ITALY – Organic food and beverage company, Ecotone, has as announced a €20 million (US$21.31million) investment at its plant-based drinks production facility in Badia Polesine, Northern Italy.
The facility in Northern Italy is a 14,000-square-metre site that produces organic plant-based beverages for brands including Bjorg, Bonneterre, Isola Bio, Abbott Kinney’s, and EcoCest.
Additionally, the facility is said to have five production lines, which produce 120 million liters each year, 50% of which are destined for France, where Ecotone generates 60% of its turnover.
The plant has employed 163 people, making it one of the largest European production sites of its kind.
With the investment, Ecotone will be able to add a new production line that will enable it to produce an additional 27 million liters of plant-based beverages per year.
The investment is part of Ecotone’s strategy to “strengthen the competitiveness of its production sites,” with the company “focusing on innovation and automation while driving forward sustainability throughout its operations”.
Ecotone has revealed that a reorganization of the factory’s production workshop is also expected to allow for increased automation with 50% of its intralogistics requiring no human intervention, and a fully automated production flow between bottling and loading pallets into trucks.
The B-Corp certified food and beverage group says that the location in Italy is important because of its proximity to Ecotone’s network of more than 100 producers that have 4,500 hectares of land under organic cultivation in Italy.
Ecotone CEO Christophe Barnouin said: “This major investment aims to strengthen Ecotone’s industrial competitiveness in a growing market for plant-based beverages. With a strong presence throughout Europe, just like its brands, with nine production sites, including two in France.”
Ecotone is committed to its values and leading the way towards more innovation and sustainability in the food industry”
At the same time, Market Research.com is projecting a compound annual growth rate of 8.42% to grow to US$627.283 million by 2026, from US$356.093 million in 2019.
It cites the reason behind the surge in this market is the target group of purchasers that have increasingly shifted their preferences from traditional sources of protein like the ones that are derived from animals and dairy products.
This new kind of dietary pattern which has been increasingly monikered as flexitarian along with the long-established yet still increasing number of vegans are also other driving factors bolstering the plant-based market.
Ecotone aims to make the Badia Polesine facility a ‘flagship’ of Industry 4.0 and its recent investments have focused on automation, including an internal pallet flow management system via laser-guided vehicles.
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