GEA Group AG, as key project partner, has provided innocent, one of Europe’s leading smoothie and juice brands, with the process technology for the world’s first carbon-neutral juice factory. The new factory in the Netherlands will lead the way for future plants in the food industry with a truly sustainable approach. Located at the Rotterdam Food Hub, the production facility is scheduled to open officially in spring 2022.
In the new-build project, GEA is responsible for the process, refrigeration and heating technology. Early involvement in the design planning phase enabled the company to develop numerous innovative process changes that significantly help innocent on the path to reaching its climate goals.
“The innocent project is an outstanding example of how we put our purpose of ‘engineering for a better world’ into practice,” said GEA CEO Stefan Klebert. “Not only have we integrated the most resource-efficient technologies, we have also entirely rethought the processes as well as the heating and refrigeration systems. Together with innocent, we have pushed the envelope beyond standard beverage production practice.”
Energy supply and demand cycle
Since much of the energy used in production is for heat, GEA worked intensively on in-process energy and resource efficiency. The company also applied the sustainable energy solutions (SEnS) approach. This factors heating and cooling requirements into the systems right at the planning stage, instead of after the fact when corrections are virtually no longer possible. For instance, a GEA heat pump will recover waste heat from the refrigeration systems and reuse it in other process steps. GEA and innocent recently won gold in the European Heat Pump Association (EHPA) People’s Choice Award for this smart heat pump design.
Showcase for the entire beverage industry
Taking a 360-degree view of the process chain will allow innocent to substantially cut its carbon footprint while massively influencing other parameters such as water consumption and waste generation.
“I take my hat off to GEA because they have been at our side every step of the way, helping us challenge conventional design approaches. All the little details add up to a great success,” said Andy Joynson, Chief Blender (Site Director) at the new innocent plant. The new solutions implemented go far beyond conventional beverage production processes. “Food and beverage manufacturers can choose to base their future plant designs on our model. We want to inspire and support a broad-based transformation. In line with that, we are consciously inviting the industry to share in our findings—and at the same time to learn from our missteps and our successes.”