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Business performance

Sustainable Food Solutions

Through our Sustainable Food Solutions business, Corbion serves as a global provider of value-adding ingredient solutions for the world’s leading food manufacturers. We partner with our customers to create delicious foods of consistent quality that meet the demands of today’s consumers, while giving manufacturers what they need to achieve sustainable business success.

In the bakery segment, our solutions enabled a reduction in the number of ingredients on product labels while improving the quality of finished goods, and helped to increase food safety in the supply chain by leveraging the unique functionalities of lactic acid. Our customers turned to us for help in reducing sugar in bakery formulations in order to meet increasing consumer demand for better-for-you food products. The global COVID-19 pandemic pressured bakery companies to provide products that could retain their freshness longer, as consumers suddenly began stocking up and purchasing less frequently. Drawing on our expertise in antimicrobials, and our understanding of spoilage organisms and applications, we delivered innovative, natural mold inhibitors that effectively extend the shelf life of bakery products using ingredients that feel familiar and comfortable to consumers.

Granotec do Brazil is now a fully integrated part of Corbion, following our acquisition in 2019 to provide us a stronger presence in the Brazilian bakery market, and to help us better support our key accounts in Latin America. The talent and access gained through this acquisition strengthen our position in this dynamic region.

The consumer movement favoring products made from more natural and familiar ingredients, as well as increased consumer focus on aspects of sustainability, have persisted through the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, we continued to focus on natural meat preservation and expanded these efforts into more applications, including dips, sauces, and chilled foods. At the same time, changing consumer shopping patterns – stocking up, fewer retail visits, more online purchasing, and food deliveries left on the doorstep – created steeper challenges for manufacturers working to ensure their products remain safe and fresh. Our Verdad® Vinegars and Verdad® Avanta solutions provide answers to those challenges, helping customers supply safe, delicious foods that stay fresh longer using ingredients consumers feel good about. Next to achieving those goals, our customers also enjoy the increased cost efficiencies associated with reducing food waste.

Our new solutions for meat harvesting also help enhance food safety by providing an additional antimicrobial hurdle at the earliest stages of the value chain. These products minimize safety risks by treating the surface of the meat without negatively affecting the taste or color of the meat. These highly effective solutions allow our customers to reduce their reliance on synthetic chemicals while lowering their costs and food waste at the harvesting stage.

No matter what other aspects of food products they focus on, consumers still like to indulge, and they expect a high-quality eating experience when they do so. In confectionery, our solutions enable customers to differentiate their products in the market by delivering both distinctive flavors and sour impact while improving or maintaining consistent product quality. We work with leading confectionery manufacturers to jointly develop concepts emphasizing sourness and lasting stability (even in high-humidity regions), including innovative sourness concepts for the creative and growing gummy candy market.

Lactic Acid & Specialties

Biochemicals

In the home and personal care market, we have seen increased demand for hygiene and cleaning products triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have seen that our PURAC® Sanilac solution helps brand owners meet the market’s urgent need for effective sanitizing solutions. With Corbion's support, manufacturers have been able to create a hand sanitizer that kills germs using less ethanol, that evaporates quickly, and has a milder effect on the skin and planet. This solution helps our customers and consumers in their fight against the coronavirus.

In the electronics industry, the semiconductor business is driving the growth in our PURASOLV® esters portfolio. After a short cyclical decline in late 2019, the market is growing again with the continued rise in data processing; 5G, Internet of Things, electric vehicles, Big Data, and Industry 4.0 all stimulate demand for chips and memory, pushing the trend toward ever-higher performance at nano scale. By focusing on leadership in product quality and purity, Corbion’s strategy aligns with the need for continuous improvement on the part of semiconductor material industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has also further sparked demand for chips in data centers and laptops, due to steep and sudden quarantine-related increases in conference calling, internet shopping, gaming, and working from home.

Market requirements in the pharma segment are becoming more stringent every year. Our PURASAL® pharma line is produced according to strict cGMP guidelines and complies with the highest quality standards, as demanded by the industry. Corbion enables our customers to continue meeting increasingly rigorous standards by delivering proven, consistent product quality; providing a transparent and reliable supply chain; and offering customization options and increased service levels.

The agrochemicals market was also lightly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, albeit indirectly, causing some volatility at Corbion's customers and changing ordering patterns in anticipation of supply chain risks. This resulted in a slightly stronger demand for our solvents in 2020. In line with our strategy, we continue to focus on helping customers create environmentally-friendly biopesticide products using our PURASOLV® green solvents, which are well aligned with industry trends.

Biomaterials

Challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic led to a substantial decline in elective surgeries during 2020, and as a supplier to the healthcare industry, we saw a corresponding drop in demand for our products. Furthermore, several development projects representing a meaningful share of sales in Biomaterials were either postponed or slowed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the area of drug delivery, we are working closely with our pharmaceutical customers to improve the quality of life of patients worldwide and increase the number of patient-friendly and cost-effective treatment solutions available to them. A range of applications based on major active pharmaceutical ingredients and our PURASORB® polymers are currently in different phases of (clinical) testing, covering both the use of existing controlled-release technologies (e.g. long-acting injectables) as well as enabling innovative dosage forms, in different clinical indications and delivery routes.

In orthopedics, our portfolio continues to expand, and collaboration with customers has resulted in new and exciting products that can offer benefits to patients around the world, such as our high-strength FiberLive® technology.

Total Corbion PLA joint venture

The Total Corbion PLA joint venture performed above expectations in 2020, as Luminy® PLA production in Thailand continues to ramp up and strong market demand supports healthy price levels. In 2020, Corbion and Total announced their intention to build the first world-scale PLA bioplastics production facility in Europe through the Total Corbion PLA joint venture. The new plant is expected to be operational in 2024 with a capacity of 100,000 tons per annum and will be constructed in Grandpuits, France. Corbion will continue to be the supplier of lactic acid to the Total Corbion PLA joint venture. This additional PLA investment will accelerate plans to further expand lactic acid production, with Europe being the likely site of a future facility.

Incubator

In our Incubator we develop new technologies, products, and businesses with a longer term development perspective. Examples of such incubation projects are algae-based omega-3, algae proteins, and our new co-polymer platform.

Algae Ingredients

In 2020, Algae Ingredients performed according to expectation. AlgaPrime DHA is an algae-based omega-3 feed ingredient produced, allowing farmers to maintain or increase omega-3 levels in aquaculture and other animal nutrition applications in a sustainable way. The COVID-19 situation challenged our new business development activities and expansion, nevertheless both volume and revenue increased substantially compared to 2019. During 2020, we intensified our focus on the aquaculture and shrimp sectors resulting in various commercial successes in these sectors. We are continuously improving the properties of AlgaPrime DHA and made great progress in optimizing our production process and improving our yield.

During 2020, we conducted an updated Life Cycle Assessment of AlgaPrime DHA. The results indicate that when comparing AlgaPrime DHA to fish oil on an omega-3 basis, AlgaPrime DHA has a lower carbon footprint. This analysis, and resulting low carbon footprint, is critical for customers who are working to meet carbon reduction goals for their own operations and for their customers.

In October, we announced the expanded adoption of AlgaPrime DHA in our customer Thai Union's shrimp feed which progresses their goal of bringing responsibly sourced, sustainably harvested shrimp to consumers globally.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, Corbion and IQI Trusted Petfood Ingredients also announced their partnership to expand AlgaPrime DHA adoption.

We continued our partnership with Nestlé on development of next-generation microalgae-based ingredients for plant-based food products. The collaboration will enable Nestlé to deliver sustainable, tasty, and nutritious plant-based food products that provide a vegan source of protein, healthy lipids, and various micronutrients.

Other projects

Co-polymer platform

In the world of polymers and materials we see an increased need for new functionalities that enable our customers’ products to achieve required performance targets while reducing environmental impact through biodegradability. Through SENTIALL®, a versatile co-polymer that delivers specific, high-value functionalities such as adhesion and controlled release we are able to address these functionalities and needs in the market. In 2020 we made significant progress with scaling up our lactic-acid-based co-polymers manufacturing process and demonstrated our products at semi-commercial scale.

Open Innovation Network

In 2020 we launched our Open Innovation Network with the main purpose of accelerating growth by feeding the front-end of the innovation funnel and boosting the innovation hit rate. While we are building the team, we have already identified promising co-creation partners, both startups and corporates with complementary competencies, and we are participating in consortia within our strategic focus areas. Most notably, we found tremendous traction in the areas of food preservation and sustainable process development.

Open innovation is critical to accelerate access to tools and competencies that enable our growth. At the same time we feel it is our responsibility to provide young entrepreneurs with an opportunity to test and grow their ideas, adding to the credibility and impact of their ventures. Similarly, open innovation is essential in the transition toward a world in which our planet's natural boundaries are respected.

With that in mind we invested in SHIFT III, the largest seed and early-stage impact investor in the Netherlands, and in the European Circular Bioeconomy Fund (ECBF), the first venture fund exclusively focused on the circular bioeconomy in Europe.

FDCA

Corbion has developed a proprietary process to produce 2,5-Furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA), a versatile building block for (co)polymers. Corbion believes in its unique FDCA technology and recognizes the important contribution that FDCA and PEF (a biobased polymer made from FDCA) can potentially make to a more sustainable world.

In the first half of 2020 Corbion piloted its latest FDCA production process and achieved all critical key performance indicators that impact the process economics to convert the intermediate product HMF into polymer-grade FDCA. Nevertheless, given the significant investments and management time required to further scale up our FDCA technology, and the lack of strategic fit, we have decided to manage for exit and find a new home for our FDCA program. 

Thrive

In 2020 Corbion discontinued the consumer brand Thrive algae oil due to lack of strategic fit with the Advance 2025 strategy.