The multi-billion dollar flavors and fragrances (F&F) industry is increasingly tapping biotechnology and synthetic biology to reinvent itself from an unsustainable high-cost, high-risk path, according to Lux Research.

Over the past decade, biotechnology tools – such as fermentation and enzymatic transformation – have begun offering a sustainable and natural path, besides the promise of lower cost, in the search for superior F&F production methods – though technical challenges remain.

“The largest hurdle to adopting these promising new ways of producing F&F compounds is scaling up production,” said Meraldo Antonio, Lux Research Associate and lead author of the report titled, “Eau d’coli: Application of Biotechnology in Flavors and Fragrances.”

“However, the early success of companies such as Amyris and Evolva suggests these challenges are not insurmountable,” he added.

Lux Research analysts took an overview of the F&F industry, besides conducting a comparative analysis of production methods. Among their findings:

Top 10 hold dominant market share. According to industry studies, the top 10 players in the industry account for 80% of the $25 billion flavors and fragrances market. The consolidation of market share has created a highly competitive dynamic for leaders seeking novel ways to meet consumer desires.

Changing consumer preferences drive the market. Driven by health concerns and a growing distrust of the food industry, consumers overwhelmingly favor natural products and are willing to pay a premium for clean label products and “free-from" foods. Additionally, there is a growing demand for diversification of products, creating opportunities for the development of new F&F compounds.

Amyris leads pack of startups. Over the past few years, several developers of alternative F&F production technologies have entered the space. Among them, farnesene developer Amyris leads the pack with strong performance in both business execution and technology. It also has numerous partners in Top 10 F&F houses such as Firmenich, IFF, and Takasago.