BENEO, a manufacturer of functional ingredients, is demonstrating how supply security and sustainability can go hand in hand. While increasing global capacity for its prebiotic chicory root fibers by 30%, thanks to a 90 million Euro investment ($88.9 million USD) into its production plant in Pemuco, Chile, it is also reducing specific energy consumption by 35%.

As consumer awareness of digestive health, immunity, the gut microbiome, and its beneficial effect on overall well-being continues to grow, so does the demand for BENEO’s prebiotic and natural chicory root fibers. Additionally, present times demonstrate the rising importance of saving energy today and for future generations. To deliver a secure supply of chicory root fiber, while also keeping sustainability top of mind, BENEO’s capacity increase is accompanied by steps that allow it to reduce specific energy consumption by 35%. 

At its Pemuco plant in Chile, BENEO conducted an analysis of the entire production process to identify any areas where energy efficiency could be improved. Based on these findings, the company has upgraded existing processing equipment and invested in new technology, such as new evaporation systems, which will not only reduce the energy required but also ensures that the energy is used in the most efficient way possible. This investment into new technology also allows for improved process continuation as it means equipment can be cleaned without interruption of the overall process, which in turn results in further significant energy savings.

Guillermo Fernandez, head of manufacturing at BENEO in Chile, comments, “At BENEO, ensuring reliable and consistent delivery to our customers goes hand in hand with taking steps towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly production processes. This also means that for every investment, the highest level of energy efficiency is applied. Therefore, the significant reduction of specific energy consumption at our chicory root fiber plant in Pemuco is an important milestone for us.”

Globally, consumer interest in prebiotics continues to grow and has already seen an increase from 51% in 2018 to 61% in 2022, according to HealthFocus International, Global Trends Report. Catering to this rising demand, BENEO will open a new refinery line in Pemuco, Chile, by the end of this year, leading to a 15% increase in its total chicory root fiber capacity. This will be followed by an additional 15% increase due to be completed next spring, resulting in a total increase in capacity of 30%. While ensuring a secure supply of chicory root fibers, sustainability is a key focus for BENEO as it aims to further reduce its overall CO2 emissions. 

Chicory root fibers (inulin and oligofructose) are the only plant-based prebiotics. According to the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), they belong to very few proven prebiotics. The positive effects of chicory root fibers on bifidobacteria abundance in gut microbiota and on bowel function parameters have recently been demonstrated by a new systematic literature review with meta-analyses, considered the strongest methodology in the hierarchy of scientific evidence. BENEO’s prebiotic fibers Orafti Inulin and Oligofructose are natural, non-GMO, and clean label, and can be used in a wide range of food and drink applications.