Non-food applications of carbohydrates from sugar beet refinement

Beet pulp contains a number of very valuable raw materials that can be valorised. This was proven by previous laboratory research. In this follow-up study, Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, Cosun, Dalli de Klok, and Smit & Zoon examine the options of scaling up the results. Beet pulp as an ingredient for dishwasher detergents and the leather industry.

Dishwasher detergents

Pectin from sugar beet pulp has characteristics that make it a unique raw material that is very suitable for use in dishwasher detergents. The pectins serve as functional replacements for non-degradable polymers in dishwasher detergents. This makes these products more environmentally friendly. The proportion of biobased ingredients in dishwasher detergents is higher, and it is easier for the product to degrade. "These findings are very important in our transition towards more sustainable," says Robbert de Boer, head of product development at Dalli de Klok. "We want to get rid of non-degradable polymers, it seems we have succeeded."

Leather industry

The pectin is also a sustainable alternative for oil-based chemistry in the leather industry. It is very suitable at the end of the wet production process. For instance, it can influence the colour intensity. "By using products based on pectin, we make the chain more sustainable. It significantly reduces the environmental impact," says Yujie Ma, senior scientist and platform leader for biobased chemicals at Smit & Zoon.


The collaboration with other industries is very appealing to Cosun. "The pulp is there already, but if we can sell sustainable components to multiple companies, that means the expansion of multiple applications and markets for us. And any profits we make will benefit the members of our cooperation," says Harry Raaijmakers, who is responsible for chemical competency at Cosun R&D. "We want to invest in a test factory — that proposal is also on the table. We will only do this if there is sufficient support for volume and potential for the product. Decisions like this require a proper substantiation of the business case. And this project looks interesting enough to continue."

Win-win squared

"That was the beauty of this project," says Ben van den Broek, project leader on behalf of Wageningen Food & Biobased Research. "Very diverse industries were brought together in this project. The great advantage is that the different parties can be very open with each other, share information, and learn from each other. That is win-win squared." The collaboration with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research is considered very valuable by the commercial parties. "They have a lot of background knowledge, which sometimes is almost casually brought to the table. It is exactly that kind of knowledge network that can really help the research project advance," says De Boer. Ma: "We want to know a lot, but cannot measure certain things. And Wageningen can, so they really make a significant difference." Raaijmakers: "The extensive network of Wageningen Food & Biobased Research brings supply and demand together."