Plant-based lecithin is commonly used as an emulsifier and stabilizer in a wide range of products, from food to personal care items. As the name suggests, it’s extracted from sources such as soybeans, sunflowers, and rapeseed, making it a sustainable and ethical option compared to animal-based lecithin.
With consumers becoming more environmentally conscious, it’s important for the food and beverage industry to prioritize sustainable and ethical sourcing practices. This includes sourcing ingredients that have a minimal impact on the environment and are produced through ethical means.
Plant-based lecithin is a viable solution for sourcing managers and agents who want to meet the growing demand for sustainable and ethical products. The purpose of this article is to explore the sourcing and production of plant-based lecithin and the environmental benefits it offers.
Plant-based lecithin is commonly sourced from soybeans, sunflowers, and rapeseed. However, the specific plant source can vary depending on the supplier and the region. It is important to consider the quality and purity of the lecithin when sourcing, as its quality holds a major impact on the final product.
Compared to animal-based lecithin, plant-based lecithin offers several advantages in terms of sourcing. Animal-based lecithin is typically sourced from animal organs such as the liver or eggs. This has raised ethical and sustainability concerns among both, consumers and manufacturers, as the production process usually involves animal cruelty and unsustainable farming practices.
Plant-based lecithin, on the other hand, doesn’t involve any such practices as its source is a variety of plants. For the same reason, it’s considered more flexible in terms of sourcing options and has a reduced negative impact on the environment.
When sourcing plant-based lecithin, sustainability and ethical considerations should be a priority. Sourcing managers and agents should look for suppliers who prioritize sustainable and ethical sourcing practices. This can include extraction from organic and non-GMO crops, reduced waste, minimum water usage, supporting fair labour practices, and reduced use of pesticides and herbicides.
Apart from the sustainability and ethical aspects, it’s also important to consider the price and quality of the plant-based lecithin. Sourcing managers and agents should compare prices and quality among different suppliers to ensure they are getting the best value for their business.
The production process of plant-based lecithin involves extracting the oil from the plant material and separating it from the lecithin. Several methods are involved in the extraction of both, the oil and lecithin, including mechanical pressing, solvent extraction, and enzymatic hydrolysis.
Mechanical pressing is a simple and traditional method that involves using pressure to extract oil and degumming it to separate lecithin from the plant material. This method is often used for small-scale production and results in a lower yield of oil and lecithin.
Solvent extraction is a more efficient method that involves using a solvent, such as hexane, to extract and separate the oil and lecithin. At the end of the process, the solvent is evaporated to leave behind the oil and lecithin. While this method is more efficient, it has some environmental concerns due to the use of solvents. And, this process is mostly followed for the extraction of soybean lecithin.
Enzymatic hydrolysis is a newer method that involves using enzymes to break down the plant material to extract the oil and lecithin. It’s considered more environmentally friendly and produces a higher yield of oil and lecithin. However, it is a more complex process and requires more specialized equipment. Also, it involves no use of harmful chemicals.
In terms of sustainability and ethical considerations, it is important to ensure that the plant material used for lecithin production is sourced from sustainable and ethical sources. Additionally, the production process should be carried out in an environmentally friendly manner, with minimal waste and pollution.
Plant-based lecithin has several environmental benefits in comparison to animal-based lecithin. Here are some of the key advantages:
Producing plant-based lecithin requires less energy and generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions than producing animal-based lecithin. One of the reasons for this is that plant-based lecithin is typically produced from oilseeds such as soybeans, requiring less fossil fuel-based inputs. Hence, the process produces fewer emissions.
For the production of plant-based lecithin, there’s a much lesser requirement for land compared to the production of animal-based lecithin. This is because animal-based sources require land for grazing or feed production. It also contributes to deforestation and habitat destruction. On the flip side, plant-based lecithin is produced from oilseeds that can be grown on existing cropland, reducing the need for additional land.
The requirement for water usage also greatly varies between the production process of plant-based lecithin and animal-based lecithin. Sources for animal-based lecithin such as eggs and milk require significant amounts of water for production and processing, while plant-based sources such as soybeans and sunflowers require less water.
In short, plant-based lecithin is a sustainable and ethical alternative to animal-based lecithin in the food and beverage industry. By sourcing and producing plant-based lecithin sustainably and ethically, we can not only reduce our environmental impact but also support fair labour practices while protecting animal welfare.
As discussed, the environmental benefits of plant-based lecithin are significant. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced land use, and reduced water consumption just to name a few.
As sourcing managers and agents, you have a responsibility to prioritize sustainable and ethical sourcing practices. By switching suppliers to plant-based lecithin, you can make a positive impact on the environment, society, and the food industry as a whole.
At LECITEIN, we are committed to sourcing and producing plant-based lecithin sustainably and ethically. We encourage you to consider switching to plant-based lecithin and join us in creating a more sustainable and ethical future for the food and beverage industry and play your part in creating a better world for the generations to come. After all, not everything is about profits.