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Biologic Lycopene from Tomatoes

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Bringing a healthy antioxidant found in tomatoes to a global market

Lycopene, which makes tomatoes red, is a potent antioxidant linked to preventing a range of diseases. An Italian manufacturer is bringing organic, dietary supplements containing lycopene to market, with EU support.

Health

Studies have identified that lycopene may have a positive imapct on a number of diseases. These include coronary heart disease and prostate cancer as well as neurodegenerative diseases and conditions like hypertension, male infertility and poor bone health. There is a growing market in dietary supplements, and other products, containing lycopene. But many of them are made using tomatoes containing harmful pesticides, warns Leonardo Rescio, a chemical engineer who co-founded Licofarma. Over the EU BioLyco project, Licofarma developed a strategy to offer the health benefits of the antioxidant without damaging the environment and without consumers absorbing potentially carcinogenic chemicals. “The absence of synthetic chemicals at all stages of the production process makes organic lycopene safe for the consumer, because it eliminates the risk of consumers being exposed to synthetic chemicals. It is also environmentally friendly, because it eliminates the risk of air, soil and subsoil contamination. This, in turn, helps to preserve biodiversity and wildlife,” says Rescio. Extracting lycopene from organic tomatoes through a solvent-free technology, rather than using chemical solvents is more expensive and takes longer to scale-up to mass production, but Rescio believes it is a better way to produce lycopene, which is also commercially viable.

Innovative production

Together with his brother Consiglio Rescio, also a chemical engineer, Rescio developed a technology to extract lycopene from tomatoes based on a cold extraction process using carbon dioxide. They registered two patents covering the production process: ‘Innovative, supercritical CO2 extraction of lycopene in the presence of vegetable oil’ and the ‘Food supplement based on biological lycopene and process to obtain biological lycopene’. Licofarma patented the second in some of the biggest consuming markets of Lycopene: Canada, China, India, Italy, Mexico and the United States. During the project, the family company created a detailed business plan, with advice from experts on how to attract partners and investors. Results so far are positive. “Over the last 3 years, starting from scratch and with reduced financial resources, Licofarma has launched more than 100 finished products with lycopene, both supplements and skincare,” says Rescio. It sells through manufacturers and distributors and directly to consumers through the website. “Some of our products, such as Organic lycopene supplement are being used for cardiovascular health,” he adds. In 2018, Licofarma made sales of EUR 0.82 million and hopes to close 2019 on EUR 1.3 million. Within 10 years, the company wants to acquire a market share of EUR 30 million, including 50 % through the sale of the organic lycopene in bulk form. The demand is there: the world market of bulk traded lycopene is currently at EUR 80 million, with average compound annual growth of 2.9 % in the US, 4.2 % in Italy and 4.9 % in China, according to the Tomato Lycopene Industry 2019 Global Market research report. To expand sales, Licofarma is planning a new plant. “The company has received important requests for bulk lycopene, which it could not deliver due to lack of production capacity,” says Rescio.

Keywords

BioLyco, lycopene, tomatoes, antioxidant, organic, pesticides, synthetic chemicals

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