Imagine tasting flavor-full non-alcoholic beer produced naturally without harming the environment through huge water consumption, fertilizers to grow the hops, and a big carbon footprint by transporting goods around the globe.
The young Danish biotech company EvodiaBio, recently admitted to BII’s new Venture Lab program, believes they can make that vision a reality.
We had a chat with the founders Sotirios Kampranis, Simon Dusséaux and Victor Forman to better understand the company.
What is the key driver for EvodiaBio?
We are driven by sustainability and have our hearts set to tackle important societal issues and impact everyday life, such as responsible drinking. To achieve both of these overarching goals, we have decided to focus on producing non-alcoholic beer aromas. Currently, this production involves huge consumption of water (3,000 liters pr. kilo hops) and requires a large amount of landmass and fertilizers to grow the hops. Our beer aromas can be produced biologically and with much less harmful effects on the environment. Moreover, by improving the quality of non-alcoholic beer, we aim to play an important role in helping the transition to a low-alcohol consuming society, with all the benefits for families, young adults, and the health system.
What is the idea behind the company?
We started at the University of Copenhagen and were curious to find better ways to produce aroma compounds. It has been historically tough to make aroma compounds using biological methods because they are composed of structurally complex volatile molecules that are hard to produce and harvest. Among those, terpenoids are some of the most common aromas found in nature, such as basil, mint, or other aromatic plants used for food and drinks. So far, there has been no good way of producing them in a yeast cell factory. After years of research, we now have developed and patented a technology that improves their production a hundred times over any other current biotechnology, bringing them now within our reach.
What are you focusing on in the Venture Lab program, and what would be the optimal outcome after 12 months?
The focus is to get an MVP (a minimum viable product) out for at least eight different standard aroma blends. We have already initiated communication with potential customers and collaborators, mostly from the brewing industry. By the end of the year, we want to provide them with a minimum blend. Our products will be blends of aroma that the breweries can add, at their convenience, at various stages of the brewing process. We can make both standard blends or custom blends depending on the breweries´ needs and the beer type.
Traditionally biotech companies struggle with upscaling production. How do you cope with that challenge?
We have already developed our methods for downstream processing, and we can reach production titers in lab-scale that are viable. We target to upscale now, make sure that we improve our yield as we go up in size, and develop an infrastructure to make the MVP. Upscaling to huge volumes can be a big challenge for biotech, but, in our case, we are not making the beer, just the aroma blends for flavoring. The breweries only need to add a tiny volume of our concentrated aromas, so volumes are not what we are mostly looking for, but more quality and reproducibility. Upscaling is also where the Venture Lab program can help us through its vast network of partners.
How do you differ from your competitors?
Current options are based on old technology used for decades, and brewers haven’t had many new alternatives. Our aromas are made biologically and not based on chemical synthesis. We are disrupting the cycle of making non-alcoholic beer by adding an innovative step to introduce the high quality and biologically produced aroma.
You are tapping into a trend with more people drinking non-alcoholic beer. How can you take advantage of that?
The advantage is that breweries are constantly looking for innovation in that space, continuously stopping less-successful products and introducing new products. Hence, it’s much easier for us in the sense that our aroma blends can be introduced in new launches of products instead of relying on brewers to change their recipe for an existing product.
If you only look at the Danish market, the number of non-alcoholic beers has rapidly increased. Over the last ten years, the number of non-alcoholic beers on the market went from 2 to 56 only in Denmark. We can come into a growing market segment, provide a solution that the brewers urgently need, and get a market share.
What do you expect to learn in the Venture Lab program?
We are mainly scientific founders, so we saw it as a great way to get help with commercial aspects, such as market strategy, business plan and team management. Furthermore, we also need to systemize our business and learn a vocabulary that is quite new to us.
Christian Brix Tillegreen, Senior Business Developer at BioInnovation Institute, says the following about EvodiaBio: “In my view, EvodiaBio holds something that you don’t see every day in synthetic biology, a great commercial potential, powerful and novel science, a curious and committed team and at the same time they contribute to making beer production more sustainable. I am really looking forward to working with the team and help bring their science closer to market.”