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Leading the way in sustainable plant-based innovations

Partner Story25-03-2021

“Our ambition is to be a leader in sustainable plant-based innovations. We are cooperating with other parties outside of Cosun to do so. We believe that SFI is a valuable platform to enhance this even further.” According to Frank van Noord and Paulus Kosters, respectively VP Cosun Innovation and Sr. Program Manager Protein at Cosun Innovation.

Many different parties ensembles SFI. Connections are created between industry, SMEs, start-ups, universities, teams of students and researchers. Every partner has their own strong drive and passion to participate in the SFI. This is the first Partner Story where we will ask these partners about this passion and about their vision and participation in the SFI. First up: Cosun Innovation. 

With the business groups Aviko, Cosun Beet Company, Duynie Group, Sensus and SVZ, Cosun is an agri-food company leader in the world. With a diverse range of plant-based solutions Cosun companies service the world. Cosun products find their way to food and animal feed. From residual flows (or co-products) Cosun also provides green energy and biobased ingredients: for example for detergents, wallpaper glue and cosmetics. In accordance with its vision, Cosun is responding to a rapidly changing world with the highest possible value of its plant-based raw materials. The growing world population, climate and environment, as well as the increasing demand for plant-based products are dominating developments.

Cosun’s heritage dates back to 1899. Over all these years, we have pioneered in finding new innovative ways to maximize our impact with plant-based materials. A sustainability and circular approach is part of our DNA and this leads to new and innovative plant-based solutions.

Cosun focuses on four strategic innovation themes. Plant-based Proteins: the transition from animal to more vegetable protein. Total Use: extract more from raw materials. Sustainable & Smart Production, such as sensor techniques and the Internet of Things. And Future Food: the development of increasingly healthier foods (ingredients).

Within the SFI, Cosun wants focuses on Plant-based Proteins and on Total Use, says Frank van Noord. “Such as the total usage of the sugar beet, with sugar, protein, fibers and energy. The total valorization of raw materials and closing the loop are of great importance in an SFI-context.”

“In our Total Use theme we extract as many valuable components as possible by disassembling plant tissue in other ways,” says Paulus Kosters. “Protein is one of those components. This leads us to markets and technologies where we, as a large company, are not a top player. Therefore, you need a good connection to the world around you to be successful. That is why we often cooperate with other parties to realize ideas faster. That is why we participate in the SFI and other partnerships.”

“Fortunately, cooperation is in our genes as a farmers’ cooperative”, adds Frank. “The SFI contains important partners for us, such as universities and customers that are positioned in interesting markets for us. We want to discuss opportunities and new initiatives with them. This must lead to products that meet the (future) needs of customers. As well as a lower environmental footprint.”

To which activities will you participate within the SFI? 

Frank: “We mainly focus on the field labs that cooperate within the SFI and we share knowledge through webinars and meetings. Furthermore, the transition to vegetable proteins requires an enormous amount of research. That is the reason why we want to accelerate protein innovations and the business together with the SFI and our Green Protein Excellence Center. Finally, we need to decide which projects within SFI are complementary for Cosun and where we can have the most impact. After all, we cannot participate in every project.”

Inspire buyers

A number of SFI partners are food companies, who sell their products to consumers. With the exception of Aviko, Cosun’s business groups mainly supply ingredients to other producers. With their knowledge of consumers and trends, these partners can indicate what criteria our products must meet in the future.

Paulus: “That is one of the subjects where we look for cooperation. At our Cosun innovation center, we currently look much more at solutions for consumers in application and product development, without making the end-product. We understand our ingredients to such extent that we can inspire our customers to create better products for their customers.”

“In this way, we are gaining a better understanding of how our ingredients work in customer applications. For example, we have found that pulling everything apart into pure ingredients and then tinker it back together is not always the best and most sustainable route. A good example is purifying proteins from a raw material that also contains carbohydrates and fibers. If you turn that pure protein into a meat substitute, you add carbohydrates and fiber back to it. But you can also stop disassembling that raw material earlier. This gives a much more complete protein ingredient with a lower ecological footprint.”

Innovation clubhouse

Within the SFI, Cosun wants to connect with companies that are positioned on the consumer, according to Frank van Noord. “Companies that we work with bring their knowledge of the consumer market into the chain. And we can use that knowledge to innovate and improve our ingredients and thus invent better solutions. We believe that we need to innovate in an open and familiar atmosphere. For example, how can we improve the seed for a raw material with breeding and cultivation regimes? Or how can SVZ process a carrot as little as possible, while the customer can still turn it into a fast-moving consumer good? That is the power of cooperating with food producers and knowledge institutes. The SFI facilitates the opportunity to strengthen each other.”

Paulus: “The Cosun innovation center, our innovation clubhouse in Dinteloord, is open for this: a dynamic place where our business groups and partners can co-create. The best innovation hub in the southwest of the Netherlands for plant-based solutions.”

Frank van Noord en Paulus Kosters: “We look forward to working with SFI. Partnerships are very important to create a plant-based future. We welcome you to our innovation club house”.