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News

Circular economy: the tomato sector values by-products

08/11/2021 - François-Xavier Branthôme - Lire en français
Italy: virtuous companies give substance to sustainable development

Tomato seeds and skins, corn husks, non-standard seeds, “oversized” chickpeas, fruit stones, waste citrus pulp and by-products from slaughterhouses... As greenwashing has become increasingly popular, the choice made by many operators of the food industry to transform agricultural waste into energy or food for livestock, or to give it a second valuable use in one way or another, has undeniably added something to the sector's reputation, turning it into an example of circular economy in which the ostentatious race towards energy transition has finally taken on real substance.

The revolution in ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance)

One of the companies that has adopted this approach is Mutti – a historic Parma-based company and a leader in tomato processing – which recycles or reuses 81% of its waste by directing fresh raw materials not suitable for processing towards animal feed or biogas production (see below). The same approach has led to the implementation of good ESG practices by La Doria, whose leaders have declared, on the basis of certified evidence in support of its sustainable development roadmap – that “reducing waste in our factories is a priority”.
 
In 2020, La Doria, the leading European producer of canned tomato products (peeled tomatoes and tomato pulp) and ready-to-use sauces for private label distribution, ended the year with a turnover of EUR 848.1 million. The Angri-based company reused 6,600 tonnes of waste materials from tomato and fruit processing (intended for animal feed or used as a soil improvement input) and 570 tonnes of stones from the processing of dried fruit. Furthermore, by the end of 2021, all 200 ml carton packs of fruit juice produced by the company will use plant-based plastics made from sugar cane.

In Conserve Italia factories, more than 50,000 tonnes of by-products are recovered each year from the processing residues of fruit, tomatoes, legumes and sweet corn. “The fight against food waste and an approach that supports the circular economy are good practices that we have been implementing for some time,” says Managing Director Pier Paolo Rosetti.

In the cooperative group, residues resulting from the processing of peas, green beans, beans and other vegetables are valued as agricultural fertilizer or used for supplying anaerobic digestion energy plants, while those resulting from the processing of pulses are intended for zootechnical food use and/or oriented towards anaerobic digestion plants. 

Another vision of the industry
The coming together of Mutti and e-Novia, the “business factory” that transforms intellectual property and new technologies into products and services, took place in the wake of an “out of the box” reflection. The model developed makes it possible to take the processing plant to the crop field, in the opposite direction to what is usually done, when materials are shipped from the field to the factory.

This is a non-centralized installation, but “distributed” and able to connect with other units located on different production plots. It is a production plant that is autonomous and self-sufficient in terms of water and energy use. In other words, it is an InstaFactory (see our related articles). This system is completely new: until last year, there was no such installation of any kind in the world, complete and of medium size, capable of finding a balance between volume of space occupied, level of autonomy and amount of product processed. Today, the InstaFactory guarantees, on a small scale, the management of complex industrial processes, from washing to sterilization, including product evaporation.

Mutti monitors the environmental impact of the entire production chain, from growing the tomatoes to delivering the finished product to the consumer. Constant monitoring of environmental impacts is therefore a common point of arrival and departure. While fine-tuning this monitoring more and more over the years, the company has carried out a performance survey that now plays a crucial role in establishing the definition of an environmental sustainability strategy.

Mutti wants to decommodify tomatoes
As a brand, Mutti has endeavored to make the processed tomato sector less mundane and has set up a system of relations that are transparent, loyal and fair, at the institutional level as well as countrywide.
 This decommodification of processed tomato products is based in particular on a collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and on the implementation of good agricultural practices in environmental, ethical and social terms. Far from being a simple communication exercise, Mutti's collaboration with the WWF, which began ten years ago, is not intended as a way to attract media attention regarding the issue of sustainability. The company has wanted to influence strategic changes affecting agricultural practices from an environmental point of view, starting with an innovative and pioneering theme in 2011: monitoring the “water” footprint of the business.
Product quality directly depends on the quality of the raw material, which in turn is closely related to the health status of natural systems and their ability to produce tomatoes. For Mutti, there is a direct link between economic competitiveness and environmental sustainability, which is why this issue fits “naturally” into the industrial strategy itself.

 Some additional information
https://e-novia.it/instafactory-the-first-factory-in-the-field-built-by-e-novia-for-mutti/

Sources: ilsole24ore.com, alimentando.info, freshplaza.it 

Further details in attached documents
pr mutti presents its first environmental report
Related companies

CONSERVE ITALIA Soc. Coop. Agr.

Tomato processor See details

LA DORIA SpA

Tomato processor See details

MUTTI SpA

Tomato processor See details
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2020 Tomato News Online Conference: Francesco Mutti

07/12/2020 See details

Sul Campo project: Mutti revolutionizes tomato processing

14/09/2020 See details
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