Private label ingredient supplier Beneo shares biodiversity plans

New Jersey-based ingredient supplier Beneo has shared plans to protect and harbor biodiversity at one of its production facilities in Belgium.
Zachary Russell
Associate Editor
Zachary Russell profile picture

Beneo, an ingredient supplier that works with private label manufacturers, has announced a new long-term program to promote biodiversity at one of its production sites. Beneo offers functional ingredients derived from chicory roots, beet sugar, rice, and wheat, and employs more than 1,000 people at its production units in Belgium, Chile, Germany and Italy.

Last year, Beneo, based in New Jersey, announced a two-stage $56 million expansion of its Wijgmaal, Belgium facility to meet the needs of private label manufacturers and increase rice starch production by 50%.

In partnership with two nonprofit environmental organizations, Natagora and Natagriwal, Beneo is transforming a former settling pond and the surrounding area into a sanctuary for wildlife, including rare birds, beavers, bats, deer and frogs. The project will contribute to the protection of indigenous and endangered species in Wallonia, Belgium, and at the same time enrich the local community.

“This project is our chance to play an active role in restoring some of the natural equilibrium that has been lost over time through human activity,” said Caroline Moitroux, the environment engineer in charge of the biodiversity program at Beneo. “Our settling ponds are an environment in which fauna and flora thrive. We see it as our responsibility to preserve and nurture them. As Beneo’s expertise is in food ingredients, we have sought advice from experts in this field. Thanks to our collaborations with not-for-profit environmental organizations Natagora and Natagriwal, we are taking informed action to establish a healthy, natural ecosystem in and around our ponds.”

The history of the settling pond dates back to when water was used to wash and transport sugar beet to Beneo’s Oreye processing facility. The water was passed through the pond to allow the soil to settle on the pond-bed and the clean water to be reused. 30 years have passed since the pond was employed for this purpose, and in the interim period it has been left undisturbed to give nature a chance to develop.

During that time, many species of wildlife have made the pond and surrounding environment their home. The reedbeds that have colonized the water’s edge are an ideal habitat for migratory and native water birds, as well as attracting deer and foxes. The woodland beyond the pond provides a hideout for raptors, passerines, rabbits, bats, and beavers. The pond’s close proximity to the neighboring municipal nature reserve also makes it a perfect location for encouraging wildlife to flourish.

Beneo, Natagora, and Natagriwal will work to implement a series of projects that will further develop and enrich the biodiversity of this space. For example, Natagriwal is working with the farmers who work the surrounding land to establish ecological corridors between crops and wild areas and sustainable practices.

“The cooperation with the local farmers and Natagriwal is very good and constructive,” said Aurélie Borensztein, field advisor for agro-environmental and climatic methods at Natagriwal. “The various meetings have already led to concrete results on the site. One example are the strips and plots dedicated to the small fauna of the plains.”