"It’s great that the industry as a whole is contributing to innovative materials that can help solve these big issues."
Reverdia is the result of a partnership between Royal DSM and Roquette Frères, a joint venture specialising in the production, commercialisation and market development of sustainable succinic acid, Biosuccinium®. In 2014, three years after it announced it would build a commercial-scale plant that would be able to produce Biosuccinium in large quantities, Reverdia licensed the versatile acid that led to it being used in products as varied as packaging and footwear.
Reverdia president, Marcel Lubben, has been with the company since 2014 and took up the position two years after first becoming a board member of the company. He came to the role after having worked at Royal DSM for more than 16 years and now is leading Reverdia into the next phase of growth. He took some time out of his packed schedule to speak to Dave Songer for this week's 5 Minutes With… about the challenges the company faces, Biosuccinium’s eco credentials and what he loves about the bio-based industry.
Dave Songer (DS): Hi Marcel (@marcellubben), thanks so much for agreeing to talk with us. Can you begin with a litttle explaination about what it is you most like about working in the bio-based industry?
Marcel Lubben (ML): It’s an industry with tremendous potential to do something about our big societal issues like climate change and plastic waste pollution. It’s great that the industry as a whole is contributing to innovative materials that can help solve these big issues; I like to call it “profit with a purpose”.
(DS): What are the biggest changes you’ve seen since working in the industry?
(ML): I have seen tremendous developments in technology. A decade ago it seemed like only a dream to make bio-based products that could compete with their oil-based counterparts. But now we’re there with succinic acid and many other chemicals.
(DS): What has been your biggest challenge professionally?
(ML): The growth rate of the industry has been a bit of a challenge for us. For Reverdia (@biosuccinium), we found that many applications were new and needed further development and customer approvals before commercialisation. It takes time before demand is generated – being green is not enough. The perfect value proposition is a combination of sustainability and function, which requires active application development with partners.
(DS): What advice would you give for a company looking to switch from traditional, oil-based materials to bio alternatives?
(ML): Make sure you have the best technology at the top of its class that’s priced right because, at the end of the day, you’ll need a low cost-price to be competitive in the market place. Also important is to start early with generating demand and develop a deep knowledge of your clients and their key applications. By testing your value proposition with your clients early on and learning from their feedback, you’ll be agile enough to adapt your proposition.
(DS): Can you tell me a little bit more about your lead product, Biosuccinium?
(ML): Well, Reverdia is the producer of Biosuccinium and Biosuccinium S. Biosuccinium is a platform chemical and a drop-in for traditional di-acids. In addition to being an alternative for petro-based succinic acid, it can also be used to replace adipic acid in polyurethanes and other materials. The environmental footprint of Biosuccinium is much improved from traditional di-acids so it helps chemicals down the value chain achieve sustainability requirements. Biosuccinium S is a speciality grade for industries that require high purity, like cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
(DS): What are Reverdia’s key business priorities for 2018; can you provide any details?
(ML): Market, market, market! We have achieved what we wanted in terms of developing the Biosuccinium technology towards target and scale. Now our mission is to build and grow the market further, to deliver high-level quality and reliability to our existing clients while adding new customers to our portfolio. Next to our traditional markets like bioplastics, polyurethanes and coatings, we see enormous traction in cosmetics with our Biosuccinium® S grade.
(DS): You’re one of the speakers at World Bio Markets in Amsterdam next year. What are you most looking forward to at the show?
(ML): I’m looking forward to feeling the pulse of the industry, seeing its potential and hearing all about new applications. World Bio Markets is a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new ones.
(DS): What is your favourite bio-based product and why?
(ML): That one is very easy…Biosuccinium of course! It has so many different and exciting applications that I can’t stop being enthusiastic about it. Imagine with one and the same molecule you can make: compostable packaging materials, 100% natural cosmetics and robust and green trekking shoes. And that is just the tip of the iceberg!
Also impressive is Vaude’s new Skarvan range of sustainable and bio-based trekking shoes, which were unveiled this year and will be available to consumers in spring 2018. I’m very proud that Biosuccinium-based thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) will be used for the toe caps and heel counters. It is the first time Vaude (@VAUDE_sport) will use a bio-based TPU in its shoes.
(DS): Thanks again, Marcel. Bio-Based World News wishes you and the Reverdia team all the best for the future.
Read the last 5 minutes with… 5 Minutes With… Eric Goossens, director of BPF.
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