Speciality chemical company Evonik has announced it will build a new production plant in Slovakia for bio-based rhamnolipids.

The new plant is due to become operational in two years, according to the 14 January statement.

Evonik said the investment at the Slovenská Ľupča site strengthened its partnership with the consumer goods group Unilever, which began in 2019.

The move would also allow Evonik to further expand its own market position in the growing biosurfactants market, the company said.

“We invest more than €400M (US$454M) a year in our research and development," Evonik chief innovation officer Harald Schwager said. "The journey of rhamnolipids from the initial idea to the finished product has been long, but it is worth it.”

Produced by the fermentation of sugar, rhamnolipids are biosurfactants and can be used as an alternative to fossil carbon in a range of applications from cleaning agents to personal care.

“Rhamnolipids are an important part of our Clean Future initiative which has set the goal to replace fossil carbon in all cleaning products by 2030,” Unilever executive vice president (Middle Europe) Peter Dekkers said.

Evonik’s life sciences division Nutrition & Care has set a goal to increase its share of system solutions from the current level of 20% to more than 50% by 2030.

“With the construction of the world's first industrial-scale production facility, we can supply this rapidly growing market," head of Evonik’s Nutrition & Care division Johann-Caspar Gammelin said. "At the same time, we are further expanding the share of system solutions in Nutrition & Care.”

Evonik is active in more than 100 countries and its Nutrition & Care division develops solutions for active pharmaceutical ingredients, medical devices, human and animal nutrition, personal care, cosmetics, and household cleaning.