Start the week with a Startup: Innomost

By Kirsty Doolan

- Last updated on GMT

The business creates sustainable ingredients using forest industry side streams, such as birch bark
The business creates sustainable ingredients using forest industry side streams, such as birch bark

Related tags Sustainability circular beauty sustainable beauty Environment green beauty

Every fortnight we talk to a gamechanger startup about why it exists and how it plans to change the beauty and personal care industry…

This week we spoke to Sami Selkälä, founder and CEO at Finnish startup Innomost.

The business creates sustainable ingredients using forest industry side streams, such as birch bark.

Its most recent launch is Betuinno Betulin – a sustainable and biodegradable new ingredient that offers a potential alternative to synthetic white pigments, such as titanium dioxide, and also has multifunctional benefits in cosmetics formulations.

How Innomost is changing the game…

Innomost is developing, producing, and selling ingredients to the cosmetic industry that are are upcycled from the side streams of the Finnish forest industry, such as birch bark.

Our ingredients are suitable for replacing raw materials that are harmful to the environment. Our 100%-bio-based and biodegradable ingredients offer wide range of opportunities for sustainable formulations in all major cosmetics categories.

Barkinno Birch Bark Powder is skin friendly exfoliator and absorbent in different formulations, while our newest launch Betuinno Betulin has multiple benefits, such as protection and skin regenerating properties, and functions also as a sustainable white pigment. It can be used as a sensorial and textural ingredient – leaving a soft matte skin surface if used in skin lotions.

Consumers of today want to use natural, renewable, and sustainable products that are good for them and for the environment. Our innovations enable our customers to replace environmentally harmful ingredients with a bio-based, non-toxic, and safe to use option. We answer to the market demand for sustainable, zero waste and full-cycle bio-based cosmetics.

Our future goals for the business…

Birch offers almost endless possibilities for innovative new products. Our current range of bio-based and sustainable products from birch is only the beginning of our company's innovation potential and growth opportunities in the global market. Our target is to upcycle the whole birch bark side stream in future to cosmetic or other industries.

We are on a mission to replace fossil fuel-based ingredients with our upcycled bio-based products.  Our aim is to offer a wide range of replacements for fossil fuel-based ingredients in different industries.

The raw materials (forest industry side streams) for our products are available in large volumes at a feasible cost. Our raw material originates from certified Nordic forests, not from land that could be used for food or feed, and no deforestation is needed. This enables us to be part of the change movement towards a more sustainable and fossil-free future.

How we started out…

I have a Ph.D. in organic chemistry and worked more than a decade in the fine chemical industry. I got frustrated with the sustainability of the fine chemical industry since a major portion of the products were based on crude oil and had a vision to change the chemical industry to be more sustainable for the next generations.

Innomost was founded to commercialise new opportunities for renewable and sustainable products. Ideally consumers would have better access to natural, 100% bio-based, non-toxic ingredients in our daily lives.

My interest in cosmetic ingredients started already in 2015, when I was looking at the INCI list of cosmetics in my bathroom. My wife was reselling Nordic brand cosmetics as a hobby. After realising that only a small portion of products contained sustainable ingredients, I started to research and study more about ingredients, formulation, and cosmetic industry.

After careful and thorough study, I realised that there was room for improvement and started to develop ingredients suitable for cosmetics. Finnish birch was eventually the obvious choice as a raw material source, because there is a lot of birch bark available for upcycling purposes from the Finnish forest industry. Birch bark ingredients are safe to use also, as products are pollen- and allergen- free.

Innomost was founded with a dream of making a positive difference for a more sustainable future for the next generations. By replacing fossil fuel-based ingredients with wooden side streams, we can do our part in slowing down climate change.

We have has filed two patents protecting the unique technology to produce birch bark-based ingredients with a very low carbon footprint. The first one-of-its-kind pilot production plant started at the beginning of the year 2023. Technology has been tested successfully and production capacities are under optimisation.

The challenges we have faced…

Building a new green field plant with new technology is always a major challenge. During the plant project, the global political situation got challenging and a lot of critical equipment had significantly prolonged delivery times. Starting the new plant with newly developed unique technology was laborious and required skilled personnel to solve emerging challenges during the plant start up. Eventually, we overcame the challenges related to the startup and now production can continue as planned.

Natural side stream material birch bark has its own challenges, for example, in stability and safe handling of dry birch bark material require careful planning.

How we are disrupting the industry

Our ingredients can be used for several purposes and different cosmetic product categories. We can offer a large volume opportunity to change the cosmetics industry. Birch bark is available worldwide and our technology can be used all over the world.

Consumers are more and more aware of the sustainability factors and continue to want to use natural and renewable products that are good for them and for the environment. Ingredients with low carbon dioxide footprint are the future. In addition, upcycled and circular ingredients​ are future winners.

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