Canadian industrial ingredients company, Lallemand, today confirmed that it has closed a deal to buy another biotech business – Switzerland’s Evolva, after the latter’s shareholders voted by 91% in favour of the acquisition.

The deal was tied up at the end of December 2023 with Lallemand subsidiary Danstar Ferment making the acquisition. The transaction was originally announced to the Swiss Stock Exchange on 21 November last year and approved by Evolva Holding shareholders at an extraordinary general meeting on 21 December.

The decision to sell was due to financing challenges at the Swiss-listed company whose share price had collapsed by almost 100% over the past year. At their height, Evolva’s share price hit almost 7,000 Swiss francs in mid-2007 but by last year, just before the rescue was announced, the price had collapsed to below 4 Swiss francs.

Lallemand did not reveal what it paid for the Evolva business but it will have been at a bargain, fire-sale price. The Montreal-based company is a global player in the development, production and marketing of yeast, bacteria and speciality ingredients and celebrated its 100th anniversary in yeast production in September 2023 at its production plant on rue Préfontaine, Montreal.

100th anniversary year

Antoine Chagnon, president and CEO of Lallemand took the helm of the company in 2015, succeeding his father Jean, and grandfather Roland before him. In his grandfather’s day, the factory was originally dedicated to baker’s yeast for the local market but has evolved substantially.

Evolva, based in Reinach, Basel, is focused on the research, development and commercialisation of natural ingredients derived from yeast for the nutritional, healthcare, and wellness segments. Applications vary across the flavours and fragrances, health ingredients, cosmetics, and health protection sectors, all of which will ensure diversification for Evolva’s new parent.

Lallemand celebrated 100 years of yeast production last year.

President of Lallemand Bio-Ingredients, Lars Asferg, said: “Evolva offers us a strong strategic fit with our yeast-based technology platform. Evolva’s proprietary precision fermentation technology and research and development capabilities present an ideal platform from which to expand our product offering mainly within health ingredients like Veri-te resveratrol and flavour and fragrance aroma components like Valencene and natural Nootkatone.

Taking Evolva global

He added that the company would “continue to work with” Evolva’s existing suppliers and new and existing customers “to bring sustainable, yeast-based ingredients to markets globally” via Lallemand’s extensive commercial and operational network.

The Evolva team consists of just 48 employees. They are claimed to be pioneers in the field of natural molecules. Evolva Holding chairman, Stephan Schindler, commented after the shareholder vote on 21 December: “The board of directors regrets that, despite substantial operational improvements achieved over the last 20 months under the new management, the financing challenges made it impossible for Evolva to continue to develop its value potential as an independent stock-listed company.”

Lallemand Evolva

He added: “Given the dire alternative solutions, the transaction with Lallemand is, by far, the best option available for employees, partners, customers and shareholders. We would like to thank the Evolva shareholders for their support in securing the future of Evolva AG’s operations.”

Scaling up for the future

Lallemand has a diverse and global presence in 50 countries over five continents and employs more than 5,000 people. It operates 48 production facilities, including 24 yeast and 10 bacteria plants. On the food and drink side, the company develops, produces, and markets yeast, bacteria, fungi, and derivatives of these microorganisms for applications in baking, wine, beer, and distilled spirits.

Chagnon said: “We are all facing new challenges: climate change and feeding the entire planet are on the menu for the coming decades, and innovative microorganisms can play a key role in facing them.”

He added: “Among others, they can help us reduce carbon emissions, lower the use of antibiotics and chemical preservatives, increase the amount of plant proteins in our diet, and promote the use of microbial fertilizers or biological crop protection products that reduce the use of fossil products. We are also working on the next generation of probiotics to promote further health benefits.”

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