Interviews

NoPalm Ingredients: “Our Oils and Fats Have a Dramatically Lower Impact on Nature, Climate and Biodiversity”

Based in Wageningen, Netherlands, NoPalm Ingredients “brews” tailor-made fermented oils and fats. These serve as high-quality, sustainable, local, and circular alternatives to palm oil in food, cosmetics, and detergent products.

Lars Langhout (MBA) is the co-founder and CEO of NoPalm Ingredients. He founded NoPalm Ingredients together with Prof. Dr. Jeroen Hugenholtz (CTO) in 2022.

Can you share some of the key challenges and highlights NoPalm Ingredients faced in 2023, particularly in the context of scaling up your production of sustainable palm oil alternatives?
As with most startups, the key challenge has been raising money to scale up. The investment climate for sustainable, circular start-ups deteriorated over the past two years.

“We produce 1 on 1 drop-in replacements at price parity, providing the same functionality and versatility as palm”

At the same time, it is a process we have learned a lot from, and in which you are constantly questioned about the strategic choices made. This has allowed us to devise our strategy even better, which has led to improvements in our plans. We hope to receive our new investment round in Q1 2024 to further accelerate our progress.

Lars and Jeroen of NoPalm Ingredients holding products
© NoPalm Ingredients

Looking ahead to 2024, what are NoPalm Ingredients’ main goals and strategies? How do you plan to expand or evolve your offerings in the sustainable ingredients market?
For NoPalm Ingredients, 2024 will be all about demonstrating Product Market Fit. We will scale our process to 50m3, achieve the yields required to become profitable at scale, and secure offtake agreements for our future DEMO factory.

How do NoPalm Ingredients’ fermented oils and fats stand out in the market compared to traditional and other alternative ingredients?
We produce 1 on 1 drop-in replacements at price parity, providing the same functionality and versatility as palm, but with a >90 lower carbon footprint and 99% less land use. This way, we help our customers with their sustainability goals, price risk, and supply chain resilience.

Why should companies in the food industry, especially those focusing on plant-based products, consider using your ingredients? What advantages do they offer in terms of quality, sustainability, and consumer appeal?
When people opt for plant-based alternatives, they often do so for ideological reasons, such as animal friendliness and sustainability.

NoPalm Ingredients small scale fermentation in shake flask
© NoPalm Ingredients

But in addition to proteins, plant-based alternatives need alternative oils and fats, too. In many cases, they even form a very substantial part of a product, such as in plant-based ice cream or yogurt.

Our oils and fats have a dramatically lower impact on nature, climate and biodiversity than oils and fats extracted from the oil palm, coconuts, etc. With our ingredients, produced by fermenting agri-food sidestreams, such as potato peels and carrots, with oleaginous yeasts, plant-based alternatives can become even more sustainable.

You’ve mentioned a significant reduction in carbon emissions and land use with your technology. Can you elaborate on how your production process achieves these environmental benefits and how it compares to traditional palm oil production?
External research, conducted by the Bühler Group in the form of an LCA, shows that our process results in >90% fewer GHG emissions and can be achieved with only 1% of the land required for palm oil production.

NPI Jeroen Hugenholtz holding product samples
© NoPalm Ingredients

Based on your experience and insights, what major trends do you foresee in the vegan and plant-based ingredient sector in the next few years? How does NoPalm Ingredients plan to align with or lead these trends?
The focus will be more on taste and price. If you give consumers a choice, and each is at the same price, tastes the same, and has the same nutritional value, they will opt for the plant-based alternative. Plant-based alternatives are still often priced at a premium.

“If you give consumers a choice, and each is at the same price, tastes the same, and has the same nutritional value, they will opt for the plant-based alternative.”

NoPalm Ingredients can help close the price gap as our lipids are price competitive with palm. The flexibility of our fermentation platform allowing us to brew different palm fractions, also allows us to create the right melting profile, for example, to have exactly that umami feel needed by consumers.

Furthermore, there will be more exploratory work done towards vegan and plant-based products that are not like any available products today. Given the flexibility of our fermentation platform, we will be able to play a significant role there.

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