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Alpro (FR) invests in Flanders for sustainable food future

Using sustainably grown soy and nuts, cutting water consumption by half and moving toward 100%-recyclable packaging: with these ambitions and an investment of EUR 30 million, plant-based dairy products pioneer Alpro is ramping up its sustainability efforts. Acquired by French food giant Danone for product portfolio diversification reasons in 2017, Alpro is headquartered in Ghent (East Flanders) and operates a plant in Wevelgem (West Flanders).

European market leader

One of Flanders Investment & Trade’s former Foreign Investment of the Year nominees, Alpro was founded back in 1980 as part of Flanders-based food firm Vandemoortele. What started as an experiment with soy drinks grew into the European market leader offering a range of more than 120 plant-based products, from beverages to yogurt, pudding and ice cream.

But the path of success is far from over. Over the next 5 years, Alpro will invest EUR 30 million in Flanders and the UK to reduce its environmental impact and develop fully recyclable packaging for its drinks, yogurts and desserts. Two-thirds of the investment amount will be channeled into the Wevelgem plant, which was the scene of another major investment in 2018, when Alpro opened a new warehouse and innovation center.

Healthy and in high demand

Alpro’s continued investments in Flanders are a clear indicator of the success and popularity of its products. “Plant-based alternatives are gaining ground among a growing audience,” says British CEO of Alpro, Sue Garfitt. “A new generation of consumers is consciously choosing non-animal products.” The company states that it has been seeing double-digit growth for years. The brand also proved increasingly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, with sales going up by 20%.

Toward regenerative agriculture

However, the soy industry has an important role to play in the shift toward a more sustainable future. Garfitt: “We already work as much as possible with local products. As such, 60% of our soybeans come from Europe. In our French factory, we even work exclusively with locally grown soybeans.” By 2025, Alpro wants to make the shift to regenerative agriculture – an umbrella term for various organic farming methods – for soy and almonds, which are its most important raw materials.

Flanders' largest water purification installation

The water consumption in the cultivation of nuts, which critics of plant-based nutrition sometimes use as a counterargument, will also be reconsidered. “Over the next five years, we will reduce our water consumption by 60%,” says Garfitt. “Part of the EUR 30 million investment will go to installations that will enable Alpro to reuse water in two of its three factories.”

What’s more, in 2021, a new water purification installation – the largest of its kind in Flanders – will also be built at the Alpro plant in Wevelgem. Furthermore, the site will be crucial in the development of more eco-friendly paper packaging for plant-based yoghurt. By 2025, all packaging must be 100% recyclable. Today, this is the case for 76% of packaging.

More info

Reported by
De Tijd newspaper
23 September 2020

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