SVZ talks sustainability: ‘Everyone in the F&B industry should think about the next generation’

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By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags SVZ Sustainability Belgium Fruit Vegetables

Premium fruit and vegetable ingredient supplier SVZ is working towards 100% sustainable sourcing: alongside a host of other initiatives. We find out more about the challenges - and opportunities - it sees in its efforts to be more sustainable.

The company - part of the Dutch farming co-operative Royal Cosun - produces a portfolio of purees, puree concentrates, juice concentrates, NFC juices and IQFs. These are produced from across 35 fruits and 15 vegetables, ranging from strawberries, raspberries and kiwi fruit to carrots. Product applications include juices, beverages, dairy, icecream, bakery and confectionery.

Speaking from the company’s Rijkevorsel facility in Belgium, Johan Cerstiaens, Commercial Director, SVZ, explains how the company is keeping sustainability front-of-mind as demand for fruit and vegetable ingredients (which tick all the boxes when it comes to key trends such as natural and plant-based) continues to rise.

Sustainable sourcing

SVZ made its 100% sustainable sourcing pledge back in 2017, a commitment made on its 150th​ anniversary of the company. Five years later it’s happy with its achievements so far: but knows there are challenges to be overcome to reach the 100% goal. It’s currently at around 65% sustainable sourcing: but progress to date has been made with the larger suppliers.

The next step is to work through smaller suppliers: who do not necessarily have the same experience or know-how in working through sustainable certification steps as larger ones.

Wonky veg

The quality and taste of fruit and vegetables are important to SVZ, but it doesn’t have the same requirement as retail consumers for perfect looking fruits. One of its suppliers – a strawberry farm down the road from it Rijkevorsel processing facility – sends the vast majority of its strawberries to supermarkets. The remaining 5%, however, are not deemed good-looking enough for retail clients: and so this goes to SVZ.

And the company believes there are still more opportunities for it to get involved in giving fruit that would otherwise be wasted a second life.

Food miles

Another factor in sustainability is considering the food miles along the whole supply chain. The company’s Rijkevorsel facility is in the heart of the fruit growing region in the north west of Belgium: meaning it can source many ingredients locally. Along with investments in more efficient processing in the facility, the company believes this site can serve as a model for its other facilities around the world.

Processing efficiencies

SVZ has four processing plants located in the US (Othello, Washington State); Poland (Tomaszów); Spain (Almonte) and Belgium (Rijkevorsel). 

“It’s only by shifting our own mindset – and the mindsets of our stakeholders – that we can transform our business and implement real positive change across our supply chain. That’s why we’re passionate about introducing new sustainable initiatives and sharing knowledge with our partner farmers – so that more environmentally responsible ways of thinking can be introduced and maintained at every level of SVZ.”

A new investment in the Belgium facility will decrease heat consumption and explore new ways of reusing expended energy​. The US plant has boosted its puree line and invested in new automation technology to further streamline the production process, while a recent investment in water treatment allows water to be cleaned and reused.

Meanwhile, the Almonte site has recently been fitted with solar panels and a new cold storage facility constructed to reduce reliance on third-party storage and transportation; and in Poland, the Tomaszów facility’s concentrate line has been bolstered.

Working together

And finally, the company sees itself as part of a much wider effort to drive the food and beverage industry towards a sustainable future.

At one end of the chain, it’s working with small farmers to help them become more sustainable.

At the other end, it’s collaborating with F&B manufacturing giants to drive bigger changes across its supply chain (for example, it has partnered with Danone and Indian company Mother Dairy on a toilet sponsorship program for remote mango farmers across India: not only improving overall hygiene for workers but also making the farms more attractive to female laborers).

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