The food and beverage industry has entered the “planting era”, and sustainable development is imperative

Stachyose food additives

The food and beverage industry has entered the “planting era”, and sustainable development is imperative

18/10/2021 blog 0

From the global popularity of plant-based products to the increasing number of vegetarians in recent years, the concept of environmentally sustainable health has begun to permeate all walks of life, and the food and beverage industry is no exception. From the product itself, there will be waste in the entire chain of food and beverage production, transportation, processing, and sales. At the same time, in terms of the external design and packaging of products, the large-scale use of hard-to-degrade plastic packaging materials poses a huge threat to the sustainability of the environment.

Public data shows that since the early 1950s, the world has produced more than 8.3 billion tons of plastic, and about 60% of the plastic ends up in landfills or the natural environment. The impact of plastics on the environment and biodiversity is irreversible. A plastic revolution followed. At the FBIF 2021 Food and Beverage Innovation Forum held by Simba Events, from the hot plant milk to the environmentally friendly trash cans that can be seen everywhere in the venue to the sustainability-related keynote speeches, all of them interpret the importance of “sustainability” for food and beverage innovation.

Sustainable innovation, starting from packaging

As early as 2009, the Coca-Cola Company has launched a plant-based environmental protection bottle, which contains 30% renewable plant raw materials and is a recyclable PET plastic bottle. This is an innovative breakthrough in the packaging field. Nowadays, many companies use their own advantages from their areas of expertise, and continue to implement the concept of sustainable development. Tetra Pak is a company dedicated to creating global sustainable food packaging solutions, and continues to introduce better, more convenient, higher-value and more efficient packaging in response to modern market needs.

Mr. Zhu Yidong, general manager of Tetra Pak Greater China, pointed out that the food and beverage industry has experienced three innovations and pain points. The first is to solve the problem of eating and drinking. During this period, the entire food and beverage industry was born from 0 to 1, and many large companies were born. Based on the basic satisfaction of eating and drinking, the second pain point is to solve the problem of eating well and drinking well. Consumers have higher requirements for product quality, taste, appearance design, and appearance, which brings new opportunities for consumption upgrades in the entire food and beverage industry. The third pain point is the “sustainability issue”. Specifically, what people have today will still have them tomorrow, and will they be sustainable?

Sustainable development has become inevitable, whether it is from the population base, the climate issue, or the shortage of resources. First of all, the global population will grow to 9.7 billion in 2050, and the rapid population growth will increase the demand for food supply by 50%. At the same time, food waste is inevitable. It is estimated that nearly 31% of food and beverages are produced each year. Waste in the process of transportation and consumption, all of this demand is growing. Secondly, global warming has become one of the major issues facing mankind, and a quarter of climate warming is related to the food and beverage industry. Finally, food resources become scarce as the population increases, which requires exploring new food systems and more environmentally sustainable production methods.

Plant-based plastics, a more sustainable way

Under normal circumstances, most plastics come from chemical petroleum, and natural and renewable plant-based raw materials have begun to attract attention. In 2011, Tetra Pak launched StreamCap™, a plant-based plastic-derived cap-opening product around the world. The plant-based cap-opening product has been successively adopted by brands such as Nestlé, Coca-Cola, and Valio. In 2021, the domestic organic milk brand Jindian announced the launch of the “plant-based dream cover” product, which replaced the raw material for plastic opening with petroleum-based polyethylene as a raw material for plant-based polyethylene derived from sugar cane.

Substitution of fossil-based plastics for fossil-based plastics is one direction of Tetra Pak’s sustainable packaging. Plant-based plastics are mainly derived from sugarcane grown in plantations in southeastern Brazil, not from tropical rainforests. These sugarcanes absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere during the growth process. People squeeze the harvested sugarcane and use the sugarcane juice to produce ethanol through fermentation and distillation processes. The ethanol is dehydrated into ethylene and then polymerized into polyethylene.

It is reported that the polyethylene from this sugarcane has the same characteristics as the chemically synthesized polyethylene, and it can also be recycled. Product packaging made of it can not only reduce the carbon footprint, but also meet consumers’ pursuit of environmentally friendly and sustainable lifestyles. Renewable packaging has become an important node in the sustainable development of the food and beverage industry, and plant-based raw materials have more potential.

The food and beverage industry enters the “plant age”

Plant-based has become the mainstream of the food and beverage industry. In addition to the current product categories, plant-based ingredients also play an important role in sustainable and degradable packaging. Scientists and manufacturers around the world are constantly exploring the possibility of plant-based raw materials in sustainable packaging. From plant protein to citrus peel to mushrooms to pineapple fiber, etc., plant-based raw materials have great potential to replace plastics.

It is reported that Mars Wrigley cooperated with Danimer Scientific to use NodaxRPHA polyhydroxy fatty acid ester biodegradable material made of rapeseed and soybean and other plant seed extracts. The raw material can be biodegradable in soil and marine environment. It is expected to be in the end of 2021. Or start to be used in skittles packaging in early 2022.

VTT uses orange peel or beet pulp as raw materials, and has developed and patented a technology to oxidize galacturonic acid (the main component of pectin) to produce aldonic acid. Aldonic acid is a stable intermediate for the production of FDCA, and FDCA is mainly used for the production of degradable plastics. The company uses pectin-containing agricultural waste streams as raw materials and enhances the circular economy of plastics.

In addition, the packaging of ARBOR organic tea produced by the American EAGLE flexible packaging company uses a degradable film. The main raw material of the film is a bio-based resin made of corn. Bakeys of India has developed an edible spoon derived from sorghum flour, which can replace commonly used plastic tableware.