Olive squalane vs synthetic squalane Q&A : exploring key questions

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Olive Squalane Versus Synthetic Squalane: Q&A

Squalene is one of the skin’s key components, responsible for its integrity and moisturization.

Squalane is the stabilized form of squalene, a versatile product with qualities for spreadability and skin absorption. With the booming demand for squalane, a comparison between natural and synthetic squalane is compulsory.

Is there a secure supply of olive raw materials?

Yes, olive oil production is increasing every year, globally. Squalene is not extracted directly from olive oil, but from the refining oil residues.

Moreover, substantial unexploited squalene quantities exist in pomace olive oil, extracted from the peel of the olive. It is just a question of investments and production capacity for using those abundant raw materials.

Can vegetable squalane face the booming natural ingredient demand (12% per year)?

Of course! Squalene is present in all the oils, not only in olive oil. All vegetable oils contain vitamin E, sterols and squalene. So, the vegetable squalene market will know security of supply and steady prices in the future, with refining residues from sunflower or palm oil when olive oil residues become insufficient. This innovation was awarded a patent on 27/08/2010 (INPI n°2933403).

Is your vegetable squalane business model profitable?

SOPHIM extracts squalene from by-products coming from vegetable oil refining, no feed, no food – and our own by-products are sold as biodiesel from 2nd generation. It is a true circular economy model.

With a fully integrated process, the circular model also has well-resisted fluctuations resulting from the war in Ukraine. Indeed, despite a doubling of the price of raw materials, the price of the by-product (biodiesel) has followed the same price evolution and made it possible to maintain the price of Phytosqualan, despite the violent increases in energy and manufacturing intermediaries in 2022/2023.

Of course, it requires large production capacities because the raw material contains less than 10% squalene. But our family-owned company has invested several tens of millions of euros in its two facilities (Provence and Andalucia).

What about the cost of synthetic squalane?

Synthetic squalane was launched in 1978 by the Japanese company Kuraray (U.S. Patent No. 3,794,692 of Feb. 26, 1974). Squalane was obtained by dimerization of farnesene of petroleum origin and hydrogenation.

Their selling price has always been higher in the market.

Thirty years later, the American biotech company AMYRIS took up Kuraray's idea. Indeed, they have made a great success for the production of farnesene by the fermentation of sugar cane. Fermentation remains an expensive process. Moreover, farnesene also has a strong demand as a precursor for the manufacturing of vitamin E, replacing citral, and as a precursor of aromatic ingredients.

The organic synthesis by dimerization of farnesene also has a real cost. So, it is hard to evaluate their competitiveness for the future.

Are you competitive compared to synthetic squalene?

Judging by the results, Yes. 50% development in the last three years with profits every year for more than 10 years.

On our side, our business model has proven our competitiveness.

So, olive squalane is taking the lead?

In both cases, squalane needs an industrial process and significant production capacities.

In the last 10 years, our regular customers have been rewarded by security of supply and stable prices.

For new demands, more capacities for olive and vegetable product are necessary. We continue to invest for this purpose.

So yes, we are comfortable saying olive squalane is taking the lead.

Our Phytosqualan is COSMOS approved. It is difficult to find a raw material, an ingredient and a process more eco-friendly and CSR inspired! It is a model of circular economy.

Jacques Margnat, CEO


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