The best kept secret in synthetic biology and clean beauty products can be found in the eastern region of Brazil in a small town called Barra Bonita. It’s the world’s most advanced fermentation plant, and the 185,000-square-foot facility won’t stay hidden much longer. Mechanical engineer, robotics expert, and innovator Eduardo Alvarez, chief operating officer at Amyris, recently spearheaded production and introduced this amazing asset to the world.
The milestone marks a new chapter for Amyris. The biotech company, founded in 2003, has historically produced ingredients found in sectors covering 80 percent of the beauty and personal care market, including nine out of the world’s top 10 beauty companies. Now, Amyris is rolling out its own line of brands and skincare products to meet increasing demand for sustainable alternatives to traditional items.
Alvarez studied at the University of Michigan and University of California, Berkeley, before earning his MBA at Harvard Business School. He built his career at GE, Booz Allen, and PwC, where he led the operations strategy business and worked with clients to reduce complexity, complete major M&A transactions, and drive sustained growth.
Alvarez came to Amyris in 2017 to drive Amyris production scale by harnessing the power of machine learning, robotics, precision fermentation, and lean operations. This is what Amyris calls the “lab-to-market” technology platform. With it, the company produces more ingredients at higher volumes and brings new innovations to consumers that also are good for the planet.
The new manufacturing plant in Barra Bonita is a modern wonder. Amyris formed a strategic partnership with Raizen, the largest sugar producer in the world, to build the plant on its property. The sugar cane syrup feeds the system to produce Amyris ingredients.
The company uses 1,500 pieces of equipment, 30 miles of pipes, and 4,000 tons of steel to form a tall, vertical structure that uses gravity to reduce energy requirements. The sugar cane gets sterilized, fermented, and automated with exact formulations to produce fourteen different products. It’s a zero-carbon process that Alvarez says is delivering “real products to consumers to help them live better lives without harming the planet. “
One of those products is squalene, a hydrocarbon used in cosmetics, skin care, and personal care products, sought for its anti-inflammation and superior hydration. There are two known ways to get squalane—through olive trees and from the liver of shark. Each year, millions of sharks are killed and discarded simply for this oil. However, the Barra Bonita plant now produces the molecules used to make sustainable, sugar-based squalane.
In fact, one of Amyris’s consumer brands includes Biossance, which has an entire line of squalane-based skincare products. All of the company’s sugarcane-derived squalane is ethically and sustainably sourced. This helps protect the millions of sharks used for liver harvesting and can be produced by consuming only one-fiftieth of the water needed to produce plant-derived alternatives.
Alvarez led teams to complete the fermentation plant during the COVID-19 pandemic and jokes he has a longstanding policy of never wasting a good crisis. Born in Nicaragua, he remembers the devastating 1972 earthquake that leveled Managua.
Both Alvarez’s father, a business leader, and his grandfather, the director of a nearby hospital, worked overtime to help the community survive. His dad formed a banking co-op to help rebuild homes, while his grandfather tripled the size of the local hospital to take in victims and refugees.
“The way my family responded to challenging events showed me that commitment and passion can set the foundation for how to face life and opportunities” says Alvarez. “I knew that service would be at the heart of anything I would do in the future.”
A few years later, things changed in Central America; political unrest made life dangerous and uncertain. At age fifteen, Alvarez’s parents sent him to the United States to seek refuge with a host family, while they stayed behind. Although a challenging time, Alvarez focused on his education.
He learned English quickly, enrolled in college, and did his best to stay busy. In his final year at Michigan, the diligent student let himself take a short respite, heading to Miami for Spring Break. There, he recognized a girl from his hometown in Nicaragua and eventually married her. Four children and thirty years later, they are still together.
With the new fermentation plant up and running, Alvarez and Amyris are focused on continued growth, innovation, and impact. “We want to continue to make natural ingredients, and the way we do that matters,” he says. “We do it with a no-compromise ethos that sets us apart.” That ethos has three pillars: Amyris ingredients and products must be effective, sustainable, and economical.
“Global4PL Supply Chain Services is pleased to congratulate Eduardo Alvarez for his distinguished leadership of Amyris,” says Sergio Retamal, president and CEO of Global4PL Supply Chain Management. “His vision, leadership, and ability to innovate at speed and scale has proven repeatedly Amyris’ placement as the leading global company in the clean beauty and sustainable ingredients sector. Eduardo’s vision and his team’s execution have resulted in a supply chain excelling both domestically and internationally.”
Going public in 2010, the cosmetics pioneer now generates millions in annual revenue, but in many ways the business is just hitting its stride. “We are the only company in this industry that can produce multiple ingredients at scale, and that means the future is bright,” the COO explains. When he joined, the company produced five ingredients at scale, now it produces fourteen and has nine total consumer product brands.
When Alvarez and his colleagues think about new products and strategy, they follow a simple path. They try to introduce the right ingredients in the right place at the right time. Personal care, beauty products, clean ingredients, and sustainability are all more popular than ever before. “These are issues that consumers and companies care about today,” Alvarez says. People want to live their lives in purposeful ways, and Amyris is in position to help them do just that.
Global4PL Supply Chain Services is pleased to congratulate Eduardo Alvarez for his distinguished leadership at Amyris. His vision, leadership, and ability to innovate at speed and scale have been proven repeatedly and have helped Amyris emerge as a leading global company in the clean beauty and sustainable ingredients sector. Eduardo’s vision and his team’s execution have resulted in a supply chain excelling both domestically and internationally.
Eduardo, kudos on your achievements. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for you, your team, and Amyris.