Plant-based produce manufacturer, Cosucra, pioneers healthy food alternatives, modern sustainable farming, and protecting the planet with protein

It has been over one hundred years since Cosucra first started farming. With origins in sugar production, the company is now a leading provider of healthy plant-based alternatives, as CEO, Eric Bosly reveals: “We are part of a very long legacy. The business started out over 171 years ago, and it’s only in the last 20 years that we decided to refocus the business and move into producing healthy ingredients. Our goal is to help consumers access healthy ingredients that are good for their minds and bodies. About five or six years ago, we realized that we needed to be thinking about the health of the planet as well as the consumer. We decided to combine these missions, aspiring to create a product that contributes positively to its environment and the people who live in it.  

Eric Bosly

“We’ve all seen the news. Climate change is a very real problem, and we recognize our responsibility to produce ingredients in the most sustainable way possible. There is so much to consider when you are looking to cut down on carbon emissions — what does your company’s carbon footprint look like, for example? To reduce our impact, we had to go directly to the source and look at the agriculture process. In 2021, we set up a complete strategic plan for increased production efficiency, and over the years that has helped Cosucra lay the foundation for becoming a sustainably run operation.”  

Sustainability and equality strategy 

A long history of innovation has ensured a successful legacy for Cosucra, as Eric details: “Throughout the history of the company, it has always worked closely with local farmers and regional agriculture. In the 19th Century, the challenge was to find a way to replace cane sugar, as it was difficult to import in Europe. Around this time, the industry had started producing sugar beet. We adopted this model and successfully extracted sugar that way for more than a century. Then, 30 years ago, we decided to shift gears. Market research showed that consumers were not eating enough fiber, around 50 percent of the recommended daily intake. The research also suggested that there was an imbalance between protein sources — nearly 80 percent of the average consumer’s protein came from animal products, but experts suggest this should be closer to 50 percent, with the other half coming from vegetables and plants. That’s where we first got the idea to move into healthy-living ingredients, a concept that goes hand-in-hand with sustainability. 

“Let’s be honest, as an industry we use a lot of energy. But as a producer of vegetable protein, Cosucra is part of the solution. We conducted a study in which we replaced a standard beef patty with a pea-protein alternative. The results showed that you will save 20 times more CO₂ with the vegetable protein, meaning your carbon footprint will be 20 times lower. By offering more viable meat-free alternatives, we are helping to achieve a 55 percent decrease in CO₂ emissions from the food production industry across Europe.”  

Sustainability is a core tenet of Cosucra’s strategy. To help build a better future for farmers, consumers, and the environment, the company has established goals leading up to 2030. “We have set up six KPIs directly relating to sustainability and equality. These goals are embedded in our 2030 strategy. The first one is to reach 50 percent of our raw material coming from sustainable agriculture. Secondly, we want to reduce our carbon footprint by 50 percent. We are also aiming to improve gender diversity within our workforce, reduce workplace accidents, and decrease water consumption on our produce by 30 percent. Finally, we want to increase our positive impact on people’s health by providing, as an example, a viable alternative to meat protein products,” Eric affirms.  

Positive impact 

It is no secret that the past few years have completely transformed the consumer market. As shoppers’ priorities continue to change, Eric discusses how Cosucra has overcome the challenges: “During the Covid-19 crisis, we saw very strong demand because consumers had more time to invest in healthy home cooking. At the same time, I think everyone became more concerned about the future of the planet. Health and sustainability became big topics of discussion, and Cosucra really began to thrive. Unfortunately, we were then hit with some supply chain issues. As market trends shifted after the pandemic, we had to find our footing again. Following some challenges in early 2023, the company reached its inventory goals and we have seen an uptick in business since then.

“There is certainly a change in the type of product the consumer is buying. We are seeing a shift toward more affordable products, but that doesn’t necessarily mean consumers are compromising on health. We are still seeing sustainability and clean ingredients scoring very high in consumer surveys. We are now working with more private label businesses, as these products are cheaper and therefore more popular in the current climate. These partnerships allow Cosucra to produce healthy, sustainable food products that consumers can easily access on a budget. 

“Technology is also going to be very important to our success moving forward. We want to reduce our carbon emissions by half, which requires a very ambitious energy transition strategy. We will replace the old steam generation plant with electricity generation plants using biogas. This is a huge investment for Cosucra. The company will be putting around €80 million in the next two years into a singular plant, in the hopes of significantly reducing its energy consumption and carbon output.” 

With over one hundred years of innovation and evolution behind it, Cosucra is now paving the way for an even brighter future. As Eric concludes: “My ambition is to continue steadily growing the business. We’re not looking to achieve exponential growth and risk compromising our sustainability goals in the process. Instead, we want to play a role in the transition toward healthier, plant-based food alternatives. Our goal is also to continue producing environmentally conscious goods that have a positive impact on the planet. Ultimately, Cosucra is and has always been a family business that prioritizes its people. We have a long history behind us, and we are now working to ensure an equally long and prosperous future.”