All-Natural, Drop-in Alternatives Are Transforming The Chemical Marketplace

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To flavor our foods and add desired properties to our clothes and personal care products, manufacturers use chemicals. These chemicals, which are found in over 95% of everyday products, are commonly derived from petroleum and are not eco-friendly, but they represent big business for corporations like Dow Chemical. And historically, they’ve been the only option available to achieve the desired flavors, colors, textures, and functions that consumers demand.

This monopoly on the specialty chemicals market, however, is coming to an end as scientific advances enable these petro-chemicals to be replaced through alternative processes that are environmentally sustainable and all-natural.

The best part is that the raw materials used to produce these chemicals come from trash-organic waste, to be exact. Millions of tons of organic waste are produced every year by companies as they make foods, brew coffee and tea, and craft a variety of consumer goods – from furniture to face creams. Most of this organic waste ends up in landfills and in burn piles (or, in a best-case scenario, a compost bin), but in a growing niche of the specialty chemicals market, this waste serves as the essential starting material to produce natural chemicals. Carefully selected communities of bacteria break down the organic waste under tightly controlled conditions; they produce natural, valuable chemicals such as esters, carboxylic acids, thioesters, and sulfur compounds.

And how are these natural chemicals able to compete with crude-oil derived chemical giants like Dow Chemical? Well, it comes down to changes in consumer attitudes and spending habits, which are having a transformative effect on the specialty chemicals marketplace. Let’s explore these changing consumer expectations in more detail:

  • Consumers want to know what’s in their products: A good example is the synthetic and petroleum-based chemicals that are used to impart a bacon flavor to processed foods. In contrast to these crude oil-derived chemicals, Blue Marble Biomaterials sells an all-natural bacon flavoring agent that made from organic waste (like spent coffee grounds) and is organic, vegan, and GMO-free. Consumers are reading ingredient labels, and they want products that are made with natural ingredients.
  • Consumers want manufacturers to be environmentally responsible: Most manufacturing processes generate hazardous waste that pollutes the environment and leaves a carbon footprint. As consumers become more aware of the damage these manufacturing processes create, they’re increasingly drawn to support environmentally conscious businesses. Natural chemicals made from organic materials are a carbon-neutral proposition; in fact, the entire process relies on bacterial fermentation processes that are natural and don’t adversely impact the environment.
  • Consumers want to support forward-thinking companies: Companies like Blue Marble Biomaterials are visionary organizations that see the pitfalls of traditional chemical manufacturing processes and are relentlessly pursuing the perfect solution. These companies are ethically driven by purpose and commitment to environmental sustainability, rather than the simple motivations of profit and Wall Street expectations. Consumers respond strongly to this higher purpose; in fact, they root for companies like this and support these companies with their spending decisions.
  • Consumers don’t want to see waste generated: Consumer know that we generate an enormous amount of waste. Consumer also know that nature doesn’t create unsustainable quantities of waste; it’s unique to modern human civilizations, who are the #1 waste-creating species on the planet. And as consumers work hard to reduce, recycle, and reuse, they want to see businesses doing the same. Creating natural chemicals from organic waste is one of the most effective ways that a business can significantly reduce what it sends to landfills and burn piles.

Organic waste comes in a multitude of forms: fibers, cellulose, stems, seeds, spent grains and grounds, algae, milfoil, agricultural silage, wood chips, and so on. All of this organic waste can serve as the perfect raw material for producing all-natural, environmentally sustainable, natural chemicals. These natural chemicals are resonating with consumers as they demand to know what’s in the products they buy, purchase products that are environmentally sustainable, support innovation and purpose-driven businesses, and see that these businesses are making a meaningful effort to reduce the waste they generate.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, always revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance producer for USA Today, and a contributor at Technorati. She lives in Utah with her 2 kids and husband. Melissa Thompson can be reached via LinkedIn or Twitter @melthompson88. Please follow and friend her on either site.