Food Companies Moving Towards A Circular Economy

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019 | 2513 Views

Circular economy is becoming the new sustainability buzzword term. Ecovia Intelligence finds there is growing investment from food companies this year.

The circular economy refers to a system in which materials and products are reused and recycled, rather than entering waste streams. Realising its importance, the EU introduced its circular economy strategy in 2018 which plans to have 65 percent target for recycling and reuse by 2035.

Growing consumer opposition to single-use plastics is making the food industry focus on packaging. Unilever recently announced that it will half its use of virgin plastics by 2025 and increase the use of recycled materials. The Anglo-Dutch company’s portfolio of 400 brands currently use 700,000 tonnes of plastic per year. It is already switching its Lipton Ice Tea bottles to 100 percent recycled plastics in Benelux. The move will save 1,400 tonnes of plastics and contribute 40 percent less carbon emissions.

The move to a circular economy also involves upcycling of ingredients. New enterprises are creating products using food waste (byproducts). San Francisco-based ReGrained is using brewer’s spent grain to make nutrition bars and snacks. Planetarians is another start-up that is producing plant-based protein from upcycled defatted sunflower seeds. At the Sustainable Foods Summit, the company will give details of its new technology that creates high protein flour for applications in processed foods and bakery products.

Food byproducts are also finding novel applications in the personal care industry. UK-based Keracol has created a range of natural dyes & hair care products from blackcurrant pulp. Marketed as ‘sustainable hair dyes’, Dr. Craft products were launched last year. Hair o’right made its mark by introducing natural hair care products containing coffee grounds. The Taiwanese company is now using goji berry roots and distillers grain in its products. Both companies are receiving recognition for these new products by becoming finalists in the 2019 Sustainable Beauty Awards.

The move towards a circular economy is gaining momentum. Ecovia Intelligence expects to see more such initiatives, involving sustainable packaging materials, upcycling and recycling of nutrients, as well as new retail formats. However, consumer behaviour is likely to be a major barrier. Consumers have been accustomed to frequently buying low priced products that are easily disposable.

The way forward will involve consumers buying sustainable products, extending product lifetimes, reducing wastage, and increasing recycling rates. The question is how soon will consumers be prepared to make such changes?


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