An eco-friendly food journey with the help of innovation
Ensuring the ethical journey of products from field to table is one of the greatest challenges for the food industry. And central to it is the goal of zero waste – for example, using green energy produced by recycling leftover manufacturing waste, to run manufacturing machinery. Lithuanian company Ekofrisa, one of the main manufacturers of grains in the Baltic States, which also exports to the Netherlands, shares its own story about running a company with an eco-friendly mindset. Ekofrisa is taking buckwheat manufacturing to the next level: not only does it produce organic snacks that are brand new to the Dutch market; it also re-uses the leftover buckwheat hulls to fill pillows, and even heat its factory.
Recycling: the new standard
Applying the rules of the circular economy to manufacturing is the big new goal of the food industry. Companies are working with scientists to find creative solutions to the problem of recycling and re-using manufacturing waste. Ekofrisa employs a range of measures to reduce its manufacturing waste to a minimum. “We heat our factory building by burning the leftover hulls of buckwheat; the same energy is used to run our machinery. We also use solar energy from our own power plants”, explains Lina Dužinskienė, director of the company.
As well as optimising recycling to meet its energy needs, Ekofrisa is looking for innovative solutions to recycle even more. “Leftover buckwheat hulls are sold as a filling for pillows and mattresses,” Lina adds. “We also sell them as mulch, which can be used by gardeners. We are working with scientists looking for even more solutions to recycle buckwheat shells with the help of technology. Our current idea is to compost it as a soil fertiliser.”
Focus on eco-friendly farming
Buckwheat is a naturally gluten-free grain whose high nutritional value means it can even be considered a superfood, like quinoa. Traditionally popular in Eastern Europe, it’s making its way into the diets of other countries, too. In line with Ekofrisa’s goal of promoting healthy eating habits, the company has developed an organic buckwheat snack. This comes either in the form of organic bars, or granola, mixed with vegetables and fruits. According to Ekofrisa’s CEO, these ready-to-eat products are healthier alternatives that even appeal to children. The company also produces buckwheat-based powder mixes in various flavours, which become healthy meal supplements when mixed with water.
Lina Dužinskienė adds the quality of Ekofrisa’s products also depends on smart solutions for agriculture – which is why Ekofrisa educates farmers about organic techniques. According to Lina, the soil in Lithuania, where the company is based, is very suitable for this type of grain. In fact, Lithuania is one of the top 10 countries producing and exporting buckwheat.
New markets, new inspirations
Overall, 82% of Ekofrisa’s production is exported. “Most of our exports go to Europe; some also goes to Asia, Australia and the USA. The Netherlands is country of great export interest for Ekofrisa. We see that here is a big demand for ready-to-eat and healthy options because the Dutch market values efficiency, which helps to maintain the healthy lifestyles valued in the Netherlands”, says Lina Dužinskienė.
Ekofrisa mainly exports unprocessed products to the Netherlands. Its buckwheat grains are popular among various brands. “We get a lot of ideas from the Dutch market too, because there’s a huge variety of healthy and innovative snacks in the Netherlands”, says Lina Dužinskienė. Ekofrisa’s buckwheat snacks are still making a name for themselves in the Netherlands. Buckwheat-based granola and organic bars are still a new phenomenon. “These novelties are just the start for Ekofrisa”, says the company’s director. “We have already developed a new product to expand our family of value-added buckwheat products. It’s called ‘hunger killer’ powder mix – a food replacement for those in a hurry.”
Ekofrisa already collaborates with distributors and retailers in various markets for its groats products. According to Lina Dužinskienė, similar activities are foreseen in relation to organic buckwheat-based products. Samples, promotions and advertising directly to the customer at point of sale (known as ‘below the line’ or BTL marketing) are the most effective ways to reach end consumers.
The new industrial revolution often called Industry 4.0 sets a new standard for countries, and it seems like Lithuania is prepared quite well. What about Germany? Even though it’s one of the industrial leaders of the world, there are some things where Germany is still lacking. Let’s have a look at things that Germany could learn from Lithuania while making Industry 4.0 a standard of today instead of a standard of the future.
Many consumers choose organic products not just because they are healthier, but also because they are grown without chemical fertilisers. AUGA group, a Lithuanian business that is the largest vertically-integrated organic food company in Europe, believes that businesses can do more for the environment than simply producing eco-friendly products – they need to operate sustainably. To ensure its place in the current market and fulfil the needs of today’s customers, AUGA group is going the extra mile to make sustainability relevant to the food industry.