In recent years, the demand for biotechnology in cleaning has been on the rise due to its effectiveness in providing eco-friendly and sustainable solutions to the cleaning industry. Biotechnology involves the use of biological agents or living organisms to create useful products and services, and in cleaning, it has shown significant potential in improving the efficiency and safety of cleaning processes. 

Victoria Meyer chats with Rashda Khan, Sr. Director of Product Innovation for Barentz, a member of the HI&I leadership team, and is responsible for support across the business, driving new product development, and innovation efforts. 

Topics discussed this week: 

  • Product innovation in the value chain now versus many years back
  • Increased demand for biotechnology in the cleaning  industry 
  • Drivers that are moving us toward biotechnology in the cleaning world
  • Education for the consumer, the customer, and the end user
  • Challenges in  commercializing and scaling in bio-based products and applications
  • Rashda’s role as Barentz influences the formulations, specifications, and applications of the new products
  • The innovation process at Barentz 
  • Being empathetic to our customers and our consumers
  • Striking a balance when having innovation opportunities, and an array of potential suppliers
  • Challenges in innovation during and after the pandemic

This is a great and interesting conversation, so tune in!  

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Increasing Demand of Biotechnology in Cleaning with Rashda Khan of Barentz

Welcome back to The Chemical Show. This week, I have the opportunity to speak with Rashda Khan, who is the Sr. Director of Product Innovation for Barentz. She is also a member of the HI&I leadership team. She’s responsible for support across the business, driving new product development, and innovation efforts. She’s held multiple leadership roles at Barentz, and also at some other leading HI&I companies, including Reckitt Benckiser and Clorox. We’re gonna have a great conversation. In fact, this conversation stems from the one that I had earlier at ACI this year. So we’re going to be talking about innovation, and green and buggy and other things. So, Rashda, welcome to The Chemical Show.

Thank you, Victoria. It’s wonderful to be here.

I’m glad to have you here. Let’s start out by talking about your origin story. What got you interested in chemicals, and what eventually brought you to Barentz?

I’ve been in the chemical interest industry for a while. I went to graduate school. I graduated with a chemistry degree and did college recruiting. My first job was in Pleasanton, California, within the R&D organization of Clorox. I started as a junior scientist, a formulator in the homecare space. One of the first projects I was assigned was to get designed for the environment certification for a new product. I was at Clorox for many years, as a junior scientist, senior scientist, and technical project manager evolved, and then I got an opportunity to move out of state. 

So I moved my family to New Jersey to Reckitt Benckiser where I led a global innovation team. The first ever Lysol Laundry Sanitizer was launched. It was a fascinating experience, working in a global setting in South America, India, Germany, and other countries. When I moved to New Jersey, my husband actually had a hard time. So he actually moved the family to Florida. I kind of went all around the country, like to California and New Jersey.

Was this during the pandemic, by chance? Because I know everybody was moving during the pandemic.

I moved to Florida in 2019. It’s just before the pandemic. My husband moved the family, so then settled here, and I got the opportunity to join Barentz. I’ve been serving product innovation for most of my career. I love finding new ways of developing new products, being creative, and adding value to everything I touch. So now I’m at Barentz as the Sr. Director of Product Innovation. It’s actually a newly created role within HI&I, which is household, industrial, and institutional cleaning. So it’s totally in line with my experience, and my first experience in a distributor. 

I come from, the formulators that actually develop the products, and launch them to consumers. It’s a very consumer-relevant type of experience in the past and it’s also professional. A lot of these large companies also have I&I formulations. So that’s my experience. And distribution is kind of you’re in the middle. So taking an ingredient that is from a supplier and selling it to the customers who are formulators. It’s a very different experience. I’m learning a lot every day. It’s wonderful. I feel like the value that I can bring being on the other side, being a formulator is huge.

That’s interesting. I could see that. We talk about companies like Clorox and Reckitt as being the formulators and yet, as a distributor, like Barentz, there’s also a lot of formulation work that takes place. What do you see as the biggest differences in terms of where you sit in the value chain now versus previously?

It’s fascinating to me how, in the distribution world, we are a dial fast, nimble. How quick we can be? I think we are a little bit smarter because we have visibility to a lot of things. The world is your oyster. Look at all these ingredients, and then how you can put them together, and how you can actually demonstrate the technical expertise to customers. It’s a very interesting dynamic. I think you learn a lot. And you know a lot about technology and applications in that process.


Demand of Biotechnology: Biotechnology includes enzymes and microbes. 
Microbes are also known as probiotics. Enzymes are utilized in the laundry 
on a global scale. They're in many different applications. But within professionals or I&I, 
they're the fastest-growing ingredients.


Interesting! In Episode 86, I was recounting some highlights from this year’s ACI conference, and one of the themes is green and buggy. And I know that there’s a lot going on in the world of biotechnology. Are you seeing an increased demand for biotechnology and cleaning, and why?

Biotechnology and cleaning are very hot topics. The short answer is yes. There is an increasing demand, for the consumer, products, and professionals. Biotechnology includes enzymes and microbes. Microbes are also known as probiotics. Enzymes are utilized in laundry dishes on a global scale. They’re in many different applications. But within professionals or I&I, they’re the fastest-growing ingredients. A lot of proteases and cellulases are used. A lot of the concentrated forms have enzymes. You will have lower energy costs as you have cold-wash temperatures and concentrations. With regard to biotech technology and enzymes, that’s what I’m seeing in terms of the trends.

What are the drivers that are taking us to more biotechnology in the cleaning world?

I mentioned enzymes, and the second big biotechnology is microbes. That’s the bacteria. I don’t know if you’ve heard of those microbes that are fascinating. To me, they are smart materials and help you clean in a very efficient way. I recently read an article that says within the USA, companies launched cleaning products for the first time about six years ago, and have seen remarkable growth since then. So I think between 2020 and 2022, there’s been so many new products being launched, cleaning products that have microbes. From a global perspective, Europe and Asia actually have a lot more than the US. 

I believe it’s something like 60% of new products have been launched in Europe and Asia with bacteria in them. It’s expected that it’ll continue to grow and pick up in other regions of the world. In the chemistry of microbes, the most common species is bacillus. These are safe class one organism and are activated with food and water. So they just need a little bit of what they like to eat,. Microbes produce enzymes specific to the soil that exists on the surface. So if you’re trying to clean, they’re smart, and they actually attack the soil, according to what’s on in terms of what the organic bacterias are.

That’s interesting. So what strikes me is there have been certain products and maybe mostly hard surface cleaners that use the claims of being anti-microbial. I’ve seen this claim many times in advertising and other things. antimicrobial. Are we now going to start seeing a posting claim that it’s microbial or is it more just that people are approaching it as a green-based cleaning?

That’s a very good question. So regulations are still being established with this technology and cleaning products. It’s not an EPA-regulated product that you develop. You need to have actives that are approved by the EPA to make any sanitization or disinfection claims. You cannot do that. With microbes, the benefits that you see are a lot of the performance. You get odor removal from the source. It’s not just masking it with the residual action because as  I said that when microbes are activated with food or water, they continue cleaning for a long time. Especially in industries where they’re cleaning less, this type of technology is really beneficial, where you can have long-lasting and residual cleaning on your surface.

Where do you see that? What industries do you see being most interested right now in this?

There are a lot of them in pet care, of course. During the pandemic, there is a lot more pet owners. This is a very common technology. 

My dog is really stinky at the moment. In fact, I told my daughter that after school, we’re gonna give her a bath because she needs one desperately. So long-lasting, pet odor removal will be awesome.

So pet care is a huge area. Also, carpets and hard surfaces work very well in those types of microbes. With drain and septic drain, it’s been used for a very long time for grease removal, helping mitigate clogs over time, and then tile and grout. You can actually see on the grout that you’re getting cleaning efficacy on it over time. And then I say one of the niche applications is turf. So artificial grass, I don’t know if you’ve heard of that, but a lot of pets go on turf, and you need to remove odors and soils on turf as well. It’s fascinating. 

There is increased demand, within the consumer, products, and professionals Share on X

Uses that we probably would have never had maybe 10 years ago, I think about the turf for your pets. But that’s interesting. It’s a very evolving market.

And with microbes, I feel with the innovation in this type of product. It’s education for the consumer, the customer, and the end user. The customer is not going to tell you that they want this. It’s an educational opportunity, providing knowledge as to what the benefits are of this type of technology. I think this is how we innovate in this space.

When you think about the consumers, they actually care about an outcome. They don’t necessarily care how they get to that outcome. Nobody really understands the chemistry of cleaning products. They just know that they want stain removal or odor removal, or they have a particular issue that they want to be solved. So it’s really up to the industry to formulate for that and the marketers to help solve those problems and communicate that.

Absolutely! It’s the perception. You have to understand what the perception is, and then tweak your formulation to deliver on that. I was reading an article recently, and it says that in Europe, they’re actually using microbes in the hospital setting. So they’re seeing that it’s actually having a very beneficial cleaning in terms of on hard surfaces. It actually avoids and drops the amount of hospital-acquired infections, when you clean with this type of technology versus the usual chemical disinfectants. It was fascinating to read this. I don’t know in terms of the commercial aspect of it, how far it’s gone, but this article was talking about the performance benefits that are being seen with microbes in the hospital. And then also antimicrobial resistance is also increased with this technology.

I can see kind of a continued evolution, particularly when we think about antibacterial. It’s popular, but there have also been some voices that have said, oh, we shouldn’t have antibacterial. The microbes are kind of the next step of kind of maybe the next generation. So as you said, the regulations are still evolving. And it probably will be for a while yet.

That’s what I think. 

Maybe we’ve touched on this, but some of these bio-based product areas are fairly mature, as we’ve talked about, and others are still really developing. What are some of the challenges that you see companies facing as they’re trying to commercialize and scale in these bio-based products and applications?

So some of the challenges can be how you formulate these bio-based products. That’s one of the key aspects. How do you attain better performance with a bio-based product? A lot of the work has to be done in terms of providing science- based proof. So providing data and results that actually give the evidence that it’s the same or better. And then the other aspect is looking at it from beginning to end. With bio-based products, there are a lot of challenges. I have to say with sustainability, it’s such a big topic right now. And it has many different functions and facets to it. 

So beginning to end needs to be looked at, from the feedstock, the manufacturing process, and the impact on their carbon footprint. Those are a lot of the challenges, but at the end of the day, I think it’s going to be what are benefits and what is the performance. How can we be smart and utilize bio-based products? Where’s the opportunity? For example, we just talked about microbes and probiotics, if professional institutions are cleaning less, this fits in right there. Perhaps you can have a formulation that you don’t need to use that much that often. And it meets kind of that holistic sustainability and cost parameters that a customer has.

Demand of Biotechnology: Some of the tenants that Barentz lives by the knowledge, 
partnership, and entrepreneurship, delivering ingredients and customized 
solutions for a sustainable world. That is key. That is the backbone of our values


And it maybe fits the scale of these new bio-based products. I mean, sales is such an issue right now and just trying to find companies that are working on scaling their new technologies for the demand, and trying to meet that. It seems to have been a bit more challenging with the bio-based. So if the net usage is less because the cleaning patterns change. It starts fitting in a little bit better.

The other challenge is, again, education. A lot of these needs that the benefits that are coming out are unarticulated by the users. I think education is going to be a huge part of it, and the knowledge of what our bio-based products bring to us to the industry.

As we’ve already talked about Barentz, it really sits in the middle between the formulators the consumer products, or the industrial products, companies, and the actual producers, How does Barentz influence these formulations, or even specifications and applications of the new products? What role do you play in that?

As I said earlier, I’m new to distribution. I’ve learned that in this industry, one has to be fast and nimble, and perhaps more knowledgeable, sitting in the middle. Ultimately, we have to excel in the technical formulary and the new solutions for all the formulators. Some of the tenants that Barentz lives by is knowledge, partnership, and entrepreneurship, delivering ingredients and customized solutions for a sustainable world. That is key. That is the backbone of our values. So I think that really helps us sit in the middle, develop an understanding of a lot of the technical aspects from suppliers, and provide the best solution to our customers.

Let’s talk about innovation a little bit. That’s your focus, and it seems like it’s been your focus for quite a long time. What does the innovation process look like at Barentz? Where does it start? Where does it end? How do you progress through that process?

To me, innovation is everywhere. It’s not just a product. It could be a process. It’s everywhere. So how can we think of new ways of doing things and developing things that add value? So at Barentz, there are three main factors. The first one is technical and ideation expertise. That’s the first part. It’s the formulary expertise that I mentioned previously. And then knowing how to reframe problems, how to connect, and build in connected thinking, and ideation. That’s very important. It goes along with technical expertise. So that’s one aspect of it. 

The second aspect is the product portfolio. This is where our principles and our suppliers play a huge role. Expanding the product portfolio and having the right products to provide solutions to our customers is absolutely critical. And the third aspect is market insight and intelligence. This is the consumer insights, the customer insights. In innovation, in general, we need to have the technical expertise as the backbone but we need to have empathy for the consumer, empathy for the customer, and empathy with our team members along with curiosity. Those are the three things, which are curiosity, ideating, looking for new solutions, and being innovative.

That’s really good. That’s a really interesting take on it. But I think you’re right, we have to be empathetic to our customers and our consumers to be able to meet their needs and into the team as well, as you go through this process, That was really good.

Empathy is really understanding the other person’s struggle. So it could be a win- win situation. What is the struggle that they’re trying to solve?

Yeah, that’s really awesome. How do you prioritize this? Almost every company has a large number of potential projects, innovations, and ideas that people want to work on. And frankly, there are always time and resource limitations. How do you set the priorities for this? How do you sort through that? Because I mean, you’re leading a team that probably has a lot of things they want to do, and you want them to be successful at all, but they can’t get to all of them. So how do you manage that?

I think it’s a combination of many different types of projects. You need to first work on the ones that have business value. It’s a pipeline. So in terms of the pipeline in the future, what are some of the immediate projects that need to get done? And they may have a different value versus some of the longer-term and larger projects. I think, at the end of the day, there’s, there’s customer needs that we need to attend to. But we have to balance with the team on how projects are assigned and executed.

Innovation is everywhere. It's not just a product. It could be a process. It's everywhere. Share on X

This may be a hot topic, but I think one of the challenges is, obviously, you have a number of suppliers and principles that are serving you, and then through you, you’re serving the customers. How do you strike that balance when you have innovation opportunities, and you’ve got an array of potential suppliers? Are you targeting specific suppliers for specific solutions? Is it a partnership that you together say, hey, let’s together tackle this challenge in this innovation opportunity? How does that go?

I think having a lot of options is wonderful. That’s absolutely needed to have a lot of products in the portfolio in terms of how it’s prioritized and what we utilize. The first thing is what does the customer need? What do they want? What kind of solution? Do they want to have a green? What percentage of bio-based do they want? What performance metrics do they have? Those are all key things that help converge from the wide array of ingredients that we have. Which ones can we try and develop into this formulation and that application? I think that’s the first thing. And then, keep in mind the trends. What’s happening currently, and in the future? I think having a broad view and a long-term view that also sets priorities and strategies within the company as to what projects and what ingredients are used.

Before we started recording, we talked about some of the changes and challenges with the pandemic, and then work from home and then back to the office. And as you were saying, innovation requires a lot of engagement. Because there are multiple people and multiple roles along the way to be able to serve needs to understand what’s going on. How has the pandemic impacted the innovation process? What’s been helpful and what’s different today versus where we were three years ago?

That’s a loaded question. I feel that it’s a whole new process now. We have new habits. We have different ways of working. And there are new ways of doing innovation. Personally, I like to have that face-to-face interaction. That’s how you can be creative. That’s how you can ideate. I think a lot comes with that face-to-face and physical interaction. So when that’s not available, it’s like okay, turn your camera on. On the team’s call, let’s make sure we can see each other because not everybody is able to be in person and it’s the nature of the business I think we have settled in a new way of working, which is a hybrid from before. Now, it’s tricky. I have to ask myself, what is the objective or the goal for each project as we go into a meeting with team members, internal or external? Then decide, how we want to have this. Can we have a team call?  Do we need to be face-to-face? That’s how I’m handling it.

Awesome! I know Barentz is global. So it’s got people in multiple locations. Do you typically find the way that you’re organized is most of your team local to you in Florida? Or, are you typically working across locations and regions?

I’m with HI&I. So this is focused in North America. So a lot of the communication and interaction with team members is within North America.

Got it! We’ve talked a lot about kind of where the evolution is with cleaning and bringing biotechnology and innovative new products. Is there anything in specific that we should be keeping an eye on what’s going to be coming to the market soon?

Definitely, there are two products that come to mind. And I also want to mention that biotechnology is not the only green product out there. There’s a lot of other hot stuff. In terms of green, we talked about fermentation a little bit. There are also surfactants and solvents that are being manufactured in different ways. There are newer technologies as well out there. But there are two exciting products that Barentz has launched. One is called the BioNat. This is a multi-component ingredient. 

It brings enzyme bio-based non-ionic surfactant, and stabilizing ingredients and allows for the formulation, manufacturing, blending, procurement, and simplicity. So simplicity, I don’t know if you’ve heard of this, but this is huge. So having simple formulations, and simple manufacturing processes, BioNat delivers on that. And there are two new products, and they’re a very high percentage of bio-based, almost 100%. That is the first product. And the second product is the J-Zyme Multi Spore ingredients. So to bring smart applications and sustainable cleaning, we have many different ingredients in our portfolio.

What applications do you see these products going into? I approached it as a consumer. When is it showing up on my store shelf?

So BioNat would be within laundry applications. manual dish, and those types of applications, and then the J-Zyme Multi Spore we talked about in detail. So this could be within the pet care market, carpets, hard surfaces, litter boxes, and many others.

I have all of those things. Awesome! Well, this has been really interesting, Rashda. Thank you so much. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you and getting to know a bit more about some of these biotechnology trends and how they’re coming to market, etc. Thank you for joining us today.

Thank you so much, Victoria. It’s been a pleasure.

Absolutely! And thank you, everyone, for joining us today on The Chemical Show. Keep listening, liking, sharing, and following. We’ll talk again soon.


Important Links:


    About Rashda Khan:

    Rashda Khan is an accomplished R&D leader and skilled at creating products from concept to commercialization in the consumer goods industry. With her entrepreneurial and collaborative leadership style and over 17 years of professional experience, she strives to add value and knowledge to every team. 

    Currently serving as the Sr. Director of Product Innovation for Barentz, she is a member of the HI&I leadership team in North America.  She is responsible for support across the business, driving new product development and innovation efforts. She has held multiple leadership roles in the past, including as a Global R&D Manager for Reckitt Benckiser. Rashda started her career as a product development scientist at Clorox and has contributed to several patents in the home cleaning space. She holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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