GNT seeks to elevate biodiversity and soil health while cutting CO2 footprint of farmed natural colors

19 Apr 2022 — GNT, which supplies plant-based colors under the brand Exberry Coloring Foods supplier, has released its new sustainability report comprising a sustainability roadmap for 2030 to “optimize environmental and social impacts” across its global operations.

Targets of this roadmap include cutting the environmental footprint for Exberry product ranges by 25% and reducing the intensity of factories’ CO2-equivalent emissions by at least 50%. The supplier is also aiming to introduce more “catch crops” across its farming operations, while moving away from gas consumption and excessive water use.

Covering scopes 1, 2 and 3, this data will provide advantages for food and beverage brands as it will enable them to calculate final products’ total environmental footprint, the company states.

“Since GNT was founded in 1978, we’ve been revolutionizing the food coloring industry with our plant-based Exberry solutions,” comments Frederik Hoeck, managing director at GNT Group.

“Today, we’re known for offering the most natural solutions on the market. We now want to take this to the next level and lead the industry in sustainability too. ”

Colors for the planet
Each year, GNT produces more than 11,500 metric tons of Exberry concentrates from edible fruit, vegetables, and plants – enough to color over 40 billion servings of food and drink.

The specialist continuously monitors consumer trends and has recently published its “The Power of Color” market research, which formulators can use to tailor new personalized coloring solutions for the F&B arena.

GNT will establish annual flower meadows, away from cropland to provide a habitat for insects and small mammals in 5% of its Dutch, German and Belgian growing areas.By 2030, the company aims to have its black or orange carrots, radishes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and turmeric achieve certification through Global GAP (or an equivalent scheme), FSA (minimum bronze), or both.

The schemes will support best practice on topics including biodiversity, soil health, water management, integrated pest management, economic practices, health and safety.

“We plan to implement ten biodiversity projects, focusing predominantly on creating thriving habitats for nature within our European supply chains. As a starting point, we will deliver improvements to GNT’s sites in Mierlo, Heinsberg, and Aachen, which cover a significant amount of ground, ”the company states.

“Our main production and office location in Mierlo is around 6.7 hectares in total, while the Heinsberg site is approximately five hectares. We will help insects to flourish through measures such as bee hotels and explore options to regreen our Mierlo site by introducing more natural green zones and climate adaptation measures. ”

This project is expected to take place in 2022.

Looking after insects and small mammals
From 2023 onward, we will establish annual flower meadows, away from cropland, to provide a habitat for insects and small mammals in 5% of its Dutch, German and Belgian growing areas.

Furthermore, the company will adjust crop rotation and include additional catch crops in our radish and carrot cultivation. Catch crops are grown to utilize nutrients during the winter or after the growing season.

This can protect nutrients from being washed away and can even fix nitrogen from the air. Growing these crops will provide permanent vegetation, improve soil structure and support biodiversity, GNT states. In combination with flowering strips, they will also create a window for ground-nesting birds to breed undisturbed in the field.

The company will also be implementing five social livelihood projects. The first will see GNT contribute € 25,000 (US $ 27,000) towards “Peru: Water, Wind and Trees” in 2022.

The Peruvian organization ACICA and German foundation GLS Future Foundation for Development initiated this non-profit project in 2019.

It involves training farmers in organic practices, promoting reforestation, and delivering improvements to water infrastructure, animal husbandry and living conditions.

Minding water and heat usage
GNT shares that it has already achieved a 17% improvement in both yields and energy use in its spirulina process through a new filter installation. Spirulina is a key ingredient that the supplier uses in its “calm, relaxing and healthy” green plant-based liquid coloring solution, unveiled last summer.

Last year, the addition of a new filter enabled the company to reduce water use by 20% in one of its plants. “We are currently looking into the possibility of using a further filter that could improve water efficiency even more,” GNT outlines.

While filtration has an important role to play, GNT stresses the need to introduce extra measures to achieve carbon neutrality. As such, it is currently searching for a more sustainable way to generate heat.

Technological innovation and development are picking up pace, and electrification may enable us to move away from gas. “We are also exploring whether there may be alternative processing methods that could require less energy and water,” says GNT.

GNT’s total water footprint amounted to 653,454 cubic meters in 2021. “While this is a large number, we did reduce our water consumption per ton of finished product by almost 22%, overachieving on our initial target,” the company details.

“We need to see if we maintain this in the years to come and whether we can set a new, more challenging target in 2022.”

Meanwhile, GNT’s total energy per ton of produced material decreased by approximately 16% in 2021 compared to 2020, as did carbon emissions related to production. The total scope 1 and 2 emissions amounted to 16 thousand metric tons of CO2-eq.

“GNT is committed to driving industry standards higher than ever before by providing colors that deliver on cost-in-use, performance, naturalness, and sustainability,” says Rutger de Kort, sustainability manager at GNT.

“Achieving our goals won’t be easy, but we’re already making excellent progress across multiple areas.”

By Benjamin Ferrer

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