French dairy giant Danone is to invest in facilities in Belgium and the UK where products marketed under dairy-alternative brand Alpro manufactured.
The company is to spend EUR30m (US$35.4m), with two-thirds committed to its site in Wevelgem, Belgium, to produce paper-based yogurt cups.
Some EUR10m will be spent at the company’s site in Kettering in the English Midlands to develop a new packaging line to produce 75 million extra packs of soya, oat, rice and coconut drinks a year.
The move is part of a newly sustainability drive for Alpro under the ‘Feeding Our Future With Plants’ banner.
The initiative, which coincides with the Alpro brand celebrating its 40th anniversary, involves health and sustainability commitments up to 2025.
Key measures include targeting further reductions in carbon, water and waste, a transition to regenerative agriculture and a goal to have 100% recyclable packs (today Alpro is at 76%).
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As well as the paper-based packaging for yogurts, which Danone claims are more sustainable than existing plastic ones, the company wants 50% of the ingredients in its product range to be a recognised source of fibre (today Alpro is at 36%) and to bring more diversity into the portfolio, using at least nine different plant-based ingredients (today Alpro uses seven).
Danone has also pledged to introduce “transparent, easy-to-read” front of pack nutrition labelling to 100% of Alpro’s products.
Alpro general manager Sue Garfitt said: “Alpro is playing an important role in maintaining a healthy society and planet. We are leading a worldwide ‘food revolution’ by creating a broad plant-based category which is becoming an indispensable part of a healthy and sustainable life.
“The diets we have adopted are no longer sustainable for the planet, so we have to change the way we look at food production and consumption. Millions of people are more aware of the personal and environmental benefits of plant-based foods and our mission is to achieve a fundamental dietary shift to more plant-based eating by 2025.”
Emmanuel Faber, CEO of Danone, said: “I am very encouraged that policy-makers are beginning to recognise the importance and urgency of evolving the food system towards a more sustainable path, working with nature instead of against nature.”
He added: “The reality is that [Covid-19] became a crisis because of the way we live and organise ourselves.”
Asked by just-food about the Alpro brand’s link to soy as a major ingredient in many of its products – when so many challenger brands are preferring to use nuts or oats – Faber said: “There are now a whole broader set of ingredients we know how to use.
“Having said that, soy has fundamental, unique aspects that other plants don’t have.”