Go Bananas!

Sustainable action at Symrise also means checking continually whether the processing of raw materials produces by-products that could be valorized to make added value. This was the case with bananas.

Ecuador is one of the major banana producers in the world. Here at the Pasaje location, Business Unit Diana Food processes the fruit to purees, flakes or powders as well as banana crunchies. This creates 22,000 tons of banana peels annually. Until now, these peels were composted and used as fertilizer on the banana fields. But what if some of these 22,000 tons could be processed to make a new product?

The researchers and application technologists in Fabien Neaud’s team asked themselves this question. In 2015, Fabien, who was working in France at the time, had the idea to take a closer look at banana peels for further processing. Now he is R&D Manager in LATAM, based in Chile, and has been there all the way from the first investigations to the finished product. “Five years ago, I was focusing on the production of flakes and crunchies from various fruits and vegetables. It made sense to look at banana peels as well,” says Fabien.

I see great poten­tial for the valorization of side streams across the whole Symrise group.

Fabien Neaud, R&D Manager, Nutrition LATAM

The findings from Fabien’s and his colleagues’ studies were promising. Banana peels are high in fiber and contain many active ingredients that make them interesting for further processing. In addition to various amino acids and potassium, they also contain tryptophane, precursor of serotonin and dopamine. Both are commonly known as happiness hormones, and their best-known characteristics are their mood- enhancing effect and sleep aid. This made it the natural choice for a Consumer Health product, for example in the form of food supplements. Various business units were also interested in the characteristics and components of the fibers of the peels. But because banana peels are not classified as food in the USA and in Europe but rather as a waste product, the idea for a product made of dried banana peel puree was initially shelved. Only a few samples were made.

Then Symrise customer TCI Taiwan, a functional beverage manufacturer, indicated their interest. “They already had a product made of fresh banana peels in their range that was said to have a mood-enhancing effect,” Fabien explains. The name of the product: Happy Banana. Unlike in the USA and Europe, banana peels are considered food in Taiwan. That meant one major obstacle was gone. There was nothing standing in the way of the further processing of banana peels. In the meantime, TCI Taiwan has placed its first order. Fabien is optimistic that there will be many more potential uses for banana peel based products. “I see a great deal of potential for additional products. Not only for food for people, but especially for pets. Regulations are less restrictive there. We already use vegetable fibers in pet food production.” The banana peel flakes are now also being marketed throughout Symrise. And who knows; if it develops well, the byproduct could theoretically even become a full-fledged product.

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