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Report of the board of management

Business performance

Ingredient Solutions

Food

In Food, Corbion is a global provider of value-adding ingredient solutions for leading food manufacturers. We partner with our customers to create delicious foods of consistent quality that are fully safe from the day they are made to the day they are enjoyed by the consumer.

In the Bakery segment, we continued bringing new solutions that help our customers reduce the number of ingredients on their labels while improving the quality of their finished goods. We helped our customers discover the power of lactic acid to increase food safety in their supply chains. We also leveraged our expertise in antimicrobials, and our deep understanding of spoilage organisms and processes, to develop innovative, clean-label mold inhibitors that extend the shelf life of bakery products, keeping them fresh and tasty longer.

In Latin America, we expanded our presence with the acquisition of Granotec do Brazil, a company with a strong presence in the bakery market in Brazil that will help us better support our key accounts throughout the region. Given the consolidation happening in the market, this acquisition better positions us to compete.

We continued to grow our business focused on natural preservation in Meat and Foods such as salads, dips, hummus, and other chilled foods. Combining our application expertise with an in-depth understanding of food spoilage enables us to grow beyond our traditional markets. By broadening our portfolio, we are reaching into new markets, such as poultry and food service, with new applications. The Verdad Vinegars and Verdad Avanta solutions in our Verdad® range help our customers deliver safe, clean-label products with longer shelf life, which brings them greater cost efficiencies and reduced product waste. The clean-label movement and increased consumer focus on sustainability will have a shaping influence on future developments in Corbion’s food business.

Our new solutions designed for meat harvesting provide an additional hurdle against deteriorating microbes in the harvest process for greater food safety effectiveness without impacting the taste or color of the meat. This reduces our customers’ reliance on synthetic chemicals while also reducing cost and food waste.

In Confectionery, our solutions enable customers to differentiate their products in the market by delivering both distinctive flavors and consistent product quality. We work with leading confectionery manufacturers to jointly develop concepts around sourness and stability, including innovative sourness concepts in chocolate applications and chewing gums.

Biochemicals

In Biochemicals, we have always held a long-term view, aiming to improve life for people today, and for future generations. That means solving big problems, creating new opportunities, and redefining what is possible. We believe the solutions of greatest value to the world are the ones that deliver lasting value. In our experience at Corbion, those solutions usually materialize when we combine our strengths with partners who share our sense of urgency about making a difference. That is why co-creation is a cornerstone of our business. By combining our biotechnology with the market and/or application knowledge of complementary partners, we can create long-term, sustainable solutions that tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow.

Our newly introduced SENTIALL® is a versatile co-polymer that delivers specific, high-value functionalities such as adhesion and controlled release. These functionalities enable our customers’ products to achieve required performance targets while reducing environmental impact through biodegradability. Unique benefits such as the controlled release of active ingredients and nutrients improve efficiency and/or reduce waste. These technologies are already used widely in our pharmaceutical and Medical Biomaterials businesses, but we have begun applying them in other industries like agrochemicals (to release nutrients in fertilizers or active ingredients in pesticides) and even in the construction industry, where we can now release self-healing agents to repair cracks in concrete.

SENTIALL®, as an enabler of the self-healing concrete application co-created with Green-Basilisk (a spin-off of Delft University of Technology), was named Bio-Based Product of the Year by Bio Market Insights in Amsterdam.

Within Animal Health, we further expanded our ALOAPUR® range, which is designed to improve gut health in animals while reducing antibiotic usage. This offering combines Corbion product technology with our experience in antibacterial performance in the food industry. As the industry faces increasing pressure from both regulatory bodies and consumers to move away from the use of antibiotics, ALOAPUR® gives both our customers and farmers a viable, sustainable solution.

In Agrochemicals, two products in our portfolio, PURASOLV® BL and PURASOLV® EL, are the first lactate ester solvents to achieve certification by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). This prestigious accreditation creates an opportunity for biopesticide manufacturers to develop certified organic formulations that meet the growing demand for organic produce across the world. Through OMRI certification, formulators will be able to gain faster approval from certifiers, giving them a more efficient route to market.

In Medical Biomaterials, the strategy continues to be well aligned with the trends in the healthcare industry resulting in a continuation of growth of this business. Both in drug delivery and in orthopedics our portfolio keeps expanding and the close cooperation with our customers results in several new and exciting products benefiting patients all over the world.

Innovation Platforms

The Innovation Platforms business unit aims to build new business platforms that have the potential to deliver an additional 1-2% long-term sustainable net sales growth for Corbion and comprises the following platforms:

  • PLA Bioplastics business through the Total Corbion PLA joint venture and the lactic acid supplied to this joint venture;

  • Algae Ingredients;

  • Other innovation projects: a selected number of innovation programs, most notably FDCA and the lactic acid technology development program.

The innovation portfolio is managed through our disciplined stage-gate investment approach that provides a solid framework for resource allocation, program execution, cost control, and risk management. The platforms are developed with strategic partnerships to win in the market place and have been selected on their ability to be compatible with Corbion’s current feedstock, fermentation, and downstream processing capabilities.

PLA Bioplastics business

Total Corbion PLA joint venture

During 2019, Total Corbion PLA, a technology leader in poly lactic acid (PLA) and lactide monomers, ramped up production of its new PLA plant in Rayong, Thailand. The 75,000 metric tons per annum (tpa) plant has been operational since the end of 2018 and the official Grand Opening ceremony took place on 9 September 2019 and was well attended by customers, government officials, senior representatives from both parent companies, and employees. The Grand Opening celebrated the start-up of the world’s second largest PLA plant, which increased the available global production capacity for this biopolymer by almost 50%.

PLA bioplastics provide a valuable contribution toward the circular economy, being biobased and biodegradable and offering multiple environmentally-friendly end-of-life solutions. The lactic acid used to make PLA is supplied by Corbion, which produces the lactic acid from raw sugar from cane grown in Thailand. The Total Corbion PLA plant produces a wide range of Luminy® PLA resins, from standard PLA to innovative, high-heat PLA and PDLA. These products serve the needs of a global customer base, active in a wide range of markets, notably packaging, consumer goods, 3D printing, fibers, and automotive. In 2019 over 350 customers worldwide were served.

On the same site Total Corbion PLA operates a 100,000 tpa lactide plant, which produces the monomer required for the production of PLA, and a 1,000 tpa PLA pilot plant, used for product development. Combined with Corbion’s lactic acid plant, located on the same site, this enables a fully integrated production chain from sugar to PLA.

During the year under review, demand for PLA has surged and this positive development has resulted in a faster than anticipated ramp-up of production, emphasizing the need for additional lactic acid volumes. This has triggered a significant capital expansion project at Corbion in Rayong that mid 2020 will result in significantly higher output of lactic acid, supporting growth in PLA. Next to this, Corbion announced on 29 January 2020, it will start the construction of a new lactic acid plant which is expected to be operational in 2023.

The growing demand for environmentally-friendly and sustainable plastics has driven demand for PLA across all regions, supporting healthy price levels and creating momentarily shortages. The joint venture aims to become the number one player in PLA.

Besides the ongoing support for PLA application development and technical customer support, the joint venture has initiated a project to further support the various end-of-life options for PLA including R&D efforts in the areas of biodegradation and composting as well as chemical and mechanical recycling.

Algae Ingredients

In 2019, Algae Ingredients performed below expectations, as we continued working to scale up this business. Nevertheless, our focus on developing the market for AlgaPrime™ DHA, an Omega-3-rich, whole-algae ingredient, resulted in significant sales and volume growth. The ingredient, produced in Orindiúva, Brazil, allows farmers to enhance aquaculture and other animal nutrition applications responsibly. Our customer base has continued to expand, most notably in salmon feed applications.

At the July SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Thailand, we shared that AlgaPrime™ DHA had been successfully trialed in shrimp feed from global seafood producer Thai Union Group PCL, enabling them to bring even more responsibly sourced and sustainably harvested shrimp to market.

In October, we announced the selection of AlgaPrime™ DHA for use in the custom feed supplied by BioMar to Salmon Group, the largest network of local, family-owned fish farming and aquaculture companies, adding to the nearly 500,000 metric tons of feed containing AlgaPrime™ DHA BioMar sells in Norway.

The following month, we entered a new phase for our AlgaVia® whole-algae protein ingredient by announcing our partnership with Nestlé to develop the next generation of microalgae-based ingredients. The collaboration will enable Nestlé to deliver sustainable, tasty, and nutritious plant-based products that provide a vegan source of protein, healthy lipids, and various micronutrients. The production of microalgae also offers low carbon, land, and water footprints.

Other innovation projects

FDCA

Corbion has developed a proprietary process to produce 2,5-Furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA), a versatile building block for (co)polymers, made from renewable resources with a reduced carbon footprint and enhanced performance. FDCA has the potential to replace purified terephthalic acid (PTA) in a variety of applications. For instance, FDCA can be polymerized into polyethylene furanoate (PEF), a high-value polyester with higher barrier, thermal, and mechanical properties when compared to PET. In 2019, significant progress was made in scaling the high-yielding biotransformation route and developing the downstream processing route, resulting in a proprietary process for converting hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) to FDCA with unparalleled economy. We made progress in market and application development by collaborating with partners through joint development programs that included extensive sampling and pilot-scale production of polymer-grade FDCA, PEF pellets, and films. The versatility of FDCA and PEF is being demonstrated in trials underway for applications such as reusable hot-fill bottles for beverages and fibers. Given current interest in FDCA, scalable and economical production of HMF has become a priority for the next stage in the development of this 100% renewable building block. Having reached this point in the exploration of a new business platform, judicious analysis is underway to determine the right next steps for Corbion and its stakeholders.

Lactic acid technology development

Following the successful validation of our new lactic acid process in 2018, we have moved to the engineering phase for a large commercial-scale plant and in January 2020 we announced the decision for the construction of that first-of-a-kind plant in Thailand, which is expected to become operational in 2023. Due to the recycling of processing chemicals and the elimination of gypsum as a by-product, lactic acid produced from this facility will not only come with the lowest carbon footprint compared to current technologies used, the production cost will also be significantly reduced.

Succinic acid

In 2019 we decided with BASF (our joint venture partner in Succinity) to terminate the biobased succinic acid joint venture activities, due to the weak global market adaptation of biobased succinic acid and the uncertainty around the longer-term potential thereof, and thus the lack of progress of the commercial development of biobased succinic acid. As a consequence, in good cooperation with BASF, the Succinity joint venture agreement has been terminated and the Succinity legal entity will be liquidated.