Euromonitor International is pleased to present an interview with Tom Verlinden, founder and CEO of Yun Probiotherapy, the first biotech company worldwide that has overcome the technical barriers to incorporate live plant-based probiotics into conventional water-based skincare products with a reasonable shelf life.
The success of probiotics in other industries, such as in supplements and yoghurts, means that consumers are educated about their benefits. The use of these ingredients in the beauty industry, although still quite niche, could bring consumers the next generation of cosmetic and personal care products. While the term “probiotics” is well established in food, where it is defined as live microorganisms that can have a beneficial effect for the consumer, able to grow and form a colony, in cosmetics there is no standardised definition of probiotics and this makes it very difficult for consumers to really understand what to expect from a cosmetic product carrying the probiotic label.
Several start-ups are seizing the opportunity to step into this trend and take skin care to the next level, and the European-based YUN Probiotherapy is one of them. The company has just launched its products on the European market, in April 2017. Although the key research in the microbiome field has been performed by start-ups, big players are already taking note as they seek to garner revenue when the opportunity presents itself. Mainstream brands are launching products that generally contain probiotic or probiotic-derived ingredients which are not alive or viable to form colonies. This is a cheap solution that does not require any real change in the preservative system or in the rest of the product.
In this interview, Verlinden explores the science and innovation behind Yun’s new ground-breaking encapsulated technology and discusses the competitive advantages as well as the challenges that live probiotic ingredients face in competing with probiotic-derived ingredients in the market.
Which probiotic ingredients are in Yun's products?
Yun has just launched in April 2017 different types of products to the European market. Two products containing live probiotics: the ACN and ACN+ Creams with probiotic microcapsules, which are sold from €28 to €45, and a set of products that are microbiome safe.
Products with live probiotics contain lactobacillus bacterial strains (L. Pentosus YUN-V1.0, L. Plantarum YUN-V2.0, and L. Rhamnosus YUN-S1.0), classified as GRAS - generally recognised as safe. These strains were selected from a set of potential bacteria using strict screening criteria regarding safety, strength to fight pathogenic bacteria, absence of antibiotic resistance and good performance during the manufacturing. The dosage of probiotics has been chosen to outnumber the average number of microorganisms typically found on the skin to have enough effect, which is typically 10-4 to 10-6 (1 million) per square centimetre of skin.
What are the main advantages and limitations of this disrupting technology?
The probiotic bacteria are first deactivated and then stabilised by microencapsulation. Encapsulating the bacteria provide protection against the adverse environmental conditions in cosmetic formulations, thereby improving viability. The main advantage is that our ground-breaking encapsulated technology allows the incorporation of live probiotics in water-based skin care products. This technology is based on multi-layered microcapsules with three layers and a liquid core.
The performance of the probiotic ingredients can be negatively affected by the preservative and emulsifier systems in the cosmetic product. Therefore, in addition to this new technology we use special preservative and emulsifiers systems for these products that are not only natural but also able to protect the product and do not affect the bacteria due to the protective shell (microcapsules). Once the product reaches the skin, the microcapsules deliver the probiotic and the preservative system is completely deactivated to keep the bacteria alive.
What is the shelf life of Yun’s products
Products are packaged in airless tubes to prevent oxidative damage and proven to last between six months (ACN Cream and ACN+ Cream with life probiotic microcapsules) and a year with no chemicals added to preserve the formulation. Although most of the products are guaranteed for one year they will probably last up to two years in the near future.
All products are biome-friendly and they do not need refrigeration. However, the two products that contain live probiotics can improve their shelf life if they are kept in the fridge.
What is the main market and channel distribution?
Our current market is Europe and the products are currently sold online – via our website – but we also sell B2B to pharmacies, as we believe in the importance of the scientific advisory role of the pharmacist to tell the story.
How can the products succeed in an increasingly competitive market?
Most of the cosmetic products containing probiotics in the market do not have any scientific evidence to back up their claims. However, Yun has performed extensive research and development about the types of probiotics that are most beneficial (screening a wide variety of bacteria strains) and how they have to be delivered to the skin (bacterial deactivation + encapsulation + preservative and emulsifiers system). The company performs tests for all the products in an independent laboratory to control the microbial quality and results from toxicological tests demonstrate the safety and efficacy of our products. Yun has performed in vitro studies and in vivo studies with 180 subjects without any adverse effect.
Why would consumers choose these products over rival ones that do not contain live probiotics?
Although the presence of products in the market that contain non-viable probiotic (dead bacteria) could be considered as a potential threat, Yun is optimistic and it truly believes in the consumer’s good criteria when selecting products that really work versus others that only offer marketing claims rather than proven scientific evidence.