Start-Up Success Stories: From pitching start-up to summit partner, an interview with Simon Hombersley, CEO at Xampla

Simon XamplaWhy did you take part in Rethinking Materials in 2021, how did you find it?

It is a really exciting event, and the difference between this and some other events in the sustainability space is that the summit is not just about lamenting the problem of plastic pollution – it’s about finding solutions. The summit brings together a community of innovators, who – with our different ideas – will do more to drive the transition away from plastic than any government can through regulation alone. I found there was a real excitement about Xampla’s offer back in 2021, and I’m looking forward to showcasing the growth Xampla has seen since I was last here.

What’s new with you? Are there new partnerships, products, or funding rounds you would like to shout about? 

Since making our very first hire at Xampla in January 2020, we are proud to have grown to a 25-strong international team of industry-leading scientists and innovators and have continued to scale up throughout 2021. Last year, the 15 years of University of Cambridge research behind our natural polymer film was made public in the prestigious academic journal Nature Communications. Later, the first rolls of the material came off production lines and the product is now in consumers’ hands for the first time.

Our first commercial application has been in partnership with recipe kit brand, Gousto. Xampla developed the world’s first edible stock cube wrapper made from pea protein. This product sold out within just one hour of Gousto announcing the partnership, showing the consumer demand for such innovation. Gousto has told us that if this product was rolled out across all their meal kits, we would replace a staggering 17 tonnes of plastic every single year.

We are working on further partnerships behind the scenes and will have more announcements to share over the next 12 months as we work with brands to develop breakthrough technology for their customers to enjoy.

It is fantastic to have you back as a partner for the 2022 summit, what are you hoping to get out of the event this year?

With industry movers and shakers from 44 countries represented at Rethinking Materials, this is a critical space for us to meet those who will drive the transition away from plastic.

Our ambition is to work with big brands to get them to say ‘goodbye’ to the most polluting plastics – films that are very hard to recycle, and the hidden plastics inside products like dishwasher tablets and laundry liquids.

We can only do that by building confidence in our technology and ensuring those making big decisions at household brands see Xampla as a partner for the future.

We also see the summit as a place to learn from others. The race to replace plastic won’t have just one winner, just as there is no single solution to the plastics crisis. This is an opportunity for us to benefit from others’ expertise and ideas, just as we hope it is an opportunity for others to benefit from ours.

What’s next for the materials and packaging industries? Have you seen something new you are particularly excited about and do you have any predictions for the future?

A recent Xampla survey of 2,000 adults found that half the public want to help the natural environment by cutting their plastic consumption in 2022.

We believe that big brands will be increasingly concerned with meeting this consumer demand. The worst polluters that are not being captured by recycling infrastructure, such as plastic flexible films, will continue to be phased out of packaging as brand managers seek sustainable alternatives.

This surge in demand means that the race is now on to find a natural replacement that offers the same benefits of plastic for consumers, without the associated waste and pollution caused by production and end-of-life.

After 15 years of research at the University of Cambridge, Xampla is accelerating this trend with innovation that allows us to produce a film made from plant protein offering the same performance as plastic but is completely edible and safe to eat if it finds itself in the ocean or natural environment.

As we partner with household brands and roll this innovation out at scale, we are confident our technology will be used to replace traditional single-use plastic films across a range of different packaging products.

Xampla are returning to Rethinking Materials as Gold Partners for 2022. We look forward to meeting in person with Simon and the Xampla team at Rethinking Materials in London on May 4-5. Book your ticket now to join us!

Start-ups, click here to apply to pitch at Rethinking Materials 2022!