Lycopene Production


Lycopene quality depends on the production process. Actually, lycopene is obtained by two different technologies:

  • traditional procedure, involving the use of chemical solvents (synthetic and natural lycopene)
  • innovative procedure that uses supercritical carbon dioxide (SC-CO2) extraction (organic lycopene).

The use of chemical solvents in the production process is one of the main factors that define the quality of the different types of lycopene obtained.


Synthetic lycopene is the final product of a series of reactions, starting from synthetic reagents and using chemical solvents. The final product may often contain traces of chemical solvents, impurities and reaction by-products, which could be toxic and very dangerous for the health.

This industrial production of synthetic lycopene has a negative environmental impact due to the high amount of chemical solvents utilized.

Synthetic lycopene is highly concentrated, it has a purity of 90-95% and it could not be utilized as it is for human consumption. In fact, it has a very low bioavailability and is very labile to air and light. The dietary supplements including this kind of lycopene are obtained by diluting lycopene up to 1-10% with vegetable oils, preservatives and other exogenous chemicals.


Natural lycopene is obtained by extraction from red-ripe tomatoes or tomato pomace (skins) with chemical solvents. No specific restrictions are required, thus OGM varieties or pesticides treated tomatoes could be utilized for the extraction. Different types of contaminants could be found in the final extract such as pesticides accumulated in the skins of the fruits, toxic impurities from the solvents or process residues.

This industrial production of natural lycopene has a negative environmental impact due to the high amounts of chemical solvents used .

Natural lycopene is highly concentrated, it has a purity of 50-60%, it could not be utilized as it is for human consumption. In fact, natural lycopene is insoluble in water, has a very low bioavailability and it is very labile when exposed to air and light. The dietary supplements are obtained by diluting natural lycopene up to 1-10% with vegetable oils, preservatives and other additives.


Organic lycopene is obtained with an innovative technology developed by our Company in collaboration with the University of Salento (Department of Biological and Environmental Science and Technology – Di.S.Te.B.A. – Laboratories of Botany and Cellular Plant Biology; Department Innovation Engineering – Laboratory of General and Inorganic Chemistry) and the CNR-ISPA – Institutes of Bari and Lecce. This technology does not use organic solvents.

Organic lycopene is extracted by supercritical carbon dioxide (SC-CO2) from organic certified red-ripe tomatoes (OGM free, pesticides free, dioxins free, heavy metals free). This is a patented process (WO/2008/015490).

Organic lycopene is 100% natural, solvents-free and organic certified (Reg. CE 834/2007).

Organic lycopene has a high natural bioavailability and it could be used as dietary supplement, without dilution with additives or preservatives.

Organic lycopene is obtained with a environmentally-friendly process.

Organic Lycopene Bulk



Organic lycopene is a high quality product obtained with an innovative and patented procedure1,2 and patent (patent nr. 0001354930) solvent-free and environmentally-friendly.  It allows to obtain highest quality product.

EPSON DSC picture

Operating principle

A supercritical fluid is obtained by submitting a gas to temperatures and pressures above its critical point. It can diffuse through solids like a gas but has the solvent properties of a liquid. Supercritical fluids are suitable as a substitute for organic solvents. Carbon dioxide (CO2) critical point is: 31° C and 73 bar.



The advantages of supercritical fluid extraction (compared with solvent extraction) are that it is relatively rapid because of the low viscosities and high diffusivities associated with supercritical fluids. The extraction can be selective to some extent by controlling the density of the medium and the extracted material is easily recovered by simply depressurizing, allowing the supercritical fluid to return to gas phase and evaporate leaving no or little solvent residues. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most common supercritical solvent. It is used on a large scale for the decaffeination of green coffee beans, the extraction of hops for beer production, and the production of essential oils and pharmaceutical products from plants. Moreover, the plants for supercritical fluid extraction are environmentally-friendly and have low risks for the operators which are not exposed to chemical solvents.

The benefits of technology with SC-CO2

The use of carbon dioxide as the extraction solvent, compared to the traditional chemical solvents toxic and dangerous, presents significant advantages which can be summarized briefly

  • Production of plant extracts of high quality and free of residual chemical solvents, generally toxic and dangerous.
  • Production process more simple and quick with a plant completely environmentally friendly, without production of scraps and / or slurry processing and / or emission of pollutants. In fact, the carbon dioxide with which we extract lycopene from tomato fruits is not toxic or harmful (breathe), non-flammable (used to extinguish fires and causes no harm to the environment or to people) and is economic. After the processing, it does not remain in the finished product because it is a gas at ambient temperature and pressure.
  • The use of carbon dioxide (CO2) as the extraction solvent minimizes exposure of the worker to the problems of hygiene and safety of work, common in all the chemical plants that make use of traditional technologies based on chemical solvents, toxic and dangerous.

1. Innovative supercritical CO2 extraction of lycopene from tomato in the presence of vegetable oil as co-solvent. J.of Supercritical Fluids 29 (2004) 87-96. Giuseppe Vasapolloa, Luigia Longoa , Leonardo Resciob, Loredana Ciurliab – (a) Dipartimento di Ingegneria dell’Innovazione, Università di Lecce, Via Arnesano, 73100 Lecce, Italy – (b) PIERRE S.r.l., s.s. 476 Km 17, 650 Galatina (LE), Italy.

2. Supercritical carbon dioxide co-extraction of tomatoes (Lycopersicum esculentum L.) and hazelnuts (Corilus avellana L.). A new procedure in obtaining a source of natural lycopene. Journal of Supercritical Fluids 49 (2009)-338-344. Leonardo Rescio, Loredana Ciurlia, Mauro Bleve. PIERRE S.r.l, SP 362 km 17,650, 73013 Galatina (LE) Italy.