A solution to plastic pollution? A plastic that doesn’t pollute, writes Simon Hombersley on Business Green

Writing on environmental news website, Business Green, Xampla CEO Simon Hombersley argues that the UN process for developing a global plastics treaty is at risk of getting hijacked by those who regard recycling as the starting point in the battle against plastic pollution.

“If the plastics treaty enshrines the status quo as a global norm, it will fail in its own objectives,” he writes. “The only solution to plastic pollution is a plastic that doesn’t pollute.”


Creator of natural alternatives to single-use plastic, Xampla, has today been announced as a finalist for the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize after being given a vote of confidence from global investors.

Senior figures from Encourage Capital, Sky Ocean Ventures, North Equity LLC, ALG Investment Management were amongst the judging panel that chose Xampla from 170 global competitors to be shortlisted after a highly competitive two-year process.

The award recognises world-leading innovators, creating next generation, sustainable alternatives to flexible film plastic that are truly sustainable and scalable by 2025. The potential for this material will now be tested with global fashion and technology customers, such as Dell.

As a University of Cambridge spin-out, Xampla has spent 15 years researching and pioneering the world’s first plant protein polymer for commercial use.   With no other chemical changes made to its plant-based materials, Xampla’s products biodegrade safely at the end of life, leaving nothing behind.

The applications for this technology have the potential to replace plastic across a range of industries, including in food and beverages, the home cleaning products industry and now technology and fashion.

Xampla’s technology has already entered the market through partnerships with leading global brands including meal kit retailer Gousto and soft drinks manufacturer Britvic.  Former White House Climate Change Advisor, Jeff Seabright, joined the firm as Chair in 2020.

The Plastic Innovation Prize was first launched in 2019 by global fashion designer Tom Ford, in partnership with 52HZ,  to identify and support organisations advancing truly biologically degradable plastic alternatives.

The prize winner, to be chosen from the eight finalists and announced in 2023, will receive $1.2 million as well as three years of financial and advisory support. 

As a finalist, Xampla will now focus on how its industry-leading plant-protein material can be applied to single-use polybags.  Over 300 billion polybags, single-use resealable sandwich bags and storage bags are used globally every year.  These products are almost impossible to recycle and end up in landfill, incineration or the natural environment.

Plastic films are estimated to make up five million metric tons of ocean plastic leakage accounting for 46% of the total.

Simon Hombersley, CEO of Xampla, said: “Our material is the result of 15 years of research, bringing together the very best minds in science to create a truly sustainable alternative to single use plastic. We have already brought our innovation to market with global brands such as Gousto and Britvic and the support we have been shown by the team of judges and investors is evidence of the potential of our material to address global pollution. We can’t wait to get started working with Tom Ford’s team.”

Jeff Seabright, former White House Climate Change Adviser and Chair of Xampla, said: “With 175 countries committed to developing a UN plastic pollution treaty by 2024, turning off the plastic tap is now firmly on the global agenda. Alternative materials that naturally biodegrade are key, and we believe Xampla offers a better by design alternative. A key criterion for the Tom Ford judges is how well and how completely the material biodegrades, making this a very welcome endorsement for our technology.  

“We are looking forward to working together with Tom Ford and the team over the coming year, as Xampla partners with leading brands to innovate in the world of fashion and technology as we have already in food and drink.”

Xampla wins Best New Business at World Food Innovation Awards

Creator of natural alternatives to single-use plastic, Xampla, has been announced as the winner of Best New Business at the eighth annual World Food Innovation Awards.

The World Food Innovation Awards, in partnership with IFE, celebrate the most ambitious developments in the food and beverage industry over the last 12 months. The judging panel, including senior figures from Selfridges, JourneyFoods and Mission Ventures, considered entries from over 22 countries before choosing final winners across 25 categories.

Xampla secured the Best New Business award in recognition of its growth since 2020, bringing its breakthrough material to market with global brands including soft drinks manufacturer Britvic. In 2021, Xampla partnered with meal kit retailer Gousto to create the world’s first edible stock cube wrapper.

Xampla was also a finalist in two further two categories, Best Technology Innovation and Best Ingredient Innovation, in recognition of its edible film and nutrient microcapsule technology.

As a University of Cambridge spin-out, Xampla has spent 15 years researching and pioneering the world’s first plant protein polymer for commercial use.  Xampla is committed to replacing the most polluting single-use plastics as well as hidden plastics, such as microplastics within laundry products and is the first UK University spin-out to be awarded B Corp status.

Simon Hombersley, CEO of Xampla, said: “Over the past two years, Xampla has seen exponential growth, working with global brands to develop world first products using our sustainable and natural alternative to single-use plastic. Earlier this year we announced the opening of our second lab in Cambridge and with this Best New Business award under our belt, we are looking forward to further developing our innovation over the next 12 months with more partnerships to come.”

Xampla shortlisted for the Go:Tech Awards 2022

Xampla is thrilled to announce that it has been named as a finalist for the Sustainable Tech Business Award at Business Leader’s Go:Tech Awards 2022.

The judging panel considered hundreds of entries before narrowing down the finalists who represent the UK’s top technology pioneers and innovators. Xampla has been shortlisted in recognition of our breakthrough plant protein polymer that functions as a completely natural alternative to single-use plastic and our international team of industry experts and scientists.

Britvic announces £1m packaging innovation partnership with University of Cambridge-backed deep tech company Xampla

Britvic is partnering with Xampla as part of its Healthier People, Healthier Planet strategy

Leading branded soft drinks business, Britvic is joining forces with University of Cambridge-backed tech company Xampla in a £1m packaging innovation partnership.

After 15 years of Cambridge research, Xampla has developed the world’s first plant protein material for commercial use. This revolutionary material uses pea protein to make microscopic capsules that protect vitamins within liquid, stopping them from being broken down by sunlight.

Xampla’s work has seen the company secure £1million in funding from the UK Government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, to scale up the technology and material processing.

The innovation is critical to delivering drinks fortified with vitamins in clear plastic bottles. Clear plastic bottles are considered a positive by consumers, with Britvic’s research showing that people are 40% more likely to recycle clear bottles over coloured ones. However, the downside of clear bottles is that they let more UV rays in, losing the necessary protection for vitamin D.

Simon Hombersley, CEO of Xampla, said:“We are delighted to be partnering with Britvic to deliver innovation that will revolutionise the drinks industry and it is extremely exciting to see what our material can do at scale. Xampla works with businesses to help solve their biggest problems while also enabling customers to meet their sustainability goals. 

“Britvic has a proud history of fortifying its products with vitamins and seeking sustainability in its packaging. Our partnership is about helping to do both even more effectively. We can’t wait to get started.”

Last year, major Britvic brands Fruit Shoot and 7UP made the shift to clear bottles to drive up recycling rates and Britvic has started to add vitamins B, C and D to Robinsons Fruit & Barley.

Meanwhile, leading Irish squash brand MiWadi 0% Sugar contains vitamins B, D and zinc and children’s favourite Fruit Shoot has been fortified with multivitamins since 2016. Added vitamins C and D help support the immune system and the growth of strong bones, while B vitamins contribute to energy release.

Sarah Webster, Director of Sustainable Business at Britvic, said: “Our work with Xampla supports our Healthier People, Healthier Planet strategy. 

“By agreeing this £1m partnership with each other, we have shown the power of collaboration between established players and cutting-edge innovators to deliver Healthier People and Healthier Planet.

“Xampla technology has the makings of a ‘win-win’, enabling delivery of greater nutritional value in the drinks people love, while ensuring that more products can come to market in clear, recyclable bottles.”

Britvic has a long history of fortifying drinks with vitamins. The FTSE 250 company started life in 1845 as The British Vitamin Product Company, with a mission to provide customers with an affordable source of nutrition. The company is committed to a programme to reduce unnecessary plastic and is working with Xampla through an Innovate UK-backed grant to develop new formats for delivery of soft drinks and nutrients within drinks.

News of the Britvic partnership follows a successful Xampla world first product launch with meal kit manufacturer Gousto last year, where Xampla created an edible film to be used as wrapping for stock cubes. The trial kits – for making an Indian Spiced Carrot & Lentil soup recipe – sold out within one hour of going on sale.

Xampla partners with Croda in UK government-backed trial of microplastic-free seed coatings

CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY-backed Xampla has launched a partnership with Croda International Plc, the multinational company which uses smart science to create high performance ingredients and technologies that improve livesTM

Xampla scientists are collaborating with Croda International to trial a completely natural replacement for plastic

The alliance will bring natural replacements for microplastics to the seed coating industry through a £640,000 project trial of Xampla’s plastic-free seed coatings, backed by the UK government and the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB). 

Seed coatings are used in agriculture to protect seeds from pests and diseases and increase germination, helping increase crop yield with minimal use of additional plant protection products. However, some seed coatings rely on petroleum-derived polymers, which are not fully degradable in agricultural soils.  This innovative trial will see the development of next generation microplastic-free seed coatings that are fully biodegradable.

Through its Seed Enhancement specialists Incotec, Croda has already established itself as an industry leader in rolling out microplastic-free replacements for traditional seed coatings, including sunflower, corn, and vegetable seeds.  Their partnership with Xampla now paves the way for completely natural, coatings that leave no residue and disappear without trace as seeds grow.

This collaboration also takes Croda one step closer to achieving its ambition to be Land Positive, specifically enhancing the company’s focus on using crop science innovation to support crop and seed enhancement to mitigate the impact of a changing climate and land degradation.

Expected to take a year to complete, the trial will see Xampla’s technology protect and enhance soil health.  Xampla-coated seeds will give farmers all the productivity benefits associated with seed coatings without the risks of microplastic pollution. 

The partnership will also help future-proof the seed coating industry, by offering a solution which is compliant with a microplastic ban across Europe, proposed by the European Chemicals Agency, which – if adopted – will be introduced by 2027. 

Chaired by Bill Clinton’s White House Climate Change Adviser, Jeff Seabright, and run by leading tech entrepreneur Simon Hombersley, Xampla is producing a wide-range of plant protein-based products to replace conventional plastics.

Beyond the seed coating industry, their natural polymer technology can be used to replace non-recyclable thin plastic films, as a substitute for microcapsules containing scent in fabric softeners, shower gels and soaps, to encapsulate nutrients such as Vitamin D in beverages, and to replace the polluting ‘soluble’ wrappings used on dishwasher tablets.  

Xampla Chief Executive Simon Hombersley said:

“Working with Croda International is an enormous opportunity to show how we can deploy our entirely natural replacement for traditional seed coatings that often contain microplastics. 

“Croda has been working on this problem for some years, seeking to reduce the impact of microplastic on agricultural soils, and not without success.  It is by working with big hitters of this kind that we can really move the market and bring about change quickly.”

Erik-Jan Bartels, Managing Director of the Incotec Seed Enhancement business at Croda International plc added,

“We are excited to be working with Xampla on this development.  Our Purpose is to use Smart science to improve livesTM, and this project does exactly that. 

“Microplastics in agriculture in total account for 10% of the world’s microplastics problem, and within that seed coatings account for 1% but that makes it no less important to change the industry, as we have been doing now for some time. 

“Seed coatings are a high-growth part of our business and we are determined that growth should come from sustainable, plant-based alternatives.”  

Xampla opens new lab as company expands commercial and technical teams

CREATOR of natural alternatives to single-use plastic, Xampla, has expanded its expert team with the addition of seven new hires and has opened a new Cambridge laboratory.

Left to right: Edyta Marek, James Ravenscroft, Audrey Caspar, Brett Harding, Sonia Tedeku and Huafu Wang

Xampla acquired the additional lab in early November 2021 to enable each of its new customer projects to expand in a dedicated space, and to increase capacity for its team of cutting edge scientists.

The facility features specialist analytical equipment for further developing Xampla’s world-first plant protein-based films, and for creating film products in applications such as dishwasher tablets.   

Xampla’s plant protein-based material has been developed through more than 15 years’ research at the University of Cambridge.  The certified B-Corp has created a world-first “natural polymer” material – a flexible, strong, edible replacement for single-use plastic. 

Audrey Caspar, a Polymer Chemist, joins Xampla after more than three years at Unilever where she managed technical workstreams for Cornetto ice-creams including packaging, formulation and process design. An expert in developing consumer facing products and claims, Audrey will lead on the planning, design and execution of Xampla’s food ingredient R&D projects as Product Development Manager.  She gained her MSci in Chemistry Engineering and Polymer Chemistry at the University Lyon in 2012.

Huafu Wang joins Xampla as Senior Analytical Chemist from his role as a Technical Consultant at Reading Scientific Services.  He has worked across the food and beverage, FMCG and environmental industries.  Huafu leads the use of the gas chromatography equipment for fragrance analysis and leads Xampla’s fragrance microcapsule stability studies.  He also supports the team with sensory performance testing.

Brett Harding moves from Hexcel, where he supported new product development for epoxy adhesives and resin systems.  As Application Scientist at Xampla, Harding will be  responsible for supporting the Research and Development team in creating natural polymer resins for the company’s pioneering seed coatings project.

Xampla also expands its commercial team with the hire of Sonia Tedeku as Marketing and Communications Manager to support the firm as it launches new products.  Sonia moves after three years at Cambridge Commodities, where she worked within the food and beverage industry on bringing a range of Vitamin formulations and blends to market.  She joins Head of Marketing and Communications, Katrina Curl, who started with Xampla last year and brings extensive experience from leading London agencies at setting strategies for major brands including Unilever, Britvic and Canon.

Edyta Marek joins as Senior Administrator with a wealth of experience supporting teams. Phoebe Williams and James Ravenscroft join the lab team as a Research Assistant and Project Assistant respectively.

With these new appointments, Xampla’s expert team has grown from its first appointment in 2020 to 27 employees today.

Simon Hombersley, CEO at Xampla, said “As our amazing team grows so does our business.  By working directly with big household brands, we expect to see Xampla’s technology in the hands of more and more consumers this year.

“Everyone at Xampla is bound together by a common commitment to make a plastic that doesn’t pollute:  one that can be grown from local feedstocks, used locally and composted back to soil locally.  We are making that dream a reality every day.”

New Year’s Resolutions: Half of Britons vow to use less plastic in 2022

NEW POLLING reveals that 49 percent of UK adults will make a New Year’s resolution to use less plastic in 2022. 

After a Christmas full of plastic, 73 percent of consumers want more opportunity to buy food that is wrapped in alternatives next year.  But only 14 percent say they are ‘definitely’ clear which alternatives to plastic are really sustainable.

The surveys were commissioned by Cambridge-based Xampla, which is making the world’s first plant protein alternative to plastic for commercial use.  The certified B Corporation’s mission is to reduce plastic pollution, and it will deploy its “natural polymer” replacement to plastic across the food and home cleaning products sector in the coming year.

The home-grown British technology is already in households across the United Kingdom, following Gousto’s use of Xampla edible film to wrap its stock cubes in November.  If the material were used in all the company’s meal kits, 17 tonnes of single use plastic would be replaced annually.

With ten million turkeys consumed each Christmas in the UK, this natural material could also replace the plastic wrappings around meat and vegetables, doing away with hundreds of thousands of tonnes of unrecyclable plastic films.

Xampla CEO Simon Hombersley said:

“The sheer scale of plastic use this Christmas reminds us that consumers and brands alike need alternatives which can match the performance of plastic, without the harmful effects.

“It is so encouraging to see half of those we surveyed saying they will make a New Year’s resolution to use less plastic, but it is up to government and the big brands to help people follow through.

“By moving away from plastic towards the natural polymers we have created, there is a real opportunity next year and in the coming years to say goodbye to plastic with a credible alternative.” 

Xampla’s ‘plastic which doesn’t pollute’ started in development 15 years ago at the University of Cambridge, with scientists asking “how does a spider make silk”.  Silk is a protein material five times stronger than steel, but which occurs naturally and breaks down naturally.  The fast-growing British start-up has since successfully engineered polymers found in nature to emulate spider silk, and demonstrated the first rolls of its alternative to plastic film coming off production lines in 2021. 

In a separate survey, 9 in 10 expert buyers at leading consumer brands said they believed it was important for their companies to transition away from conventional plastic.  However, 60 percent are confused by the sustainability claims of packaging solutions and the same proportion do not know where to find trustworthy alternatives. 

Polling also shows that 69 percent of the public prefer sustainable plastic alternatives to relying on recycling, endorsing the Prime Minister’s recent statement that “recycling doesn’t work”.

Sian Sutherland, Co-Founder of global solutions organisation,  A Plastic Planet, which advises major brands on shifting away from plastic added:

“Next year has to be about turning off the plastic tap.

“The public is rightly increasingly sceptical of recycling, since plastic can only ever be ‘down-cycled’ and the whole process is from production to recycling to re-production is highly carbon intensive.

“Xampla’s technology is genuinely revolutionary.  It could help wean the world off its addiction to plastic and away from the fantasy that recycling can solve the problems plastics cause.”

Tomorrow’s food packaging today: Xampla’s edible film arrives in kitchens

Marc Rodríguez Garcia, CTO at Xampla writes…

As a protein scientist, I’m more used to science labs and academic conferences than kitchens and consumer launches. But this week, the first of our products will be shipped to the paying public for the first time. It’s a cookable stock cube wrapper.

Recipe box company, Gousto, is including our product in its deliveries, as part of their package for making Indian Spiced Carrot & Lentil Soup. Where the consumer would previously have taken a stock cube from a plastic or foil wrapper, they will now drop the whole item – wrapping and all – into the soup.

This simple consumer experience is the result of 15 years of Cambridge-based research into the fundamental understanding of how proteins can be shaped into useful materials, such as transparent and flexible films.   The result is a completely unique single-use plastic alternative made from common food ingredients such as pea protein.

Following a full year of product development and formulation working closely with Gousto, Xampla’s edible and cookable films are the first plant protein film in the world to go to market. Their potential goes well beyond stock cubes to applications across the food and drink sector. It will mean brands can still give customers the benefits of plastic in protecting the shelf life of a product, without harming the environment.

With 855 billion plastic sachets thrown away each year – enough to wrap the entire surface of the earth – the need for a sustainable replacement could scarcely be more urgent. Most sachets cannot be economically recycled: they end up in landfill or polluting the soils and the seas. Our stock cube wrapping shows the possibility that – for example – the ubiquitous ketchup and mayonnaise sachet could soon become edible alongside its contents. And if consumers don’t cook or eat the sachets, they can simply put them in the food waste bin.

Consumers are increasingly making choices about what they buy based on the sustainability of a product or service. The majority want to reduce their plastic use, and single-use plastics in particular are increasingly unacceptable. In a recent survey, 65 percent of consumers said there aren’t enough plastic-free options on offer for the products they buy, despite trying to avoid plastic packaging where possible. Fully 86 percent try to avoid plastic packaging at least occasionally.

Our mission is to work with the big brands to help them meet this consumer demand. Xampla’s customer-led approach is all about understanding what potential clients need – both to keep their food products fresh and to mesh with existing manufacturing processes. 

We are lucky to benefit not just from cutting-edge science and research, but from a team of technical and commercial experts, many of whom have come from the industries Xampla is working with. Each product we develop goes through an in-depth trial and testing process, making sure we prioritise the client’s need and the end consumer’s needs in what we offer.

We refuse to compromise either on consumer experience or on the end of life of our product. Xampla’s packaging will always protect its contents as brands and consumers expect, but will always be made from completely natural or edible materials, which will safely break down if they reach the natural environment.

It has been a pleasure working on this product with Gousto, demonstrating the potential of this technology through stock cubes. The company is a fellow B-Corp, with sustainability at its heart: a recent study by environmental services company Foodsteps showed that dinners from Gousto already produce 23% less carbon emissions than equivalent meals from supermarket stores.  Gousto shares our values, and we can use our scientific excellence to help them to deliver their sustainability goals.   

COP26 is highlighting just how global the movement away from polluting industries is, and how all countries and industries are engaging in the largest trend of our generation – sustainability. Our launch this week is the first step for Xampla on the road to providing solutions in all sectors to the harm caused by single-use and microplastic.


Xampla CTO, Mark Rodriguez Garcia, has been invited to speak today at the Environmental Packaging Summit. Marc will address the audience on ‘Natural Alternatives to Single Use Plastic’. This will be supported by Head of Marketing and Communications, Katrina Curl, who has been invited to join a panel tomorrow to discuss how advances in packaging sustainability are communicated to the public.