A world first. In 2020, we announced Crown Native: the first ‘sugar beet paper’ to be produced at an industrial scale. Aside from being strong, affordable and food safe, the paper has a reduced environmental impact: 16% less than our ‘traditional’ paper. Crown Native was developed in close collaboration with sugar beet cooperative Cosun Beet Company, who not only supply the required sugar beet pulp, but also package their sugar in the paper.
For over a century, Cosun Beet Company has been a market-leading producer of sugar in the Netherlands. In fact, its two sugar beet factories are the largest in Europe. The organisation has long had a zero-waste approach to the processing of sugar beets. Extracted water is used to wash the beets and supplied to greenhouse farmers close to the factory. Sand and clay is collected and serves as a resource for road construction. And the left over sugar beet pulp is used as cattle feed.
With production increasing, Cosun Beet Company had been exploring alternative uses for sugar beet pulp. The idea for sugar beet paper had been around for years, but creating a paper that met the demands of packaging proved challenging. After various experiments that produced unsatisfactory results, Crown Van Gelder entered the picture in 2019. We had already been experimenting with various alternative fibres. So when we started talking about the possibility of sugar beet paper, a partnership was quickly born.
It’s the first thing that catches the eye: the brown speckles in the paper. These speckles are left overs from the sugar beet’s dark outside layer. While they might make the paper unsuitable for some purposes, we quickly realised these small brown dots actually tell the sustainable story behind the paper and make Crown Native a perfect fit for packaging. This is one example of why Crown Van Gelder feels it is important to develop products with partners throughout the value chain. By involving the end user, in this case Cosun Beet Company’s consumer product division, we realised that the speckles were not a bug, they were a feature.
The demands for paper used to package food are many. Think of smoothness, printability, food safety and strength of course. Sugar bags are filled and processed at high speed. And in their journey from the factory to store shelves and the kitchen cabinet, the bags go through many hands. So the production team awas excited to see how the paper would hold up during the first production test. “We were pleasantly surprised with Crown Native’s performance,” Richelle van Helten, Brand Manager & Export Manager at Cosun Beet Company recalls. “The print quality was excellent, and the folds were neat and clean.” As with all our products, Crown Native’s runability also stood out. Richelle: “The smoothness was exactly right for our machines, allowing for full speed production. Our operators all agreed the paper ran remarkably well.”
A sustainable front runner
Crown Native is green. Its environmental impact is 16% smaller than our traditional paper. This number has been calculated by performing a life cycle analysis, which we believe is the most thorough and objective measure of a product’s environmental impact. This method examines all stages of a product’s existence. For Crown Native, that includes everything up until the moment the paper leaves our gate: extraction of raw materials, transport, and product manufacturing. The analysis takes into account four ways a product can impact the environment: greenhouse gasses, particulate matter formation, land use, and water consumption.
Sugar beet fibres have a much lower environmental impact than wood fibres. A staggering 80% less. This is due to a host of reasons. Firstly, the beets are harvested close to the sugar beet factory, which significantly cuts down on transport, compared to wood fibres that are sourced from Portugal, Uruguay or Scandinavia for example. Moreover, by using beet pulp, the production process requires less water. And because the pulp is an agricultural by-product, it does not require additional farm land. The biggest advantage of sugar beet pulp however, is that it contains almost no lignin. When using wood fibres, lignin needs to be removed from the wood cellulose pulp to make high-quality permanent paper. Removing this step from the production process saves a huge amount of energy.
As the first bags of sugar packaged in Crown Native are arriving in stores, we are looking towards the future. With Cosun Beet Company, we are investigating options to package more of their products in Crown Native, such as their sugar cube boxes, or their 25 kg sugar bags for industrial use. Also, Crown Van Gelder is exploring the use of alternative fibres from different sources. We believe that alternative fibres are the future of sustainable paper and we look forward to partnering with organisations to create more innovative products like Crown Native.
“Aside from their enthusiasm and dedication, Crown Van Gelder’s small team has been a huge plus. It allowed us to move fast and made the development process feel smooth and easy.”
– Richelle van Helten, Cosun Beet Company