LiquiGlide signs deal with big European firm for mayonnaise out of bottles

LiquiGlide's partnership will be with a new, unreleased European mayonnaise brand.
LiquiGlide's partnership will be with a new, unreleased European mayonnaise brand.

LiquiGlide, an MIT spinout that makes super-slippery coatings, has inked a deal that will put its technology in the homes of millions of people around the world.

Orkla ASA, an $8 billion Norwegian company that sells packaged foods and condiments in Europe and Asia, will license LiquiGlide’s slippery coatings for a brand of mayonnaise due to be launched in the next year in northern and central Europe.

LiquiGlide will help Orkla purchase the necessary equipment and ingredients to coat the insides of the bottles, essentially licensing the recipe. The company did not disclose the terms of the deal.

LiquiGlide co-founder Dave Smith developed the technology as a student at the MIT lab of materials scientist Kripa Varanasi in 2012. The two intended to take their idea for super-slippery spray-on coatings to the oil and gas industry. Their reasoning was that a coating for oil pipelines could prevent expensive clogs in underwater lines.

When Smith took the idea to the MIT $100K business plan contest a few months in, his group instead decided to approach the vast consumer market first. For companies making household cleaners or consumer products, it could reduce waste on factory equipment, for example, and regular people could get the most out of their bottles of honey or hair gel.

To demonstrate, Smith posted a video of ketchup sliding out of a glass bottle on YouTube. It turned out to be an unlikely hit online and caught the attention of various big companies. A few months after that, Smith dropped out of MIT and started LiquiGlide.

In the last three years, Smith’s team has created versions of the coating for a variety of sticky substances, such as peanut butter, shampoo, and toothpaste.

That change of direction seems to be paying off. The company moved into new office and lab spaces in March after getting $7 million in a first round of funding from Roadmap Capital and announced its first major partnership — a licensing agreement with glue maker Elmer’s.

Smith hopes the mayonnaise deal will convince everybody else that LiquiGlide’s coatings are safe. “I think the fact that we have something food-safe in the market — that will be a proof point for a lot of the industry,” Smith said.

Deals are also underway with a cosmetics company in the United States and a paint manufacturer in Australia.

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at nidhi.subbaraman@globe.com.
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