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Unilever to Buy Solazyme’s Renewable Algal Oil

UnileverUnilever has signed an agreement to buy at least 10,000 metric tons of algal oil from renewable oil and bioproducts company Solazyme.

Supply delivery is planned to begin in early 2014 and Unilever expects to purchase the full initial volume within 12 to 18 months. Product validation trials are scheduled to take place in Q4 2013.

The companies say they have been collaborating for five years on multiple projects leading up to this initial supply agreement, which covers the first of Solazyme and Unilever’s jointly developed tailored oils.

The algal oil will be produced at the Solazyme Bunge Renewable Oils facility, a joint venture of Solazyme and agribusiness and food company Bunge, located at Bunge’s Moema sugar mill in Brazil.

Unilever chief category R&D officer David Blanchard says his company believes Solazyme’s tailored oils technology can provide sustainable competitive advantage across Unilever’s many categories and brands. He says this agreement is “just the beginning” of the companies’ commercial relationship.

Unilever plans to use the oil for its personal care products including Dove and Brylcreem, The New York Times reports.

The algal oil partnership is part of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, which in 2010 set a target to double its business while halving the environmental footprint of its products across the value chain, and sourcing 100 percent of agricultural raw materials sustainably, all by 2020.

Earlier this year, Unilever announced that 36 percent its agricultural raw materials are being sourced sustainably, meaning it exceeds the interim milestone of 30 percent it set for itself in 2010.

According to Unilver’s most recent sustainability report, the company now sources 100 percent of palm oil from sustainable sources, certified by GreenPalm, up from 64 percent in 2011. It is aiming to make 100 percent of its palm oil traceable back to the plantation.

Unilever also says it’s made progress in sustainable sourcing of sugar, cocoa, vegetables and sunflower oil, and has helped to train 450,000 tea farmers in sustainable practices, of whom over 300,000 have achieved Rainforest Alliance certification.

In May, Solazyme and Dutch paint and specialty chemicals producer AkzoNobel announced an agreement to develop renewable oils from algae.

Leading alternative fuel developers including Solazyme face a make-or-break year as they race to show substantial revenue, according to a February report by Lux Research.

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