Christophe Barnouin is the CEO of Ecotone, one of Europe’s largest organic and plant-based food companies. For 30 years Ecotone (formerly Wessanen) has committed to change the industrial food system with alternative food. With biodiversity as its core value, Ecotone is the first international food company to fully become B Corp certified.
What does Ecotone mean?
Ecotone is the European leader for organic and plant-based food, as well as the first and largest international food business to be fully B Corp certified. We are a mission-led company that champions biodiversity through food. From a biodiversity perspective, an ecotone is where two biological communities or eco-systems meet and integrate to form the richest most biodiverse places on earth. This is why we named our company after this meaningful word.
What’s your mission?
We are committed to charting an alternative path to the dominant, industrial food model that is damaging the planet. More than a slogan, “Food for Biodiversity” is a catchy way to describe our job: creating food that can help biodiversity thrive, not just survive.
“We are driving the change in food production in order to preserve and grow biodiversity”
What does ‘make food for biodiversity’ mean in practice?
It means that we are driving the change in food production in order to preserve and grow biodiversity, as well as offering consumers a wide variety of ingredients. Hence these strong commitments that drive us: we ban all chemical substances that destroy life in the fields, we promote meat and dairy alternatives to avoid deforestation, we develop advanced agricultural practices beyond organic standards, we fight against food standardisation and support revitalising ecosystems degraded by humans.
You were the first international food business in Europe to be B Corp certified. What does it mean?
In a world with so many challenges, we are convinced that companies should play a role by having a positive impact. But this impact must be measurable in an objective and trustable way. B Corp is one of the most demanding certifications that evaluates brands’ social and environmental impact.
Becoming the first international food business in Europe to be B Corp certified stresses that our commitments are not only vocal but deeply rooted in our products, initiatives, and actions. And shared by all our brands and employees.
You have strong company commitments & challenges set for 2030.
When I’m looking at the work done by Ecotone teams, I’m confident we’ll achieve our goals. By 2030 Ecotone commits to:
- further grow the share of its turnover of organic products to 90% and of vegetarian products to 95%.
- defy food standardisation and guarantee that two thirds of our products will not be based on the nine over-consumed global commodities (wheat, rice, corn, soybeans, palm oil) that more than 65% of global diets are based on.
- triple the volume of strategic raw materials grown using agricultural practices exceeding organic specifications in order to increase biodiversity (agri-ecological practices, under cover, long crop rotation).
Is the future of food organic + plant-based?
We don’t see the trend for plantbased products and organic as a business opportunity: It’s in our DNA. It’s also a necessity when our planet’s biodiversity is collapsing. It’s one of the biggest crises our, and future generations, are facing. And current industrial agriculture (the use of pesticides) and food systems (intensive breeding) are largely to blame. So, when you mix organic and plantbased products you solve these two problems and foster biodiversity.
“We eat too much meat, that’s a fact”
What about current plant-based market growth? Is this growth sustainable?
We eat too much meat, that’s a fact. And we are depleting biodiversity to feed all these livestock. The growing awareness of this issue is beneficial because it allows us to change our eating habits and thus stimulates creativity and innovation in the food industry. However, we must not fall into the trap of ultra-processed, chemical transformation of plants.
It is therefore necessary to eat healthy, natural, and vegetables. And at Ecotone this is what we propose! We promote and enhance biodiversity by choosing an alternative path: we offer organic and vegetarian products developed with agroecological practices that sometimes even go beyond organic certification. That kind of growth is sustainable.
“I regard the increasing consumer interest in vegan food as positive and critically important”
How much of a threat is veganwashing?
I regard the increasing consumer interest in vegan food as positive and critically important. The consumer will figure out over time whether brands and companies are seriously committed to driving positive change or whether it’s veganwashing. There also is a role for NGOs and policymakers in guiding consumers to make the right choices. But ultimately, it’s down to every one of us – We have the power to change our diets to become healthier and more sustainable and have a big impact on the planet overall. We can literally put Biodiversity on the Menu every day.
What can you tell us about your top EU brands’ latest product innovations?
In our fight for ingredient diversity, we’ve launched with Bonneterre an oat drink based on agroecological, local, and organic practices that foster biodiversity on a larger scale. It took us several months to adapt the supply chain to match these processes that integrate CSR initiatives at all stages. Our natural, fair and delicious Clipper brand has launched a plastic-free teabag. Our leading brand on organic and nutritional food in France, Bjorg has launched a new range of organic products for kids: GMO free, palm oil free, healthy… It also launched a “Oui au végétal” (yes to plants) beverage, close to milk in terms of appearance and nutritional property but with neutral taste: perfect to change your habits!
Where can we find Ecotone at BIOFACH?
On the Allos stand in hall 7A! We’ll be happy to welcome you!
Author: Enric Urrutia, Director
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