Evolva focuses on three ‘game changer’ ingredients: stevia, nookatone, resveratrol

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Evolva focuses on three ‘game changer’ ingredients: stevia, nookatone, resveratrol

Related tags Yeast Stevia

Swiss biotech company Evolva has said that it will focus on ramping up low cost bio-production routes that it believes will be “game changers” for “existing commercially available ingredients that are currently hard-to-source from nature”.

Detailing Evolva’s plans during a conference call yesterday (2 October), CEO Simon Waddington revealed that the company’s near-term focus will centre on three products: stevia, nookatone, resveratrol.

Management said that rising consumer demand for ingredients “found in nature” for health, wellness and nutrition applications coupled with the fact that these ingredients are “hard to source from nature”​ in a “sustainable and scalable way”.

The company said it intends utilise “advanced biological technologies and classical yeast fermentation to make these ingredients available for widespread adoption at an affordable cost”.

Stevia, nootkatone and resveratrol, oh my!

In stevia, Evolva has already established a joint venture agreement with Cargill that will market the sweetener under the EverSweet brand.

Cargill will run the business and take responsibility for production and Evolva will receive “up to 30%” share in the business, depending on the strain efficiency the group develops. There is no time limit on when efficiency is achieved and Cargill is willing to support Evolva with early cash flows. However, Evolva needs to secure funding of €24m (CHF27m) by the end of fiscal 2017 for commitments on the deal.

Waddington said that Evolva’s production expertise enables the group to “address stevia’s taste issue at high usage levels”.

“The stevia plant does not make great tasting sweeteners. Reb B and Reb M taste great but only occur in minute amounts in the plant that does not allow for sustainable mass market production.”

On nootkatone, Evolva said that the ingredient is found in “minute quantities” in grapefruit skin.

“It is used as a natural flavour and fragrance but the far larger opportunities for this ingredient lie in pest control… Evolva has started producing nootkatone in a sustainable industrial scale process, via yeast fermentation that provides a reliable, safe supply.”

The company predicted that, if produced at quantity, it could be the “next big thing”​ in pest control.

Finally, Evolva suggested resveratrol, an ingredient in red wine that mimics the benefits of calorie restriction, could have “multiple uses” in health and nutrition applications.

“Studies show improved cognition, bone and cardio health”​ among other benefits, Waddington noted.

“Data indicates that resveratrol nutritional supplements can rejuvenate mitochondria, the energy source that powers every cell in your body.”

In particular, Evolva said it expects this will be a good ingredient for companies manufacturing health products for the ageing population.

The company revealed its Veri-te brand is already “gaining traction”. Evolva stressed that kosher and halal options are available and noted that it has both novel foods approval in the EU and self-affirmed GRAS in the US.

The financial pitch

Evolva has hit rocky waters financially and launched a business reorganisation in August. In order to streamline its operations, Evolva has consolidated its production sites in the US and Switzerland and plans to cut staff from 178 to 100.

Waddington and Evilva CFO Oliver Walker detailed plans to raise capital in order to fuel growth. The company expects to generate product revenues of €1.7-2.2m (CHF2-2.5m) in 2017 and is targeting sales of €35-52.3m (CHF40-60m) by 2012.

Management revealed that Evolva hopes to be operating at bread even in four- to-six-years.

The company revealed it plans to raise approximately CHF80m gross proceeds in two separate equity transactions. Swiss asset manager Pictet Asset Management and British investment firm Cologny Advisors have committed, subject to certain conditions, to subscribe for shares in a private placement. Subsequently, Evolva plans to carry out a discounted rights offering in early November 2017.

The funds will be used to continue investing in R&D in order to further improve yeast strain efficiency as well as in commercialisation efforts of the products, Evolva said.

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