Color supplier GNT aims to innovate its way to sustainability


Dive Brief:

  • GNT Group has set several new sustainability targets as part of a long-term goal to generate zero carbon emissions from its global operations. In its first sustainability report, the Dutch company announced 17 targets for 2030, including plans to reduce the environmental footprint of its Exberry natural food coloring portfolio by 25% and to provide complete emissions data for the entire product range. 

  • The company also aims to increase the color intensity of its main crops by 30% by 2030. And GNT has set a goal of using 75% of its side streams — leftover raw material from its color concentrate production — for human consumption by 2026. It plans to launch an ingredient created from side streams by the end of 2023, with a carrot-based offer most likely.

  • While sustainability has proven to be a good way for food and ingredient manufacturers to win over consumers, it also can be engine for product and process innovation.

Dive Insight:

As part of its new sustainability targets, GNT aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions from its factories by at least 50% by 2030 and boost energy efficiency by 30% and water efficiency by 20% — goals that once achieved would carry inherent cost savings. But there are other equally rewarding ways the ingredients maker can become what Sustainability Manager Rutger de Kort called “the most sustainable food coloring solution on the market.”

Improving color intensity is important because it means GNT can produce the same end result using fewer crops — and ultimately use and spend less on water, fertilizer, pesticide and transportation. While the company has already been searching for plant varieties that have naturally high color levels, its new sustainability roadmap now sets a target for its main crops, including carrots, radishes and sweet potatoes.

One part of this effort involves breeding crops that are better suited for their environment and end use, and another focuses on improved cultivation techniques — from optimizing planting densities and harvesting periods to finding superior growing regions.

GNT has also been working to boost the knowledge base of the farmers who grow its crops, such as black and orange carrots, radishes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and turmeric. Currently, about 60% of these contract farmers are trained in sustainable agriculture practices, including biodiversity, soil health and water management. By 2030, GNT plans to have all of its farmers trained and certified in sustainable agriculture practices.

Innovation in terms of product development is another path the company is taking to hit its goals. In the area of color concentration, GNT has already made some progress. In 2019, it launched a range of red food colors that produce shades that are 50% more intense, allowing for smaller dosages and resulting in lower packaging and transportation costs.

Tackling food waste is another key opportunity. The company uses more than 30 different raw materials to produce its Exberry coloring portfolio. About two-thirds of GNT’s raw materials go to create its color concentrates, while the remaining one-third consists of wet pulp, according to the sustainability report. The company currently uses 90% of this side stream for animal feed, with less than 10% going to human consumption.

GNT already uses a few tons of its side streams to create a carmelized carrot concentrate for its Exberry range. The ingredient, created from the sugar of orange carrots, can provide brown shades in food and drink. To hit is target of using at least 75% of all solid and liquid side streams for human consumption by 2030, GNT acknowledges it will need to invest heavily in R&D. That said, it has already found that it can create a byproduct from its carrot side stream that is similar to molasses and could have potential as an ingredient. It also examining flavoring and plant-based meat ingredient applications for its side streams. 


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