a range of microalgae varieties in a low-carbon, controlled environment [Getty Images]

Related tags: acquisition, L'oréal, microalgae, biotech, Sustainability, circular beauty, green beauty, green sciences

International beauty major L’Oréal has announced a tie-up with French biotech specialist Microphyt, in a move set to accelerate its green sciences push, according to an exec.

L’Oréal’s venture capital fund Business Opportunities for L’Oréal Development (BOLD) acquired the minority stake in Microphyt, creating what the beauty major described as a “strategic partnership” ​set to evolve into a “long term partnership for the development of new cosmetic solutions”.

Under the tie-up, the two companies would build a technological platform and combine material and human resources to create new raw materials from microalgae biomass for cosmetics.

‘Eco-designed ingredients’ from microalgae

Founded in 2007, Microphyt used a patented process and controlled operations to create a vast number of microalgae varieties at scale with a low carbon impact. In the last 18 months, the French firm had launched three active ingredients in the cosmetics field and kickstarted commercialisation of its first two patented ingredients for nutrition in the US.

Vincent Usache, MD of Microphyt, said the company was delighted to be working with L’Oréal to expand the promise of microalgae in cosmetics.

“The technological platform in an ‘extended lab’ mode is perfectly complementary to our own activities,” ​Usache said. “With L’Oréal, this new technological platform will help us speed up the development of eco-designed ingredients, as well as facilitate the scale-up of our production.”

The move comes after L’Oréal’s involvement in several other important scientific tie-ups, including its work with precision health major Verily; the National Institute for Materials Sciences (NIMS) in Japan; the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering (SCELSE); and the Organic Polymer Chemistry Laboratory (LCPO) in Bordeaux, France.

Collaboration for green sciences

Barbara Lavernos, deputy CEO and head of research, innovation and technology at L’Oréal Group, said the partnership with Microphyt would enable L’Oréal to further accelerate its push towards more sustainable beauty, most notably in its green sciences push.

“Our ambition is to collaborate across the world with the most disruptive scientific entities in green sciences, in order to collectively develop responsible innovations on a large scale and make them available to as many people as possible,”​ Lavernos said.

L’Oréal announced its green sciences transition back in March 2021​ whereby it would transition to green sciences across its entire global portfolio to help reach its 2030 sustainability goals, including the target for 95% of all ingredients to be bio-based, from abundant minerals or circular.

Speaking at a dedicated Transparency Summit for invited press members at the time, Nicolas Hieronimus, CEO of L’Oréal (deputy CEO at the time), said green sciences would allow the company to cultivate natural ingredients in a sustainable way, extracting “the best of nature through high-tech processes”.

Laurent Gilbert, sustainable innovation director at L’Oréal, said the transition was extremely timely and necessary for the beauty major. “We are convinced of the essential need to change. We have this idea to make a cosmetic transition. That means a profound transformation in the way we will create and produce beauty products. It’s important because our consumers are changing; they are aspiring to more ‘naturalness’, less chemistry, and products which are always safe and [perform better],”​ Gilbert said.

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