YBhg Dato’ Dr Mohd Nazlee Kamal, CEO of BiotechCorp
A famous quote by Christian Dior, “A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting” shed light on the very idea of cosmetics. And in the world of cosmetics today, ‘Green Beauty” is the latest trend.
The cosmetic industry has taken a renewed interest in bio-based resources. Plant-based materials are preferred not merely because of increased public demand, but also because bio-refineries are now delivering a growing supply of plant-based materials and substances. Bio-based feedstock produces effective ingredients that are environmentally and socially sustainable. Many of these substances are equitably traded as well, giving farmers a good price for the raw produce.
I would say that the trend is shifting towards natural and highly technological at the same time. Green cosmetics is a step ahead and evolved in place of the bio trend we seen in the past decade. Backed by scientific innovations, the sophistication of active ingredients is increasing over time. The action of substances can now be demonstrated very clearly. These substances, and technologies has completed the spectrum for novel green cosmetics. Many industry players now choose to invest in innovations because the value added component is very promising.
Bio-cosmeceuticals is a product of convergence between bio-based advances, improved awareness regarding plant-based materials and consumer demand for safer and effective cosmetics. A major segment of the personal care industry, the global bio-cosmeceuticals market is estimated at approximately US$42 billion and expected to be worth US$61 billion by the year 2020, growing at a CAGR of 9%. The Asia-Pacific region contributes approximately 60% of the global market and is expected to hold this position till the year 2020 with demand bound to increase locally and in countries like China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam. This represents a strategic opportunity for companies in Malaysia as we are located along the China-India sea trade route, and many major growth markets are located within a short distance.
From an implementation stand point, Malaysia has the potential to develop strategic hubs for R&D, and manufacturing of high value bio-cosmeceutical products using indigenous plants or non-indigenous plants that can thrive in tropical weather, especially those with beneficial bio-active compounds.
Just recently, a collaboration proposal was signed between Bioeconomy Corporation (Biotechcorp was recently re-branded as the Malaysian Bioeconomy Development Corporation, announced during BioMalaysia 2016) and Cosmetic Valley, France that will further strengthen and support existing Malaysia-France cooperation in both the public and private sectors, and more specifically catalysing the development and growth of bio-based industries in both countries. This will be Bioeconomy Corporation first major participation and foray into the cosmetics sector, and the proposal for establishing the Langkawi Cosmetic Island (LCI) will ultimately be part of our larger bioeconomy agenda.
To elaborate further, the LCI masterplan covers the whole value chain of the bio-cosmeceuticals industry: from having a dedicated R&D centre and product development lab, a centre for supply of raw materials, a facility for manufacturing, packaging and distribution, a facility for formulation and extraction, and finally facilitation on branding and marketing. Such an integrated model can transform the local cosmetics industry from being mainly exporters of raw materials to producers of value-added downstream products. This in turn supports the nation’s bioeconomy agenda to spur the creation of new businesses, new jobs and drives productivity-driven growth.
Through the LCI, we will witness new economic expansion and increase revenue stream for Langkawi and Kedah. The spill-over or multiplier effect from the project will further boost the development of the northern region, producing new industry clusters for cosmetics, wellness products, perfumery, fragrances and flavours. Emulating the success of Cosmetic Valley in France, even annual major cosmetics and perfumery event could be held in Langkawi, further elevating the island’s profile as a go-to holiday destination.
Further to that, the Bioeconomy Community Development Programme (BCDP) strategy, which is also part of the National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS), is centred on the farming of high value-added herbs that could also help move forward the cosmetic industry. The key elements of the BCDP are its focus for sustainability and equitable trade, both important components of green bio-based cosmetics. Equitable or fair trade is partnership that seeks greater equity for all stakeholders, by offering better trading conditions and securing the rights of producers and workers. By enlisting rural farmers and settlers to supply raw materials for BioNexus companies, the contract farming with guaranteed buy-back mechanism benefits bio-based companies that are sourcing for raw materials, generates additional income for rural farmers, elevating the household income of the lowest 40 per cent group (B40) to a higher level and increasing their skills as agro-preneurs. The LCI and the bio-cosmeceuticals sector could certainly benefit from this programme.
In Malaysia, we already have a good number of BioNexus status companies spearheading industry growth. Recently, I attended the product launching by Algaetech, a BioNexus company and also a participant of the BioNext programme. Last year, Algaetech was one of only ten BioNexus companies selected to attend the Oxford Accelerator Programme (OAP) held at Oxford University. The BioNext programme is Bioeconomy Corporation’s initiative to intensify the commercialisation of products from bio-based companies. With SME Corp as partner, the unique programme exposes BioNexus small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are involved in the development of natural products to innovative branding and marketing strategies, with the objective of creating global champions.
Algaetech is a graduate from that programme, and its latest range of skin care products, carrying the brand name ASTA.TUDE – Skincare with an Attitude, utilises Astaxanthin, a super antioxidant obtained from the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis. Previously a little-known carotenoid, Astaxanthin is now believed to be the most beneficial antioxidant nature has to offer. In terms of its antioxidant power or potency, Astaxanthin is 550 times stronger than vitamin E, and 6,000 times stronger than vitamin C. Large-scale production of microalgae, including the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis, is very difficult, requiring unique environmental conditions, and some very advanced technology. If you compare the production of Astaxanthin with another microalga like spirulina, it’s about 10 times more difficult to produce. One of the major reasons is because Haematococcus grows in a very neutral environment – essentially, freshwater with a small amount of nutrients added. It is also very susceptible to contamination by unwanted microalgae, amoeba, or protozoa.
Algaetech has been very successful in achieving mass production of Astaxanthin, using its own proprietary homegrown technology that is now translated to the commercialisation phase. With Astaxanthin reaching a global market value of US$369 million in 2014 and projected to reach US$1.1 billion by 2020, this recent development presents a golden opportunity for Malaysia to become both a producer and exporter of Astaxanthin.
Both the development of LCI and the product launch by Algaetech is timely and in line with efforts under Malaysia’s Commercialisation Year 2016 (MCY 2016). MCY 2016 aims at having 150 commercialised products across various categories, and Algaetech’s skin care products fall under the Bio-Cosmeceuticals, Wellness and Pharma Nutrition sectors, one of the three focus areas which are deemed high-impact for Malaysia’s bio-based industry growth. With the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) as the anchor of MCY 2016, the priority for Bioeconomy Corporation to increase productivity, promote innovation, and to encourage the adoption of bio-based solutions by industry is highest on the radar. The role of bio-based SMEs is also prioritised because they contribute significantly towards generating economic growth and creating employment.
While we strive to groom global home-grown leaders and to achieve our national vision of becoming a high income developed nation by 2020, Bioeconomy Corporation will continuously support and facilitate industry players in areas of capacity-building, quality assurance, standard compliance, branding and market access. I am sure these efforts will enable our bio-based SMEs to compete globally, in line with the government’s objectives to encourage private sector players to be more proactive in R&D and commercialisation of innovative products.