- Biotech firm Conagen launched a natural, clean-label preservative, p-Coumaric Acid (PCA). The preservative, which does not contain artificial ingredients and has an extended shelf life, is an alternative to synthetic PCA preservatives on the market, according to the company, which introduced the product as part of its commercialization partnership with ingredient tech firm Blue California.
- PCA is an antioxidant and antimicrobial compound naturally found in plants such as peanuts, tomatoes, carrots, basil, and garlic. Conagen produces PCA through a precision fermentation process, cultivating micro-organisms that create a high-purity, low-cost natural ingredient. The company said its natural PCA is price competitive with synthetic forms.
- One of the biggest challenges for food manufacturers creating clean-label products has been finding effective swaps for ingredients that are artificial or have chemical-sounding names, making natural preservatives a growth opportunity for providers.
Nearly two-thirds of consumers try to select foods made from clean ingredients, according to research from the International Food Information Council. As consumers continue to emphasize the importance of "clean" foods, brands are replacing artificial preservatives with natural solutions, which has propelled ingredients manufacturers to focus on developing options to meet the demand.
Conagen has been closely tracking the clean-label space and has already invested significantly in natural preservatives. Last year, Blue California and Conagen jointly announced the commercialization of a 98% pure natural preservative, Rosavel rosmarinic acid, that leverages the natural antioxidant and antimicrobial properties of rosemary.
This latest natural preservative builds on Conagen's existing portfolio by delivering functionality without interfering with the taste of products — an ongoing challenge for manufacturers that reformulate their products to use natural ingredients.
In addition to emphasizing its PCA preservative’s ability to work without affecting taste, Conagen highlighted its use of "green chemistry." Conagen Vice President of Innovation Dr. Casey Lippmeier explained in a statement that the fermentation used in the development of the ingredient falls under this technique due to its ability to "enable the development of environmentally safer bioplastics and new applications in biomedicine." Having a preservative in its portfolio that can appeal to consumers both with its clean-label ingredients as well as its clean, sustainable engineering could be a competitive differentiator.
As consumers consider preservatives when searching for clean-label options, Conagen is positioning itself to take advantage of this growing trend toward more natural products, which the pandemic has only accelerated in recent months. Other companies active in the space include Irish ingredients company Kerry Group, which acquired the clean-label, low-sodium preservatives specialist Niacet from private investment firm SK Capital for roughly $1 billion earlier this year to gain access to its portfolio of conventional organic acids.