Phenoliva: turning olive waste into a valuable resource

8 Dec 2020


Did you know that only 20% of the olive fruit is used in the production of extra virgin olive oil? The remaining 80% becomes olive pomace, which is considered waste. This waste causes serious environmental and economic problems in Mediterranean countries, as its chemical composition creates challenges for stability, recycling and further processing. And it’s literally a waste of valuable material, because olive pomace is very high in antioxidants. Valorising the olive pomace into an abundant and low-cost resource would be a win-win situation, right? That’s why Puratos has become a partner in the EIT Food project Phenoliva. 

Turning olive oil side streams into resources for the food industry

Phenoliva is an innovation project within EIT Food*. Nine partners from academia, applied research and the food industry partner up in this project, which aims for full circularity in the olive industry.

An important target product of Phenoliva is an innovative, natural food antioxidant based on olive polyphenols. It is of great interest to the food processing industry as an additive to preserve food quality or as a functional ingredient. This natural food antioxidant is expected to have many benefits for the food industry, such as:

  • high technical performance
  • cleaner labelling
  • high sustainability focus
  • cost competitiveness
  • potential health benefits

Full circularity

These antioxidants are not the only products that are extracted out of the olive side stream. As full circularity is a key motivation for Phenoliva, the remaining biomass is evaluated for the production of biogas, irrigation water and a valuable soil conditioner to improve soil fertility and olive tree health.

Addressing hot topics

Phenoliva addresses several hot topics within the olive oil industry, food processing industry and end consumer world:

  1. Full circularity: the European Green Deal emphasises the importance for all industries to work towards a sustainable future. Phenoliva reduces the environmental impact of the olive oil industry by tackling a long-standing waste management problem with a circular approach. 

  2. New business opportunities for the primary sector: Phenoliva is developing a business model that ensures a fair economic return in the food chain. This is especially important given the fact that small- and medium-scale olive oil producers are under increasing economic pressure and face an uncertain future.

  3. Novel, efficient food antioxidants: Olive antioxidants are among the most powerful natural antioxidants known to date. Phenoliva aims to provide the food processing industry with a novel ingredient that offers high technical performance (stability, efficiency, activity) and cost competitiveness.

  4. Natural and sustainable food ingredients: End consumers ask for natural, fresh, sustainable and healthy nutrition. All these needs are a key focus of the Phenoliva project. Olive antioxidants are known for their antioxidant capacity, and Phenoliva aims to tap this very abundant and largely unexploited, relatively low-cost resource of powerful, natural antioxidants to meet the increasing consumer demand for natural food ingredients.

The importance of this project for Puratos

Puratos is always focusing on helping customers grow their business in a sustainable way. That’s why we partner in several EIT Food projects, including the PROVE project, which taps into plant-based ingredients from new sources like lupine, canola and fava beans to achieve future food security for the growing world population. And similarly the VALOCAKE project, which further focuses on the valorisation of one specific protein source: rapeseed press cake.

Puratos is continuously investigating possibilities for more natural and clean(er) label ingredients. In the UnderPRESSURE project, we explored new possibilities for fat-based products with less fat, and now, in the Phenoliva project, we focus on minimising waste and valorising side streams into natural food ingredients. 

As a partner in Phenoliva, Puratos is testing the antioxidants in several products like margarines and fillings. At a later stage, we will test the antioxidants in other products used in patisserie and chocolate. This project allows us to develop even more natural products for our customers.

Next steps towards a more sustainable olive oil industry

In Phenoliva, an integrated waste management concept for the olive oil industry is implemented on pilot scale. But EIT Food, Puratos and our other partners want more. An extension of the project, in order to scale it up, has already been requested. The overarching goal of this multi-annual activity is the creation of a start-up company that implements the proposed waste management concept and commercialises these natural antioxidant-based products.

Innovating to meet customer and consumer demands is of paramount importance to Puratos. Are you curious about the other future-proof innovations Puratos has been working on recently? Learn more about how we tapped into new, sustainable sources of proteins to secure our future food supply, find out what opportunities we are creating with rapeseed side streams [link to Valocake], or discover how new food concepts were created by using retail food losses.

*This EIT Food activity has received funding from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union, under Horizon2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.

Nine partners are involved in the Phenoliva project: ETH, CSIC, Fraunhofer, Rethink Resource, Acesur, Puratos, Maspex, Tymbark and Lubella.