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Sun Bear Biofuture introduces sustainable alternative to palm oil

Sun Bear Biofuture introduces sustainable alternative to palm oil business, Fats & oils, Fermentation, food tech, Innovation and NPD, Palm oil, Sustainability, Transparency and supply chain Food and Beverage Business

Palm oil is a commodity closely tied to deforestation in the food and beverage industry. According to the United Nations (UN), oil palm harvesting contributed to 7% of deforestation between 2000 and 2018. UK start-up Sun Bear Biofuture, named after an endangered East Asian bear impacted by deforestation, aims to offer a more sustainable alternative to palm oil.

Using fermentation and agricultural side streams as feedstock, Sun Bear Biofuture is developing an oil with similar functional properties to palm oil, without the deforestation links. Ben Williams, the company’s CTO, explained that they work with yeast strains to produce an oil similar to palm oil, optimizing the fermentation and purification processes to maximize oil production.

The company’s goal is to replicate the functional properties of refined palm oil, which is about 50% saturated and behaves more like butter than other vegetable oils. Sun Bear Biofuture is currently working on scaling up production to meet market demands.

Challenges in upscaling include the need for specific equipment derived from the pharmaceutical industry and the sourcing of cost-effective feedstocks. Sun Bear Biofuture is collaborating with research facilities to test larger-scale fermentation processes using agricultural side streams like potato peels and bread waste as feedstock.

Some organizations provide certifications for sustainably produced palm oil, but the growth of the palm oil sector may lead to increased deforestation. Sun Bear Biofuture’s product aims to capture some of the market growth and prevent further deforestation by offering a sustainable alternative.

Commercial opportunities for Sun Bear Biofuture’s product include compliance with the European Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), which regulates commodities linked to deforestation such as palm oil. The product’s traceability and locally-sourced production could help companies navigate regulatory constraints.

Companies seeking sustainable alternatives to oils and fats, particularly in the plant-based meat industry, could benefit from Sun Bear Biofuture’s palm oil alternative. The start-up offers a viable solution to companies looking to enhance their sustainability credentials and mitigate risks associated with palm oil production.

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