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 SPEAKING AT ENVIRONMENTAL PACKAGING SUMMIT 2021

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. 

XAMPLA AT COP26

XAMPLA AT COP26

Our CEO Simon Hombersley was invited by British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association to contribute to the COP26 debate today. Xampla is being showcased in Glasgow as one of the businesses looking to use cutting edge technology to solve the environmental crisis. 

Xampla at the Science Museum for half term

The Science Museum has invited Xampla, creator of natural alternatives to single-use plastic, to be a key exhibitor in its “Future Explorers” activity this October half term.  

Showcasing its innovation in creating the world’s first plant protein material, Xampla will help children from the age of 7 to think about how the world will change by 2050.

As part of the week of action, Xampla will show young visitors to the museum how to identify microplastics and their harmful impact on the ocean through games and interactive demonstrations. 

Xampla’s team of experts will be on site in South Kensington to engage with families as part of the company’s continued efforts to boost STEM education for the next generation.

The product of more than 15 years’ research at Cambridge University, Xampla has developed a plant protein material that mimics the molecular structure of spider silk, creating a strong, flexible and entirely natural alternative to single-use plastic. Its technology has applications in flexible films used in packaging, microcapsules used to contain fragrances in household products and nutrients in food and drink.

The Science Museum partnership comes as Xampla prepares to commercialise its products for customers across a range of industries.

Xampla CEO, Simon Hombersley, said: “We are incredibly proud to be invited to partner with the Science Museum. At Xampla, our team of experts has a real passion for taking science out into the real world to educate the next generation about STEM careers.  We hope to inspire some of the children we meet this half term to be tomorrow’s scientists and innovators, seeking to improve the world around them.  

“The activity will be ‘hands on’ and will be about getting young people really excited about science and the impact a career in this field can have.  We will then be building on this programme of outreach over the next year with more events and activities to get involved with.”

Laura Southall, Head of Learning at the Science Museum, said: “We’re excited to be joined by Xampla to ignite the curiosity of young visitors this October half term as we explore the effects of and solutions to microplastics in our environment.”

The Future Explorers activities will be taking place at the Science Museum, London, between 25th-29th October. For more information visit: https://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/future-explorers 

XAMPLA AT NO 7 IN THE TIMES ‘ONES TO WATCH’

Xampla is delighted to be featured today as no 7 in The Times ‘Ones To Watch: Bright Ideas For A Bright Future’. James Hurley writes

“Thanks in part to BBC’s Blue Planet II, consumer awareness of the evils of single-use plastics has never been higher. The mission of Xampla, a Cambridge University spinout, is to replace everyday single-use plastics with its alternative based on plant protein. The company says the material, the first of its type to be commercialised, has the convenience of plastic but decomposes naturally and without harming the environment. It hopes to offer an alternative in ares such as packaging films and sachets as well as for microplastics used in cosmetics, agriculture and industrial products and the like. The material was inspired by the process a spider uses to create silk, and stems from a breakthrough by Professor Tuomas Knowles and Dr Marc Rodriguez Garcia, protein experts at Cambridge. In January the company secured £6.2 million in fresh funds from Horizons Ventures.”

Gousto trials world’s first edible packaging made from pea protein

Edible stock cube packaging created with University of Cambridge spinout, Xampla 

Gousto is trialling a world-first edible packaging solution, as part of its efforts to continue reducing plastic packaging in its recipe boxes. 

After 15 years of research and one year of development, the stock cube wrapper is the world’s first edible packaging to be made from pea protein. Created in partnership with Xampla, a mission based spinout from the University of Cambridge, the stock cube will be trialled in Gousto recipe boxes this month.

The edible packaging is made by engineering and drying a pea protein material into sheets that have the same benefits as plastic, being able to preserve the food’s flavour and shelf life, but with none of the packaging waste. What’s more, the material is also vegan and gluten free.

Home cooks who take part in the trial will enjoy the vegetable stock cube in Gousto’s Indian Spiced Carrot & Lentil Soup recipe, by simply dissolving the stock cube and its packaging in hot water.

Following its first full year of profitability in 2020, the recipe box company recently became a certified B Corporation™, joining a global community of businesses that are committed to growing the right way for people and the planet, including Xampla. 

This was achieved in part by Gousto’s ongoing work to reduce plastic packaging in their recipe boxes. Last year the business cut plastic by 50% in their boxes by switching to more cardboard packaging and launching the Eco Chill Box, an innovative insulator made of recycled cardboard, that keeps ingredients fresh in boxes. 

A further 17 tonnes of plastic could be saved by Gousto annually if the new edible stock cube packaging is rolled out in full to customers in the future.

The edible stock cube packaging is being trialed to replace Gousto’s existing stock mix sachets, for a packaging-free stock that’s full of flavour.

Gousto CEO and founder Timo Boldt said; “At Gousto, our purpose is to build products that have a positive impact on people and the planet and we invest in innovations that will help us get there. We are so proud of our Eco Chill Box and the significant amount of plastic we cut from our boxes as a result. This partnership with Xampla is another super exciting step towards reducing plastic packaging even further.”

We’re excited to see what our customers think, and to continue paving the way for innovative sustainable solutions in our industry.”

The new innovation comes after a recent study by environmental services company Foodsteps revealed that dinners from Gousto produce 23% less carbon emissions than equivalent meals from supermarket stores. If every home in the country replaced supermarket dinners with meals from Gousto for just one year, 10.3 million tonnes of CO2e could be saved, the same as taking nearly 140,000 buses off the road for a year.

Xampla CEO Simon Hombersley said; “This world-first edible pea protein packaging is the product of 15 years of University of Cambridge research, and over a year of development with the Gousto team. We’re so excited to be working with the recipe box company to offer more sustainable alternatives to plastic, and hope this marks the beginning of significant change within the industry and many more innovative packaging solutions in the future.” 

The edible packaging is available now for customers to choose to add to deliveries from 6th-12th November, as part of the Indian Spiced Carrot & Lentil Soup recipe.  

The future of fragrance: creating plant based, biodegradable fragrance microcapsules

By Lynette Holland, Principal Scientist

Over 20 years ago I began my product development career in the Fragrance and FMCG industries. In more than two decades I have witnessed – and worked on – my fair share of product innovations responsible for enhancing consumer experience.

Now having joined the team at Xampla, innovation has taken on a whole new meaning. Responding to impending regulation, we are working on solutions for industry that build on the ground-breaking plastic product developments of yesterday to substitute them with sustainable, plant-based alternatives that mean businesses do not need to compromise on the consumer experience their products provide.

Our plant protein material is the product of 15 years’ research at the University of Cambridge. It performs like conventional plastic but is fully biodegradable. Developed by an expert team with a background in industry, we are uncompromising in our regard for the consumer experience. Our material has applications across many single-use plastic products, and one of our core launch products will be our microcapsules.

Plastic fragrance microcapsules are set to be regulated under the ECHA microplastics ban which will prevent the release of 500,000 tonnes of microplastics over 20 years.  As they are too small to be collected at end of life they present a real environmental challenge that needs to be overcome. Yet, whilst necessary, this regulation puts the known-and-loved consumer experience of fresh scent bloom and longevity in our home and personal care products at risk.

This has driven fragrance microcapsules to be a pressing product application for the team at Xampla. After years of R&D our ground-breaking material is uniquely able to encapsulate fragrance, without needing to use any hazardous chemicals to create the shell to protect the fragrance. There is no chemical cross-linking which means our material is biodegradable.  

Not only is this a breakthrough for the planet, it will also help to futureproof brands against further regulatory changes surrounding microplastics. This means that consumers can continue to enjoy the same fragrance experience they are used to without a change in performance. What’s more, Xampla’s fragrance microcapsules are designed to fit with existing encapsulation processes, minimising adverse impacts on the supply chain.

Far from being a one-size fits all approach, we tailor our products to our customer in order to support brands in evolving their product line for a sustainable future. Our fragrance microcapsules will be launching soon, but in the meantime, you can find out more and discuss your development needs by contacting info@xampla.com.