Ecotone invests US$21M to boost production of plant-based beverages in Italy
19 May 2022 --- French manufacturer Ecotone is investing €20 million (US$21 million) to increase its production capacity of plant-based beverages by 30%. The company has focused on growing its automation and reducing its carbon impact with a target of being powered with 100% green energy by 2030.
“A reorganization of the factory’s production workshop also allows for increased automation – with 50% of its intralogistics requiring no human intervention, and a fully automated production flow between bottling and loading pallets into trucks,” says the company.
“The new installation also reduces the use of plastic by 15% and optimizes transport with the elimination of 58 tons of CO2.”
The company has chosen its Italian plant due to its closeness to the organic raw materials to manufacture its products. Avoiding long supply chains in the current uncertain logistics environment.
With the current five production lines in Italy, 120 million liters of plant-based drinks leave the factory each year, half of the products going to France, where Ecotone generates 60% of its turnover.
“Plant-Based: The Canvas for Innovation” is set among the Top Ten Trends for 2022 by Innova Market Insights, with the global plant-based food market expected to amount to US$77.8 billion in 2025.
“Ecotone relies on a vast network of more than 100 producers or 4,500 hectares of 100% organic cultivation, grown without any pesticides, herbicides, insecticides or synthetic fertilizers, throughout Italy,” according to the company.
The business is also committed to alternative ingredients with more biodiversity by using 64% alternative ingredients free of the main nine plant species. One of these alternative ingredients is the company’s usage of forgotten ancient almond varieties like Montone and Rachele picola that they use for its almond milk.
The company is “committed to developing agroecological practices that go beyond the organic specifications (hedge planting, crop rotation or setting up hives in the fields) to promote more biodiversity and cultivate more than 35 plant species, thus stimulating cultivated biodiversity and the diversity of diets.”
According to the company, the facility operates exclusively on renewable energy, including a system of total circularity of water: whereby industrial washing water undergoes biological treatment with activated sludge and is then reused in agricultural production processes, says Ecotone.
The company also highlights its innovative co-generator, which recovers energy from the factory production and reuses it to supply the site with up to 40% of its electricity.
Ecotone target emissions are reducing Scope 1 & 2 by 55% in 2030 compared to 2017 and 43% on agricultural raw materials, transport and packaging by 2030 compared to 2017.
Plant-based beverage movements
Among notable developments in the beverage innovation space, Smoothie brand reHarvest Provisions is cutting food waste with its better-for-you portable smoothies – working with manufacturers and farmers to source, purchase and use discarded by-products such as cauliflower stems.
Rather than using processed concentrates, purees, flavors or additives, reHarvest uses the whole upcycled fruits and vegetables in their products. Each functional ready-to-drink smoothie blend reharvests about 30 g of fruits and vegetables, offsets over 4 g of CO2 and saves up to 30 liters of water from being wasted.
In other activities, a Univar study flagged citrus fiber as an alternative to traditional emulsifiers. Citrus fiber, a by-product of the juice industry, is pegged as the ideal upcycling and sustainability candidate to replace synthetic emulsifiers.
By Marc Cervera
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