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Asahi Kasei invests in US bio-based startup NFW

Asahi Kasei invests in US bio-based startup NFW
NFW is a producer of non-petroleum-based leather alternatives for car interiors (photo courtesy Asahi Kasei).

Japan-headed Asahi Kasei Corporation, a global developer of fiber products, chemicals, and electronics-related materials, has announced that it will invest in US-based startup NFW, a producer of non-petroleum-based leather alternatives for car interiors.

As part of Asahi Kasei’s medium-term growth strategy and in close cooperation with Sage Automotive Interiors, Inc. (Sage), an Asahi Kasei company and a leading global provider of innovative and functional materials for the automotive interior, this strategic partnership, the value of which has not been disclosed, enables another major step to support global automotive OEMs in reducing the environmental burden of automobiles.

Based in Peoria, Illinois (IL), NFW was founded in 2015 and has developed the only platform capable of producing precision-engineered, natural (non-petroleum-based) leather, foam, and textiles to replace animal and petrochemical-based materials.

Certified by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as having 100 percent biobased content, “MIRUM”, the company’s patented leather alternative, is made from natural rubber, natural fibers, plant oils, natural pigments, and minerals.

According to Asahi Kasei, the material offers superior durability and quality that can replace traditional animal-based or synthetic leather products without the use of any polyurethane or other coatings.

Jointly develop biobased and fully circular automotive interiors

Sage is engaged in developing, manufacturing, and selling innovative functional materials used in automobile interiors globally.

Since its acquisition by Asahi Kasei in 2018, Sage has strengthened its business activities in Europe and China through mergers and acquisitions in parallel to expanding its lineup of growth-potential materials such as suede and synthetic leather.

As one of the leading global suppliers in the car seat fabric market, Sage has a strong presence among automakers and suppliers.

The cooperation with NFW will enable Asahi Kasei and Sage to assist global automakers in reducing the environmental burden of their cars. By jointly developing and manufacturing a non-petroleum-based and fully circular leather alternative, the Asahi Kasei Group takes a leading position in revolutionizing the market for car interior materials, commented Dirk Pieper, Chairman of the Sage Board of Directors and Lead Executive for the development and growth of Asahi Kasei’s overall automotive product offering.

First investment in the “Care for Earth” framework

The car interior material business is one of Asahi Kasei’s “10 Growth Gears” (GG10)—businesses that are to drive future growth, targeting more than 70 percent of operating income around 2030.

The cooperation with NFW is the first project within Asahi Kasei’s “Care for Earth” investment framework, announced in April 2023.

Asahi Kasei allocated up to US$100 million for investments worldwide in early-stage startups that aim to solve issues in environmental fields such as hydrogen, energy storage, carbon management, and bio-based chemicals over the 5-year period up to fiscal 2027.

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