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Learning From Nature: How Xampla Is Standing At The Forefront Of A Global Movement Against Plastic Pollution Xampla's technology, developed from over 15 years of protein research by Professor Tuomas Knowles at the University of Cambridge, has led to the creation of a patented class of Morro plant-based materials.

By Nazmia Nassereddine

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Alexandra French, CEO at Xampla.

Xampla, a pioneer in sustainable materials technology, stands at the forefront of a global movement against plastic pollution.

Established in 2018 as a University of Cambridge spin-out, Xampla's journey has been marked by significant achievements and ambitious plans, driven by a mission to be a world leader in natural polymers offering plastic-free, plant-based materials that are strong, natural, and fully biodegradable, that protect and deliver products and ingredients without harming the planet, and that help eliminate the most polluting plastics.

Xampla offers a range of plastic-free materials under their newly launched consumer brand Morro. Their plastic free applications include:

  • Morro Coating, which provides a natural alternative to plastic used in coatings for paper and cardboard food packaging.

  • Morro Soluble Film, to replace the soluble plastics presently used to wrap dishwasher tablets and laundry pods.

  • Morro Edible Film, for flexible films providing packaging you can actually eat.

  • Morro Micro, to replace hidden microplastics in personal care and home products.

  • Morro Nutri, which enables the fortification of nutrients in food and drink.

Xampla's innovative approach is rooted in its use of plants, to create a range of drop-in and high-performance materials with no chemical modifications. This strategy distinguishes Xampla from other biodegradable plastics that rely on chemical modification to obtain the required performance, which typically affects the rate of biodegradation.

Xampla's technology, developed from over 15 years of protein research by Professor Tuomas Knowles at the University of Cambridge, has led to the creation of a patented class of Morro plant-based materials. These materials are characterized by their high strength and excellent oxygen barrier properties, making them ideal for replacing plastics in various applications.

Source: Xampla

This innovation led Xampla to be honored as one of the world's most promising global cleantech companies in the CleanTech 100 rankings, highlighting its potential to effect significant environmental change. The recognition of Xampla in these rankings underscores its role in delivering sustainable solutions for today's conscious consumers and brands.

Xampla was also the first UK university spin-out to be recognized with B-Corp status, a certification that demonstrates the company's high standards of social and environmental performance.

"Engineering natural polymers into high-performance materials enables us to use inexpensive, widely available, and renewable plant materials, as opposed to synthetic, non-biodegradable polymers," said Marc Rodriguez, CTO at Xampla. "These materials are an innovative plastic-free solution that enables brands to have the functionality they require, but with the assurance that Morro will biodegrade fully into the environment."

Source: Xampla

Morro materials are being used by global drinks manufacturer Britvic, in an innovative partnership that will see Morro Nutri used to encase Vitamin D in soft drinks. Offering superior barrier protection to ultraviolet light and pasteurization, the partnership means that for the first time drinks, manufacturers will be able to combine health claims from vitamin D in drinks in clear, recyclable, plastic bottles.

Britvic's research suggests that clear bottles are 40% more likely to be recycled by consumers than colored equivalents. Xampla also partnered with meal kit provider, Gousto, creating the world's first edible stock cube wrapper. This unique and cookable packaging saves consumers time and plastic waste, potentially reducing up to 17 tons of plastic annually, earning itself the "Sustainable Innovation Award" by SEAL Business Sustainability.

Paul Graham, GB Managing Director at Britvic PLC, shared, "In just over three years, we have seen Xampla's breakthrough vitamin microcapsules evolve from concept to production line. It's been amazing to see how Xampla's technology drops in seamlessly to our existing processes, using standard equipment. Together, we have formed a very strong partnership which has reinforced Britvic's heritage of providing vitamins in drinks to its consumers. We look forward to developing the partnership further with launches to shelf just months away."

Xampla's collaborations with Gousto and Britvic highlight the versatility and appeal of their range of materials. The company is also actively exploring the use of agricultural by-products and waste streams as raw materials for their products as highlighted in a recent partnership with ELEMIS.

This approach is a strategic move to balance the competing needs of food production and material manufacturing. By repurposing what would otherwise be waste, Xampla is demonstrating a holistic approach to sustainability, creating value from unused resources and reducing the environmental impact of both agriculture and material production.

In November 2023, Xampla announced a significant partnership with the 2M Group of Companies to scale up the production and distribution of its biodegradable plant-based materials to tons/day scale. This collaboration marks a major step in commercializing the Morro brand, and expanding the range of sustainable products available in the market to both brands and consumers.

"Sustainability is one of our core business values and a key part of our growth strategy for the future. We look forward to working together over the coming months with the Xampla team to bring this exciting innovation to our customers," Mottie Kessler OBE, Chair and CEO 2M, said. "We see huge potential with Xampla's technology and the Morro brand, and are excited at the opportunity it presents to support the transformation of our portfolio to more sustainable technologies."

"It is a very exciting time for Xampla and our consumer brand Morro," stated Alexandra French, CEO at Xampla. "Our partnership with 2M marks a major milestone that will take Morro to the next phase of commercialization. As we scale up our operations, we can provide more opportunities for brands and consumers alike, working together to eliminate the most polluting plastics."

Source: Xampla

Xampla's progress has been bolstered by substantial funding and support from prominent investors with a total funding amounting to GBP17.5 million. The company's funding rounds saw the participation from deep tech investor Amadeus Capital Partners and Cambridge Enterprise, with participation from Sky Media Group's impact investment fund Sky Ocean Ventures (now part of Planet Fund from Founders Factory) and the University of Cambridge Enterprise Fund VI, managed by Parkwalk.

Investor comments reflect confidence in Xampla's approach and potential. Amelia Armour from Amadeus Capital Partners emphasized the global significance of Xampla's plant alternative in tackling plastic pollution, underscoring the investors' shared vision with Xampla and their commitment to addressing one of today's most pressing environmental challenges. The company's ambition is further fueled by growing consumer demand for sustainable products. With over 40% of shoppers willing to pay more for sustainability, Xampla engineers materials to meet the performance requirements of customers and is working towards price parity with traditional plastics.

This commitment, coupled with an increasing global focus on sustainable packaging and health-benefiting food and drink products, supports Xampla's vision of a future dominated by plant-based materials. Xampla's journey from a research concept to a leader in sustainable materials is a testament to the power of innovation in addressing environmental challenges. Through cutting-edge science, strategic partnerships, and investor support, Xampla is not just creating alternatives to traditional plastics but is reshaping the landscape of material science, paving the way for a more sustainable future.

Explore how impact investing aligns capital with positive societal and environmental outcomes- check out our special report on impact investing here.

This article was originally published on Lucidity Insights, a partner of Entrepreneur Middle East in developing special reports on the Middle East and Africa's tech and entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Related: Entrepreneur Middle East And Lucidity Insights Launch New Report On The State Of The US$244 Billion Healthtech Industry In The MENA Region

Nazmia Nassereddine is a young writer passionate about making complex data and research more approachable, understandable, and entertaining.

Nazmia has always been an educator at heart, taking on mentorship roles teaching creative and business writing to the scientific community. She is currently pursuing her passion at the intersection of technology and healthcare through a master’s degree in biomedical engineering. When she’s not in the lab pouring herself into the magic of tissue engineering and reconstruction, she’s writing and educating the world about all things biotech, healthtech, insurtech, and edutech.

Nazmia holds a B.S. in biology and is currently pursuing her M.S. in biomedical engineering at the American University of Beirut. She specializes in cartilage tissue research, and uses her writing as a therapeutic escape to produce captivating pieces that take her readers on a journey with every word.

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