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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. This year in particular highlighted the relevance of our core competencies in Sustainable Food Solutions to many of our customers' key challenges. Never before has global business been confronted with such a varied and extensive aggregation of risk, including risks in the supply chain, in agricultural crops/yields due to climate conditions, in material availability, in the supply/demand balance, in the labor force, in personal safety, and in business continuity. By providing complete solutions or risk reduction measures, Corbion’s Sustainable Food Solutions business unit has made it possible for our customers to continue putting food on grocery store shelves across the world, in spite of an uncertain business climate.

In the bakery segment, our solutions enabled customers to quickly and successfully reformulate their consumer products in response to breakdowns as they occurred at various points along the supply chain, including shortages caused by climate impacts on agricultural crops. For example, we rapidly prototyped and launched Pristine® 3000 to help bakers respond to the undersupply of vital wheat gluten, a critical raw material in the baking industry. We allowed customers to reduce their economic risks by providing effective alternatives to high-priced ingredients, in addition to helping them create simpler, more understandable food formulations, as consumers increasingly associate these products with better health, a stronger body, and stronger immunity. Corbion’s functional systems and preservation technologies continued their growth trajectory in this market environment. With both sugar costs and consumer interest in better-for-you foods rising, bakers continue to turn to us for help in reducing sugar in their product formulations. We drew on our expertise in antimicrobials and our understanding of spoilage organisms and applications to deliver innovative, natural mold inhibitors that further extend the shelf life of bakery products with ingredients that feel familiar and comfortable to consumers.

We continued to execute our strategy of investing to expand the services we provide, constructing new labs in China and Singapore, and adding a dairy lab to our existing Lenexa applications laboratories. These additions now enable us to deliver full service to our customers in all major regions of the world, and to develop new applications and solutions in proximity to markets that have a regional and cultural influence on consumer trends and preferences. In addition, Granotec do Mexico, acquired in June 2021, is now a fully integrated part of Corbion. It provides us with a production base in Mexico and aligns with our strategy to acquire assets in specific geographies to meet the growing customer demand for functional blends. In combination with the Brazilian blending plant we acquired previously, we now have a solid presence in the growing, opportunity-rich Latin American region. Also, as part of our strategy, we exited the Frozen Dough business in January 2021 to enable a sharper focus on ingredient solutions.

The consumer movement favoring products made with more natural and familiar ingredients, as well as those perceived as more sustainable, has persisted through the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, we continued to focus on natural meat preservation, expanding efforts into more applications, including dips, sauces and chilled foods. Early successes in this area include sales of our natural mold inhibitors for culinary sauces and dressings, as well as ready-to-eat deli salads. The pandemic has prompted a number of significant changes in consumer shopping patterns – stocking up, making fewer retail visits, increased online purchasing, and food deliveries left on the doorstep – all predicted to continue in the foreseeable future. These changes create steep challenges for manufacturers as they work to ensure their products remain safe and fresh. Increased market demand for natural solutions has contributed to global supply chain issues for all players in this market. Even so, our Verdad® Vinegars and Verdad® Avanta preservation solutions grew during this time as Corbion was able to meet the growing demand; our diversified supplier base and global production footprint provided us a competitive advantage, enabling us to adapt quickly and gain market share by keeping our customers’ production running. In addition, we invested to expand production capacity for our natural ferment products at our Peoria, US plant. 

Also illuminated by the pandemic is consumers’ desire for greater balance in all areas of life, including food. While health and wellness remain a priority, the market has seen a noticeable uptick in the demand for premium foods and indulgence. The timeliness and relevance of our coated acid (PPMA) product in light of that demand can be seen in its growth last year; PPMA helps confectioners create sour acid-sanded candies that offer innovative sensory experiences, distinctive sourness, and enhanced stability. Such solutions are helping key global confectionery customers continue to innovate, and market success is bringing them back to Corbion for additional volume.

Lactic Acid & Specialties

Biochemicals

In the home and personal care market, we continue to see 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.

In the electronics industry, the semiconductor business is driving growth in our PURASOLV® esters portfolio. This market is growing fast with the continued rise in data processing – 5G, Internet of Things, electric vehicles, Big Data, and Industry 4.0 all stimulating 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 the semiconductor material industry. In 2021, we successfully completed a major capacity extension for this product range to enable us to further support growth of the electronic industry.

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 its 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. In 2021, we benefitted from a strong underlying growth dynamic supported by the move to home dialysis.

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. Favorable wet weather conditions resulted in relatively strong demand for our solvents in 2021 despite regulatory headwinds in the EU triggering some phase-outs of end products in which PURASOLV® is formulated. 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

In the orthopedic segment of the healthcare market, a gradual recovery of the business has been observed from the second quarter of the year onwards, after a drop in demand for our products caused by a decline in elective surgeries during 2020 and the early part of 2021. Furthermore, development projects that customers had either postponed or slowed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, were re-initiated. Next to that, customer development efforts contributed to increasing sales and new enquiries for our resorbable polymers as from the second quarter of 2021.

In the area of drug delivery, we continue to see strong demand and further interest in our products, leading to a growing pipeline of projects. We keep working closely together 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 significant milestone was achieved in August for our CM Biomaterials joint venture with the French pharmaceutical company Medincell. Jointly with their partner Teva Pharmaceuticals, they announced the first New Drug Application (NDA) with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of a product that incorporates polymers supplied by the CM Biomaterials joint venture and manufactured by Corbion.

In addition, a range of applications based on major active pharmaceutical ingredients and our PURASORB® polymers are currently advancing through different phases of (clinical) testing, covering both the use of existing controlled-release technologies (e.g. long-acting injectables) and enabling innovative dosage forms, in different clinical indications and delivery routes, contributing to 2021 sales and projected to grow strongly during the Advance 2025 strategy period.

We have been able to develop a process to make our new fiber-reinforced polymer composite FiberLive® available for testing, although we have seen delays in this project’s progress.

Total Corbion PLA joint venture

The Total Corbion PLA joint venture continued to perform well in 2021, as Luminy® PLA production in Thailand continues to ramp up and strong market demand supports healthy price levels. In 2020, Corbion and TotalEnergies announced their intention to build the first world-scale PLA bioplastics production facility in Europe through the Total Corbion PLA joint venture. This plant, which will be constructed in Grandpuits, France, is currently in the engineering phase and is expected to be operational in 2024. Corbion will continue to be the supplier of lactic acid to the Total Corbion PLA joint venture. This additional PLA investment further accelerates plans to expand lactic acid production, with Europe being the likely site of a future facility. This is currently under investigation both in terms of technology and location.

Incubator

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

Algae Ingredients

In 2021, Algae Ingredients experienced significant growth in the algae-based omega-3 business in aquaculture and expanded into new categories including pet food and production animal feed. It further drove its mission to unleash the power of microalgae through fermentation to preserve the planet’s limited resources. 

Aquaculture plays a prominent role in addressing food security, while contributing to ocean protection and economic prosperity. To meet the ocean action agenda goals, it is stated that growth of aquaculture will be dependent on the ability to reduce its impact on the ecosystem and a key element will be the sustainability of feed. 

Corbion Algae Ingredients partnered with Nofima and other leading organizations across the value chain to form the Millennial Salmon project. The goal of the four-year project is to create the most sustainably farmed salmon using novel ingredients from the circular economy and with a low carbon footprint while addressing the initiative’s “millennial principles of life” – living healthy, leading a purposeful life, trusting peers, and considering their societal and environmental impacts.

In 2021 we had the results of our AlgaPrime LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) study peer reviewed and published. The results indicate that when comparing AlgaPrime DHA to traditional sources of fish oil on an omega-3 basis, AlgaPrime DHA has a lower carbon footprint. This analysis, and the low carbon footprint of AlgaPrime DHA are critical for customers who are working to meet carbon reduction goals for their own operations and for their customers.

We continued to leverage Corbion’s unique expertise in large-scale industrial fermentation to supply algae omega-3s at scale, affordably and sustainably. Our plant in Brazil has ample capacity to facilitate fast growth for the next 5-10 years and we have a program in place for de-bottlenecking and process optimization to improve output.

Other projects

Co-polymers 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-polymers platform that delivers specific, high-value functionalities such as adhesion and controlled release we are able to address these needs in the market. In 2021 we made significant progress in developing new lactic-acid-based co-polymers functionalities and demonstrated prototype products.

Open Innovation 

The Open Innovation team aims to accelerate growth by feeding the front-end of the innovation funnel and boosting the innovation hit rate. For Corbion, Open innovation is a business model that feeds the business units and Incubator with transformational innovation, converting breakthrough ideas into new products and business. The Open Innovation team is scouting and vetting selected external partners in focused domains of interest, chosen for their potential to grow the business in the long run, including beyond the Advance 2025 strategic period. 

Open innovation is critical to accelerate access to technical and application 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. Participating in these funds has already enabled us to connect to other sustainability-focused corporates and start-ups, which we expect to contribute to the volume and acceleration of our innovations.