Drop-in approach versus the development of innovative molecules

Leon Mur

Email: leon.mur@plantenstoffen.nl

In October, Cosmetic Valley invited me to Paris to attend an innovation trade fair for the cosmetics sector. The Centre of Expertise for Plant Compounds also took part in the trade fair with its Extract Library stand, where we enlightened the cosmetics sector about current developments and opportunities in the field of plant compounds. The companies attending the trade fair, including big names such as L’Oréal and Johnson & Johnson, showed a keen interest in the Extract Library and in working with the Dutch horticulture sector.

New solutions for existing problems

I had more than forty interesting conversations with various companies. Almost all of them are looking for innovative plant compounds with specific effects such as the prevention of skin ageing. They are interested in the Centre of Expertise because they believe we can help them form partnerships with the Dutch horticulture sector and work together on the high-quality cultivation and refinement of plant materials.

The cosmetic sector is looking for new solutions to existing problems. The sector is much less interested in replacing existing petroleum-based chemical ingredients with plant-based alternatives – called the ‘drop-in’ approach. The drop-in approach often leads to debates about the cost price of production, an area in which it is difficult for the horticulture sector to compete.

Opportunities with innovative molecules

This confirmed for me what we are also seeing in other sectors, namely that most of the business sector’s efforts are focused on developing innovative molecules. Companies are looking for active substances to develop new crop protection products, medicines or flavourings, amongst other things. In fact, this corresponds closely with what the Dutch horticulture sector and knowledge institutes are offering.

Whereas the focus a few years ago was on the use of residual flows, the sector is now much more interested in developing crops for new markets.

However, this won’t happen overnight. Product development processes often take several years. We will have to invest a lot more in our knowledge infrastructure and cooperative models before the impact on the Dutch horticulture sector – but also on the other sectors – becomes visible. However, I believe that this choice is guaranteed to pay off in the long term. It is giving the horticulture sector a clear opportunity to put itself on the international map and shape the future of the sector.