Innovation | L’Oreal among investors in UK’s plant-based pigments pioneer

A collection of cosmetics products arranged on a black surface against a black background with moody lighting.

Innovation | L’Oreal among investors in UK’s plant-based pigments pioneer

L’Oreal has been named among a group of investors to back the development and launch of a new, sustainable pigment that could transform billion dollar markets like cosmetics, fashion, paint, and packaging.

The cosmetics group has been joined by other major names including the Circular Innovation Fund and PDS Ventures in its support of a UK-based pioneer of high performance, sustainable, plant-based pigments that will ‘eliminate synthetic chemicals from colourants’ currently used across markets.

Through seed investments, grants, and awards, the Cambridge headquarted company, Sparxell, has now completed a $3.2 million round of funding to accelerate the development and commercialisation of its products.

Founded in 2022, Sparxell is led by Cambridge scientists Dr Benjamin Droguet and Professor Silvia Vignolini who discovered ways to replicate vibrant colours in nature using fully plant-based cellulose, a renewable, biodegradable resource that can be extracted from waste streams.

Sparxell’s pigments use the same material that many plants and animals use to produce vivid, durable, and fade-resistant colourants. The products are also toxin-free and fully biodegradable with a colour intensity that ‘lasts longer than traditional colourants and pigments on the market.”

“Traditional chemical colourants are causing major environmental harm through every stage of their lifecycle, from manufacture to degradation,” said Dr Benjamin Droguet. 

“Over 10,000 fossil-based chemicals are used in current colouration processes. The textile industry is a well-known emitter of dyes and microplastics, with over 1.5 million tonnes entering the environment every year, while paint has recently been recognised as the largest source of microplastics in the ocean.”

“Our plant-based materials can be grown and sourced locally in a complete rethink of how colours are currently being manufactured while reducing transport emissions.”

The colourants market is currently worth an estimated $38 billion and is expected to grow to over $100 billion by 2030. With its new development, Sparxell is targeting – but not limiting itself to – the beauty, fashion, packaging, and paint sectors. Already it has engaged in product innovation partnerships with blue-chip companies across industries such as leading car manufacture, high-end fashion, and cosmetic goods.

The company now expects to launch a Series A funding round in the coming months to upscale production capacity and speed up its commercialisation.

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