Working towards zero waste in Ghana

Our business has grown by providing the highest quality fresh-cut fruit made ‘at source’ at our factories in Ghana, Egypt, South Africa, Brazil and the UK. More recently, we have entered the branded category, supplying our multi award-winning vegan ice-cream. But this ice-cream isn’t just a story about creating an exceptional taste, it also forms an important chapter in how the business believes passionately in zero waste.

From the process of preparing fruit, we generate over 5,000 tons of organic material each year that cannot be used in our fresh-cut products. For instance, left-over fruit pieces that are too small or too mushy to go in a fruit salad, or material such as skins, seeds, piths or crowns that cannot be eaten.

The challenge, therefore, is what to do with this huge quantity of left-over material, without causing harm to the environment.

Putting our organic waste to good use...

Since Blue Skies was founded in 1997, it has always looked for innovative ways to put left-over material to good use and not to waste. Over the past twenty years, we have developed a number of channels to ensure every last piece of the fruit that we procure, is used. This is primarily focused on two core areas; product diversification to make use of all edible material and composting to make use of all the inedible material. Our compost operation was the first of its kind in Ghana. Any waste that cannot be utilised for human consumption is sent to our near-by compost site where it is turned into nutrient rich compost and then returned back to our farms. This has many benefits to the farmer by acting as a natural fertiliser which improves yields, develops resilience to disease and resistance to drought. This lowers input costs to farmers by reducing the need for expensive fertilisers and chemical sprays and increasing yield output. Organic material that is edible and fit for the human food chain is used in Blue Skies award-winning branded freshly squeezed fruit juices, ice cream and fruit lollies which are sold into a number of markets worldwide. All of these products are made using the freshest of ingredients and have many health benefits, for example of ice cream is made with coconut milk so is dairy free, 100% vegan and gluten free. Anything that is left over goes to local producers to make pasteurised juices and jams and use as animal feed. Additionally, we supply our coconut shells as a sustainable alternative to charcoal for producing energy.

The impact

1,500 tons of raw material is turned into 270 tons of compost every year. This is then returned to both Blue Skies own farms and the growers that supply us, of which we have over fifty. The impact to the grower is significant as the compost conditions the soil, buffers soil pH, increases plant resistance to disease and increases yield and soil water holding capacity. As a result, we have seen grower yields increase by over 5% and reliance on expensive fertilisers and chemical sprays reduce by 30%. For Blue Skies, it means we receive better quality fruit, which helps to enhance shelf life and yield performance in the preparation of our fresh-cut fruit products, and provides us with high quality ‘left-overs’ which can either be used in developing world-class products that meet a consumer need, or go back again to our compost, therefore continuing the virtuous circle of zero-waste, maximum taste. Our freshly squeezed juice has become an iconic brand in Ghana and has won multiple awards including Fruit Juice of the Year at the 2018 Ghana Beverage Awards. Our ice-cream has also been highly successful and in its first year it won almost every taste test we entered including Great Taste, Q Awards, the Grocer New Product Awards, and more recently the 2019 Fresh Produce Award for Innovation.

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