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The impact of vegan baking ingredients on the environment

10 Jun 2024

Consumer Insights

Plant-based foods have seen a huge rise in popularity over recent years, with as many as one in three people now purchasing vegan options every week. One of the key drivers of this is the perception that vegan foods are more sustainable than non-vegan foods. We found that a huge 60% of consumers agree that a plant-based diet has a positive impact on the environment (Source: Plant-based insights).

But exactly how much of an impact does choosing vegan ingredients really have on the environment? In short – it can make a massive positive impact.

How choosing vegan baking ingredients has a positive impact on the environment

Using the Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) framework, we at Puratos assessed the complete product environmental impact (PEF) of our Mimetic plant-based specialty fat and butter alternative compared to butter, to micropoint. The major finding: the plant-based specialty fat was three times less harmful to the environment than butter.

We found that the reduction in environmental impact was driven across three main areas.

1. CO2 and methane emission

Carbon dioxide is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and as such, the reduction of CO2 emissions is of vital importance in limiting our impact on the environment.

In our environmental assessment, we discovered that using Mimetic results in approximately half the CO2 emissions compared to butter. Specifically, for every kilogram of Mimetic used, 4.89kg of CO2 is emitted, whereas with butter, the emission is 10.22kg per kilogram.

2. Land use

We found that using Mimetic resulted in a third as much land use per kilogram compared to butter.

Note: This calculation not only takes into account the land surface occupied by the production of these goods, but also factors like soil quality, duration of occupation, and land transformation.

Around 40% of all habitable land is used for food production. This causes loss of biodiversity as it often involves the conversion of natural habitats into farmland and the displacement of native species. In many cases, this includes deforestation where land is cleared for cattle ranching and feed crop production. We recognize the environmental concerns associated with palm oil. Nevertheless, our commitment to 100% sustainable palm oil production underscores our responsible sourcing practices. By choosing Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)-certified palm oil for products like Mimetic, we actively contribute to the preservation and restoration of natural ecosystems while supporting local communities.

Our research highlights the significant reduction in land use achieved by opting for dairy-free alternatives in food production and adopting flexitarian or vegan diets. Both of these choices offer substantial environmental benefits.

3. Water usage

Our LCA PEF assessment found that it takes 8 times less water to produce 1kg of Mimetic than it does to produce 1kg of butter. 1kg of Mimetic needs 0.23 m³ of water, whilst to produce 1kg of butter 1.91 m³ of water is consumed.

Worldwide consumption of meat and animal products makes up 27% of humanity’s total water footprint (source). This is because livestock farming requires large quantities of water for drinking, irrigation, and feed production. As we can see, switching to plant-based alternatives can make a significant impact on the reduction of water use, helping to conserve water resources and promote water sustainability.

The overarching impact

As our LCA research shows, producing baking ingredients with a lower environmental footprint can significantly reduce the environmental impact of the final products food producers create. This, in turn, can have a substantial impact on your business's overall environmental footprint.

With environmental concerns at the top of the agenda for consumers, with more and more consumers applying flexitarian and plant-based diets, and with raising awareness of the sustainability benefits of vegan food, creating quality vegan alternatives has never been a bigger opportunity for food producers. 

Puratos commitment to sustainability

From sourcing to end-of-life, as an industry, we all need to take responsibility for the environmental impact of the products we create. Conducting Life-Cycle Assessments of our products is just one of the ways we aim to measure and improve the sustainability of our ingredients. But our commitments don’t stop there.

At Puratos, we’re committed to actively taking steps to improve the health of our planet. It’s one of our commitments to you and to future generations – an obligation we take very seriously. As such, we have committed to a set of clear sustainability goals: to become carbon neutral by 2025 for our operations, water-balanced by 2030, and zero-waste-to-landfill, worldwide, by 2030 as well.

Learn more about our commitment to sustainability here: Better Planet

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