Polygiene’s innovation to Combat COVID
Interview with Ulrika Björk, CEO
A lot of research is being carried out globally on improving the functional characteristics of fabrics. One area that has caught the attention in recent times has been that of odor control technologies. Sweden-based Polygiene, with its Stays Fresh technologies has emerged as a front runner in this field.
We caught up with Ulrika Björk, CEO of the company to find out more about its breakthrough innovations, its new launch- ViralOff® , its presence in India, partnership with Royal Enfield , and the future for specially treated fabrics in the post Covid -19 scenario, among others.
Here are the edited excerpts.
Beginning the interaction with a brief introduction of the company, Ulrika mentioned: “Back in 2004, the SARS epidemic was raging. Demand for antiviral and antibacterial treatments was soaring. As smart scientists and technicians at the Swedish chemical company Perstorp came up with new solutions. A new company was spun off – Polygiene. But memory of SARS waned, and we focused instead on consumer products and the environmental benefit of washing less and making garments more sustainable. Now Corona has changed the world. So, we have rapidly gone back to our roots in the healthcare sector and our knowhow and learnings on combating viruses, and today we announce the launch of a new product – ViralOff®, a Polygiene technology.”
Going into details regarding the types of solutions offered by the company she said: “We offer 3 types of solutions. Let us take a look at them one by one.
- Polygiene Stays Fresh Biostatic technology – Odor control based on a silver salt solution. You put on a t-shirt and bacteria soon start thriving and multiplying which makes the t-shirt smelly. Any attempt to hide, delay or absorb odor will fail unless you deal with the basic problem: bacterial growth. This odor-control technology inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria and stops the odor at the source, permanently.
- Polygiene Stays Fresh Odor Crunch technology – Odor control based on a sand and water solution. Environmental odors such as cooking fumes and cigarette smoke tend to stick to your garments. To stop this, we have developed the Odor Crunch, which consists of silica, the main ingredient in sand, and water. Once the odor molecules have stuck to the modified silica particles in Odor Crunch, they will be crunched and cracked to smaller odorless molecules and the odor is permanently eliminated. This technology has won the Scandinavian Outdoor Group (SOG) Sustainability Award 2019.
- Combination of the Stays Fresh technologies. In most cases, combining these two technologies – stopping the growth of odor-causing bacteria and cracking environmental odors to stop the offensive odor – will be the most efficient solution and truly keep the stays fresh-promise. Products and garments will feel fresh and clean despite sweaty conditions and smelly environments.”
The company has a global presence. “We are working in almost all regions of the world right now. Especially with our work with ViralOff®, as there is a major need for these sorts of technologies right now. Both for the people working on the front lines but also for all of us that are now looking to try and begin living our “new normal” lives,” Ulrika stated.
Given the fact that the entire world is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, it was but natural that the conversation veered towards antimicrobial solutions. Ulrika pointed out that the company launched ViralOff® technology in April 2020 to specifically address the current pandemic and provide a technology that can be applied as a finish to textiles to minimize the spread of transmittable diseases and has an antiviral effect.
“ViralOff has a 99% reduction of viruses, in a textile or material, over two hours, according to a standard ISO18184:2019 test. When we developed ViralOff, we had two criteria we wanted to fulfill: First, we should be able to show a real antiviral effect that could be tested by a standard test. In that way, our partners can make actual and professional claims. Secondly, this treatment should be applied on products where it is relevant to have an antiviral effect. Today that encompasses both products in the care segments, as well as products for the public in environments where we need additional protection,” she elaborated.
Throwing light on the company’s presence in the Indian market Ulrika said:” We have an office with commercial and technical operations in India. We have been growing our business in India and South Asia a lot past year and we will continue doing so, looking ahead. The expertise, quality and opportunity in this market is great and we look forward to growing our partnerships and opportunities in these regions. We have also built a close association with Ezma, Carbonado, JCT, Nahar, Tyka Sports and other corporate mills sectors to further our presence and ease of working with Polygiene in India.
Environment friendly solutions
The company has always been known for its strong sustainability focus, which is evident from the solutions it offers to the textile industry. Elaborating further on the topic Ulrika said:” We provide a branded stays fresh solution to our partners and the end consumer. By doing so, we provide a real sustainability story to our partners and the gear and apparel they make. By simply skipping a wash load with your Polygiene treated gear, you are extending the lifetime of your garment as the article won’t incur the wear and tear that comes from a washer and drying machine. Hence, providing a real environmental benefit. Additional benefits include the water savings you provide by washing less, minimized microfiber shedding, less detergents being washed down the drain, plus the time gained by doing less laundry – major wins for the earth and the consumer!”
Polygiene had been in news recently for its partnership with the iconic Royal Enfield brand. What is the partnership all about? Replying to this she revealed:” We are very proud to start a joint partnership with Royal Enfield. Our aim is to create an added value for every customer and in terms of this iconic brand we hope to add a real advantage for the end-users, the riders. When on the road they now will stay fresh, can travel light, and wash less. We are looking forward to adding unique advantages with our technology to the entire product range of Royal Enfield apparel going forward”, says Ulrika Björk, CEO at Polygiene, before adding: “We are very happy to help spread the important message of #REGearUp, together with Royal Enfield.”
Given the fact that there are many organizations offering similar solutions globally, why should a customer consider partnering with Polygiene? Responding to this question, Ulrika said:” We are a brand rather than a technology company. We want to be recognized, understood and valued by the ones using the treated product. And, therefore, we supply hangtags and labels, as well as deeper sustainability and branding messages so the wearer understands why this product stays fresh and can be washed less. As our brand is understood and valued by more users, we can change washing and disposal habits, and really reduce the environmental impact of a product. As a result, this will raise the brand value of our partners, as well as increase their sales too.”
Giving an overview of the company’s manufacturing and R&D infrastructure she said:” Our R&D department is run by our CTO Daniel Röme in Malmo, Sweden who is continuously working on different formulations and products towards our sustainability goals. We have strategic partnerships with manufacturers in the UK and Sweden for our suppliers”.
On a parting note we asked Ulrika about the emerging consumer trends, post Covid – 19 pandemic, in terms of increasing preference for specially treated fabrics.
“We see a continued value placed on antiviral and antimicrobial performance for gear, apparel, PPE and accessories but tied into a more sustainability approach. Meaning that we can look more focused on items that we use in our daily lives that can use this type of technology but also on a higher-level approach regarding the quality of production and design of product,” she said signing off.