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Cargill Moving Into Bio-Industrial

What do yoga pants, toothpaste, home insulation and transformer fluid have in common? All of them might contain products made by the Cargill Bioindustrial Group.

Stroll through any large hardware store, and roughly 50% of the items on the shelves could make use of Cargill’s bioindustrial offerings. The same could be said for countless beauty and personal care products in department stores.

In fact, there are so many opportunities for the Bioindustrial Group – which was formed a year ago when teams from a few different Cargill businesses were combined – that its newly developed strategy is primarily about determining where to focus.

Within the estimated $80 billion global market for bio-based products, the business has zeroed in on three segments where it can draw on its talent, ingenuity and connections to larger Cargill supply chains to deliver innovative solutions for customers.

1. Industrial segment

This is perhaps the most obvious segment, and it also represents Cargill’s longest active presence in bioindustrials. Even prior to the formation of the Bioindustrial Group, Cargill’s industrial specialties business had been expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 15% for seven years – a very good level of growth.

“The team has done a remarkable job growing this part of the business and establishing a strong foundation,” said Colleen May, president of Cargill Bioindustrial Group. “Now we can leverage those capabilities more broadly to go even faster.”

That includes products like FR3, the dielectric fluid for electric transformers that is being deployed into new markets like China and South Africa. Like so many of the business’s products, FR3 is not just made from renewables, it’s also safer and enables transformers to last longer than those filled with traditional petroleum products.

Other categories in this segment include products for road construction, building materials, candle wax and furniture foam.

2. Consumer segment

The sustainability mindset that has swept through the food industry has also arrived in the beauty aisle. Makers of skin care, oral care and other personal care products are all hearing from consumers that they want the ingredients for those goods to be sustainable, too.

With the tagline “Unleashing nature sustainably,” Cargill has made a splash with some of the biggest names in beauty and personal care during the last couple of years, offering bio-based emulsifiers, texturizers and more.

“When we pitch new ideas to customers lately, we’ve been pleasantly surprised. Now, they don’t just say, ‘I’ll take this one.’ They want multiple projects from us, because they are seeing what we can deliver in this segment,” May said.

It’s a big opportunity all around the globe. For instance, to support fast-growing markets in Asia, the business just opened an innovation lab in Shanghai.

3. Intermediates segment

This portion of the bioindustrial business transforms agricultural raw materials into bio-molecules that are identical to their fossil-derived equivalents. Often, these are “intermediates,” meaning there is further processing required before they are transformed into the final product.

Today the business is leveraging Cargill’s deep technical expertise to develop bio-intermediates that would replace a portion of the textile, personal care and coatings industries with a viable bio-molecule.

This may not sound like the most riveting space, but it’s a big one – up to $1 trillion globally. Very little of it is bio-based right now.

Across all three segments, May sees strong tailwinds. Governments are increasingly implementing policies that favor more sustainable products. New technologies enable bio-based products to be manufactured more competitively at higher volumes. And most of all, consumers are buying sustainability because it fits with their values.

“It’s a very different day,” she said. “Now is the time for Cargill to be moving big in bioindustrials.”


From the beauty aisle to the hardware store, 3 ways Cargill is investing in bioindustrial


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