Crown Van Gelder – Changing the world of Paper

Fully sustainable, recyclable and suitable for the food packaging industry – that is the novel sugar beet paper brought to the market by the Dutch company Crown Van Gelder.

Crown Van Gelder (CVG), a versatile medium-sized paper mill based in the Netherlands and a specialist in wood-free uncoated and light coated papers, draws on 125 years of experience in the quality paper segment. Crown Van Gelder produces around 180,000 tonnes of paper annually for customers all over the world in the graphics, label and packaging industries.

“Our papers enable optimal performance in different applications. We deliver high-speed inkjet paper for transactional, publishing and promotional print as well as paper for self-adhesive labelling and specific uses in packaging and technical applications,” says Jan Rops, Product Manager at Crown van Gelder.

Established in 1896 as a family-owned business, the company has survived historical and economic upheavals and was re-established as an independent paper mill in 1983. It has gradually become the market leader in its segment and in 2015 was purchased by Andlinger, a private investment and management fund.

Mr Rops explains that the paper mill is unique in its focus. “We make wood-free paper, that means that our paper is manufactured using wood that has been processed into a chemical pulp, removing the lignin from the wood fibres. The properties of such paper include good strength, high brightness and good archival characteristics, making it suitable for applications requiring a high-quality paper.”

Paper production at Crown Van Gelder takes place in one straight 280 m long line, from reception of raw materials to storage of packed reels. The technology, which includes two paper machines, is highly automated with minimum human intervention, and the machines can be adjusted quickly to make various types of paper as required. “Our technology is unique in the paper-making sector and is one of the reasons why we can meet such varied demand,” Mr Rops points out.

Paper from sugar beet

The company is now about to launch a ground-breaking new product – paper made from sugar beet that will be branded Crown Native and introduced in early 2021. This will make the Dutch paper manufacturer the first in the world to produce ‘sugar beet paper’ at an industrial level. After two years of research, Crown Native was developed with the Dutch agricultural cooperative Cosun Beet Company as a strategic partner.

“We discovered that sugar beet itself does not contain lignin as it is an underground plant which does not require the stiffness that lignin provides, and its fibre is used only to store water and nutrients, it can therefore be used directly for papermaking,” Jan Rops explains, adding that the technological challenges that the company encountered at the beginning have now been overcome.

The company investigated several crops to replace part of the wood fibres in the paper. With Crown Native, Crown Van Gelder has succeeded in creating paper made out of 20% beet pulp, thus achieving environmental gains in several areas. Due to the local sourcing, far less transport is required. As a result, Crown Native realises a significant reduction in CO2 emissions and particulate matter formation. Moreover, by using beet pulp, the production process requires less water.

The partnership with Cosun Beet Company has been invaluable. “We had been considering sugar beet paper since 2014 but were not successful until two years ago when we met CVG. The new product is a great achievement and a big step forward,” says Richelle van Helten, Cosun Beet Company’s export manager and brand manager for Consumer Products.

She points out that Cosun Beet Company has been an ardent advocate of packing granulated sugar in sugar beet paper for many years. “We are delighted that it is now technically possible. The paper reflects the ambition of Cosun Beet Company being the greenest and most innovative sugar beet processor in the world.”

Mr Rops says: “The new product line will have an environmental impact reduced by 16% compared to traditional paper and will help major brands reach their sustainability targets. As it is classified as food safe, it can be used in direct contact with foodstuffs, sugar beet paper is the ideal choice for food packaging.”

Part of circular economy

The unique properties of the new paper, which is also recyclable up to seven times, are bound to attract the attention of supermarket chains, candy and snack producers, but also fashion brands who are committed to the Green Deal. “Everybody is looking for innovative packaging in efforts to reduce their environmental footprint. This is a highly topical issue and our paper can help companies to achieve their goals, while still offering the benefits that they are used to,” says Mr Rops.

“We are already part of the circular economy and the partnership with Cosun Beet Company is an excellent example of an environmentally friendly, sustainable value chain. Other participants are just as important, of course, for example, innovative technology suppliers, such as Schneider Electric who has delivered and maintaining the process control system both at Crown van Gelder and Cosun Beet Company. But also the Corex Group which is a supplier and a potential customer.”

He explains that the paper mill will continue investing in researching new kinds of fibres as well as new technology. The company is now building a fully-automated third feeding line designed specifically to convert sugar beet into paper fibres, to complement the existing two lines for short fibres (a.o. eucalyptus) and long fibres (a.o. pine). “That will be a huge investment, but next year we will be ready to start production.”

That is something that Cosun Beet Company is already counting on. “Next year we will start with a new consumer packaging based on sugar beet paper. The target is to have all our paper packaging on Dutch supermarket shelves made of sugar beet paper in the near future,” says Ms van Helten, confirming that with 9,000 farmers growing sugar beet on 80,000 ha under the cooperative’s control, there is no shortage of raw material.

All is set for the big launch early next year, as Jan Rops reflects: “Moving forward is in our DNA. We are ready to meet the forecast demand for the sugar beet paper and will continue to strive to make an increasing contribution to the circular economy.”

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