Wonder of fruit waste: Dole targets 2022 commercialisation for high-value upcycled products
The global fruit MNC has partnered with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) to set up Dole Specialty Ingredients (DSI) which is a new business arm focused on using side streams from Dole’s fruit products to make new high-value products.
The actual pilot upcycling facility will be located in the Philippines within Dole’s existing processing facilities.
“We found it important to set up DSI in Singapore as a leading tech innovation hub to access the local innovation ecosystem in addition to being near our global HQ, [but] transporting fruit waste in large quantities across countries is difficult [so] we are locating the pilot plant in the Philippines,” DSI Managing Director Wei Tze Ooi told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“[Dole] generates around one million tonnes of fruit side streams per year, which equates to approximately 50,000 40-foot containers - Not only will exporting so much fruit waste from one country to another result in high logistics costs, long distance transportation would also affect the quality of the fruit side stream, making it less viable for further use.
“Locating the plant in the Philippines eliminates the need to transport over long distances [and] this will also be the default for other DSI plants, when we expand to other countries in the future.”
According to Ooi, this pilot aims to lay the groundwork for the firm to establish more such facilities in other existing Dole markets with large amounts of fruit waste.
“[Once] our business model has been tried and tested to be effective [in the pilot facility], we plan to replicate that in other Dole markets, such as Thailand, Singapore, and Africa,” he said.
“In Singapore, we will [also] continue exploring business opportunities related to food waste valorisation and are also committed to supporting the national focus on food waste reduction here.”
The fruit side streams that the firm will focus on includes peeks, seeds, pomace, stems and other parts of the bananas, pineapple and papayas that are grown at Dole’s facilities in the Philippines, as well as rejected fruits due to factors like imperfections.
“[These will be used to make] specialty ingredients, which we are calling ‘future core products’ include enzymes (such as bromelain), fruit extracts, seed oil, fibres and more. These future core products can be used in industries such as F&B, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals and more,” said Ooi.
“[For example, fruit extracts and fibres can be used to make food and beverage products], whereas enzymes derived from pineapples and papayas are used as key ingredients in exfoliating skincare products to remove dead surface skin cells.
“We are currently at the pilot stage with these, [but the plan is that] commercialisation will likely commence in the second half of 2022. [We will start with being] more skewed towards the B2B market with these future core products, where there is immense potential and space for evolution.”
The Philippines pilot plant has currently already started operations.
When asked why Dole opted to set up an entire new business entity for its upcycling efforts as opposed to just housing it as a new Dole department, Ooi explained that the company believed that the pros of this move outstripped the cons.
“There are many benefits to setting up a dedicated venture business unit to focus specifically on upcycling and repurposing waste,” he said.
“From a supply chain perspective, a different logistical setup is needed for fruit side stream collection and transportation [as] transporting fruit waste is costly and the key challenge is to build the most cost effective logistic network that will ensure cost competitiveness, quality and food safety.
“In terms of R&D, new technology needs to be developed for the specialty ingredients such as technology for enzyme extraction, which is different from the current manufacturing technology that Dole has been using.
“Additionally, for this specific business, the sales channels and networks [will] have to be expanded beyond the food and beverage industry where most of Dole’s networks are, to nutraceutical, cosmeceutical, textile and others.”
Within the venture, DSI will receive co-investment from EDB New Ventures to co-share the risks of entering new growth areas beyond its core business as well as to-market guidance, and also work with A*STAR for R&D.