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This summer Finns can drink beer brewed with wild herbs, food waste and even goose feces. The new beers by a local microbrewery Ant Brew celebrate the European Green Capital year of the city of Lahti and share an important message of a wasteless circular economy.

The Finnish city of Lahti is known for their pioneering environmental action, and for their open-minded co-operation with local people. Now the European Green Capital 2021 joins forces with the local microbrewery Ant Brew by crafting a new beer series. The Wasted Potential beers are brewed with wild herbs, local food waste, like bread, berries and fruits – and even goose droppings.

The poop is used in a food-safe way to smoke malt to create a unique stout beer. The goose droppings are gathered from local parks, where geese are causing a messy problem. Now, the local parks get cleaner and the special edition summer beverages are perfect for a picnic in the park – a true two birds with one stone type of solution.

The beers showcase how all waste can be utilized. City of Lahti aims to be completely wasteless circular economy city by 2050, and at the moment 99% of the city’s household waste is already repurposed.

A taste of potential that was not wasted

A sustainable future demands effective use of resources and innovative ways of recycling. Lahti has several well-known breweries, so what would be a better way to celebrate our environment this summer than locally brewed beers, says Saara Piispanen, Head of Communications of Lahti European Green Capital.

The beer that uses goose droppings in the malt smoking process will be released later in the summer. First to be released is a wit-style beer inspired by waste-free circular economy: brewed with orange peels from a local market’s juice pressing station, and fruit purees that have exceeded their best before-date.

This series of beers is our way to create important discussions about food waste, utilization of waste, urban farming, and local and wild food among beer enthusiasts. Working with the Lahti Green Capital has been great. We are constantly developing ways to utilize new ingredients in brewing, and are not afraid to think outside of the box, says Ant Brew’s Kari Puttonen.

Our environment and circular economy are important for us, and we want to discuss these topics in interesting ways. Together we can create solutions that are eco-friendly and represent sustainable consumption, says Piispanen.

The careful handling of raw goods and top-quality standards are priorities at VOG Products. To continue upholding these standards in future, the company has made significant investments in the modernisation of its production lines.

Each year, VOG Products processes and refines around 300,000 tonnes of raw goods. On the one hand, the fruit processing company established in 1967 builds upon the long fruit-growing tradition in the heart of the Dolomite Alps. That tradition is embraced and maintained by a total of 13,000 members who belong to 18 cooperatives in South Tyrol and Trentino and 4 producer organisations. On the other hand, VOG Products also consciously relies on innovation and advanced development – particularly when it comes to technical equipment.

In March 2020, two new production lines for fruit purée were commissioned on the 8-hectare company premises in Laives. They represent a significant portion of VOG Products’ concrete modernisation and development plan.

A fully automated plant for aseptic filling marked the beginning in May 2019. That was a key step in the effort to satisfy rising demand and at the same time, to bring the infrastructure up to date with the latest technology.

In September 2019, a new optical sorting system was installed in the low-temperature area. It guarantees maximum precision and quality to customers and ultimately, consumers.

The purée production modernisation completed in 2020 is the centrepiece of the extensive investment strategy, but not its final measure: by the beginning of 2021, the production line for fruit juice will also have been renewed. “That will mark our achievement of the fourth and last step of our current infrastructure modernisation strategy. Innovation and advanced development are and will remain major themes at VOG Products, however, because they are essential to our effort to continue satisfying the market’s increasingly rigorous requirements in future while meeting top quality standards”, said Christoph Tappeiner, CEO of VOG Products.

The commissioning of the two production lines for fruit purée was a key step in that direction. It increased the company’s capacity and VOG Products now has two separate lines, which happens to be a decisive characteristic for product safety in the processing of organic goods. And now the raw goods are inspected by the optical sorting system to guarantee the highest quality standards in the purée segment as well.

Further, raw goods are not handled in bulk at VOG Products. Instead, large boxes with a maximum mass of 300 kg are used exclusively. “After all: you need excellent raw goods to produce an excellent end product. Our 13,000 members – most of which are small family-run enterprises – ensure our excellent quality. They cultivate fruit with lots of passion, and we continue its processing in the same spirit: as much care as possible when handling the product and top quality standards are our main priorities. Our new, functional plants equipped with state-of-the-art technology fit perfectly into this philosophy,” confirmed Tappeiner.

Global demand for exotic fruit is rapidly increasing. Today, the worldwide fruit puree concentrate market is valued at more than US$400m (€332m) and is expected to grow to US$700m (€581m) by 2026.

Similar growth is expected in the exotic fruit puree concentrate market which is predicted to reach US$274m (€227m) by 2026.
What is causing this increase and how can exotic fruit processors meet the demand without compromising quality?

Consumer demands

The worldwide increase in consumption of baby food is a significant factor in the predicted expansion of the market. Alongside this, growth in the fruit juice industry, and the increasing demand for fruit smoothies and other products, is further encouraging development in the sector.

Currently, fruit juices tend to be made from juice concentrate. However, manufacturers are starting to use puree concentrate instead. This shift provides consumers with a thicker, better-tasting, smoother drink and exotic fruits are a key ingredient within many of them.

Exotic fruits include high quantities of fibrous material, which further increases its consumer appeal from a health perspective. As ‘better-for-you’ products become more popular, the demand for fruit puree concentrate is only going to increase and so are the varied ways in which it is processed.

For example, when it comes to juice processing, most fruits are crushed and the juice is then extracted. However, as consumers look for better taste, a thicker consistency and to keep some of the important nutrients intact, processors are responding by peeling the fruits, removing the skin, seed pockets and stones to achieve a high-quality concentrate and puree.

Advanced technologies

Fruit peeling is an important part of the juice and smoothie manufacturing process. Current methods involve certain fruits – such as peaches, apples and mangos – undergoing a lye peeling process. This sees produce pass through a boiling sodium hydroxide solution which burns off the skin. This process, however, uses large volumes of water, and can lead to high levels of food waste which makes the process inherently inefficient.

Technological advances in steam peeling have created significant advantages over lye peeling. These allow for reduction in water usage, limiting the amount of produce wasted and contributing towards an altogether more sustainable process.

Today, leading equipment manufacturers have delivered innovations which can steam peel and sort a range of fruits including apples, mango, peaches, nectarines and papayas. These innovations also help processors overcome problems found in particular fruits, such as the removal of seed pockets in apples and the pits in others. By helping in the removal of these issues, processors can provide a higher quality, smoother drink to consumers.

Using steam peeling to remove the skin, and to create a smooth consistent surface around the outer surface and inner core, means that high volumes of fruits can be processed to a very high quality and with reduced waste. These high quality peeled fruits form the basis of the concentrate and puree that can be used in many applications.

In recent years, TOMRA Sorting Food has worked closely with leading fruit processing companies in Europe and Asia to evaluate their steam peeling processes for use in high volume fruit processing lines. The companies’ system enables processors to peel quickly and efficiently, so that the heat absorption of the fruit is significantly lower, in turn protecting it and making for a superior product.