Denis Guyonnet: The 1.3 billion tons of food not consumed by humans are a rich source of food products. These byproducts still contain many nutrients such as proteins, antioxidants, minerals, fiber or other micronutrients, which are valuable from a nutritional point of view. For example, the production of our banana purees, flakes and powder – which are used in baby food and other products – generates around 22,000 tons of banana peels a year, which still contain a lot of dietary fiber and health-promoting substances. If we extract and recycle these and many other natural ingredients, it will have a positive impact on the environment. In this way, we contribute to the conservation of natural resources while also creating new markets and economic advantages for our company.
Thierry Lenice: Most byproducts from food production are now composted, used for energy production or as animal feed. We are now trying to identify the valuable components, consider how we can extract and stabilize them during the manufacturing process and transform them into products for humans, pets or aquaculture. For example, in fruit and vegetable production, a third of the harvest is lost because it does not meet aesthetic retail criteria, which set strict specifications regarding shape, weight and size. We can use these raw materials, as well as residual material such as skins, peels, seeds or flesh, for new products.
Guyonnet: We need to find the most suitable industrial processes for the raw materials because each has its own particular characteristics and industrial constraints. That’s why working with a variety of partners including scientists, technology start-ups, food companies and our in-house experts, is crucial.
Guyonnet: We have to think outside the box in order to find new ways of recycling. Our open innovation strategy enables us to test disruptive approaches with various external partners. In June 2018, we organized an Open Innovation Day with the motto “The Future of Waste” with the start-up company SoScience, which specializes in responsible innovation for the European Commission, among other things, at which 53 experts from 47 organizations and ten countries participated. The conference focused on the challenges of discussing new business opportunities from the industrial use of fruit and vegetable waste. Subsequently, two concrete projects on fruit byproducts were launched in collaboration with Diana Food.
Guyonnet: Yes. For example, in a five-year research program that Diana launched in April 2018 with Professor Yves Desjardins and other researchers from the Laval University in Québec. This project investigates the effects of fruit and vegetable polyphenols on human gut microbiota, since some polyphenols, especially those with a polymerized structure, can be considered prebiotic, i.e. they stimulate “good” intestinal bacteria. The program examines three important Diana Food byproducts (banana peels, strawberry seeds and onion peels). One of the most important challenges will be to find the process to properly extract these compounds, study their biological effects and develop an end product.