You ask - our CEO Piran answers

Sustainability at KoRo

Is KoRo actually sustainable?

Why does KoRo use plastic packaging?  
What does KoRo do for a better planet? 
Why isn't everything organic at KoRo?

We asked you what interests you most about sustainability at KoRo - and then asked our CEO Piran. Here he answers all the top sustainability questions on your mind. Let's start with the most important goals that we always pursue in our work:

At KoRo we want to...

Reduce our packaging waste

Our large packages are part of our identity. This not only makes commerce easier and keeps you happy for longer, but also reduces packaging waste by a lot compared to conventional packaging sizes.

Have smart supply chains

We think that there often are too many stops between a product and its origin. That's why we try to skip as many stages of the supply chain as possible, with our products.

Save food

Food wastage is a real environmental sin. At KoRo, we want to do something about this, and thats why we save food from being thrown out - and you get the best KoRo quality at lower prices!

Your questions about suppliers and producers:

Piran: We know that you are very interested in the origin of our products and that it should ideally be written on the products. The fact that this is not yet the case is due to a complicated internal process. The countries of origin of our products vary regularly, depending on where our suppliers source the products. Changing a label is not so easy and not so flexible with our current software. However, we are already working on having the origin of our products printed on the labels in the future. For this purpose, we want to switch to new software at the beginning of 2022, which will make it possible to change this information flexibly. You can already see all the information about the origin and the organic certification of the products on our website.

Piran: There are different suppliers with different certifications, we ourselves are IFS (International Featured Standard) certified. We work primarily with suppliers who meet the GFSI standard (Global Food Safety Initiative), as this is equivalent to the IFS. In exceptional cases, however, we also work with partners who are not subject to the GFSI standard. Due to our certification, we are obliged in such cases to independently inspect the non-certified farmers. For this purpose, the suppliers must submit an HACCP concept (hazard analysis and critical control points), and we also carry out a risk analysis. In the HACCP concept, suppliers indicate their risk assessment and what they do to reduce risks. For example, a risk could be the splintering of glass when filling products into glass containers. A risk analysis from our side can include, for example, inspections or laboratory tests directly at the farms. This year alone, we have had 17 laboratory analyses carried out.

Piran: In general, we ask all potential suppliers whether they and their sub-suppliers meet the minimum labour standards and core labour standards of the ILO (International Labour Organisation). In doing so, we rely primarily on trust and honesty. We cannot guarantee that the information provided to us by the supplier is 100% correct. The certification company of the GFSI is responsible for verifying compliance with the certification guidelines. There are certain products that we have to purchase from importers, as we are unable to purchase sufficient quantities directly from the producers. In these cases, the importers have all the necessary certifications, but we do not have 100% insight into their supply chains. In order to prevent this in the future, we are striving for even more direct supply channels and, as a company, want to go even further into the origin of the goods in order to obtain more information about the growing conditions on site. One example is the non-transparent supply chain for cashews. The market is dominated by a few very large cashew crackers (processors) from Vietnam who buy and crack the raw cashews very cheaply from Africa. The exporters are very secretive about the exact process of how the raw cashew is cracked. We have been looking at alternative supply chains for some time and are working on sourcing organic cashews from projects in Africa. This requires a lot of know-how and patience. However, these cashews will be much more expensive because of their organic quality and the bypassing of large processors. In the future, we want to offer both options in our shop (organic directly imported from Africa and non-organic imported from Vietnam), because we think that everyone should have access to high-quality food. After all, there is no difference in the quality of the products.

Piran: We want to offer you a wide variety of products and therefore also import goods with longer transport routes. Our product range also depends to a large extent on your demand - after all, we want to offer you what you want. Your buying behaviour therefore has a significant influence on our product range. However, we also try to offer you alternatives with short transport routes. Whether this is possible depends on the product and its supplier. For us, quality and good taste come first. In order to guarantee this, we sometimes have to resort to imports from far away countries. There are also products that simply cannot be grown in the EU, such as mangoes or coconuts. But as you know, we rely on short supply chains that simplify trade and thus also save on transport routes and costs. For example, we buy our products directly from the delivery company and have the products packed there, so that the product arrives directly at our warehouse.

Your questions about our packaging:

Piran: Our priority is that the products arrive safely to your home. The packaging must protect your food well; the jargon for this is called "optimal barrier capability". If this is not the case, the product will deteriorate more quickly and, in the worst case, you will have to throw it away. A study from 2020 shows that packaging often helps to reduce food waste through its protective function. If this is the case, the 'environmental benefit' from avoided waste is usually 5 to 10 times higher than the 'environmental cost' of the packaging (1). Our goal is therefore to optimise our packaging for maximum food safety and an extension of the minimum shelf life. In many cases, only plastic packaging meets this requirement. Nuts, for example, are very fatty and would grease through and damage paper packaging in a short time. Contrary to its bad reputation, plastic is not necessarily the least sustainable packaging option. In fact, plastic only becomes a hazard when it enters the environment. 90% of our products are consumed at home and accordingly end up in household waste, which means they can be recycled afterwards. In this case, packaging made of a paper and aluminium combination would be much more difficult to recycle because it is a composite material. As you can see, this is a very complex issue where we have to take a close look at all the circumstances in order to find the optimal solution. In any case, you can be sure that we use as little packaging material as possible, if only for cost reasons. If you want to know more about packaging, listen to our KoRo Podcast. There we discuss all the myths and facts about packaging at KoRo.

Piran: Our packaging is neither recyclable nor compostable. As a food company, we are, as you can imagine, subject to strict guidelines regarding the hygiene and safety of packaging. We cannot easily use recycled plastic waste for food contact packaging. However, we are also aware of the fact that we can take a closer look at the topic of plastic recycling. We want to continue to pursue this idea together in the future.

Piran: In order for our packaging to meet the high demands of food safety, we have to work with stable materials. Both elasticity for space-saving transport and rigidity for product protection must be equally given in order to guarantee the longevity of our packaging. To achieve this, we use a plastic combination of PE and PET, especially for our stand-up pouches. As a general rule, only monoplastic can be 100% recycled. Composite plastic can only be 'downcycled' due to its properties - this means that the reprocessing does not correspond to the original quality and a devaluation takes place (for example, sports floors for playgrounds or sports halls are made from it). In our podcast episode on the topic of packaging, you can find out more interesting background information on the sustainable use of plastic packaging.

Piran: Answering this question is not so easy - if not impossible. Because the term sustainability is not uniformly defined. What requirements must sustainable packaging fulfil? An important rule when it comes to sustainable packaging is that composite materials (e.g. composites of paper and aluminium or paper and plastic such as Tetrapacks) are very difficult to recycle because the materials are bonded together. Packaging made of mono-materials is always easier to recycle. When assessing the sustainability of a package, the product it contains and the use life of the package after transport are the most relevant factors. It is clear that every packaging has its own individual optimum. Although paper is easy to recycle, it is usually not dense nor stable enough for food. Packaging such as plastic, on the other hand, is very light and saves transport costs. Glass causes significantly more transport costs than plastic or paper, but still performs better in terms of life cycle assessment (1) when used for a long time (we are talking about glass recycled up to 30 times). The production of aluminium cans requires a lot of energy, but the recyclability of aluminium is better. So there is no final and overarching answer for the most sustainable packaging. It is much more important to weigh up the possible packaging for each product and make individual decisions, taking into account all relevant factors (including quality preservation, food safety, costs and sustainability).

Piran: Living sustainably does not necessarily mean living plastic-free. Plastic is a stable, lightweight material and is well suited to transporting food from A to B without any loss of quality - as long as the probability of it ending up in the environment is very low. For us, the food safety of our products is clearly in the foreground. We cannot pack our nuts and dried fruits in paper only, as they are very fatty and the packaging could easily be damaged. Damaged packaging allows pathogenic bacteria to enter the food; your products would spoil faster and you would have to throw away a lot of food. Plastic packaging that ends up in the regular waste system can be recycled and can therefore also be an effective means against food waste. We want our products to arrive at your home safe, sound and fresh. As long as we can only guarantee this with plastic packaging, we cannot do without plastic.

Piran: We know that you take a certain risk when you buy products from us in bulk packs that you don't yet know whether you will like them. That's why we also offer you a selection of our products in smaller formats. We are not dogmatic about our packaging sizes and want to give you access to our products even if you don't want to buy bulk packs. Our individually wrapped snacks are designed for people on the go. You can easily take them and enjoy them wherever you are. We take the feedback from our community about our individually wrapped energy balls and the "questionable" extra bowl to heart. That's why we've already tried to produce our energy balls without a bowl, but we've had many complaints about crushed energy balls, leaking oil and more. We are already working on a better solution that will allow us to package the energy balls with less waste. By the way, the bowls are already made of biodegradable (compostable) bagasse. This is what is left over from the pressing of sugar cane.

Your questions about our products:

Piran: No, we work with about 200 suppliers in Germany, Europe and also outside of Europe. You can find information about the origins of each product on its product page on our website.

Piran: The producing countries vary depending on the product. We source products from all over the world and ultimately buy from where we find the best quality. The exact specifications on origin and production can be found on the respective product detail page on our website.

Piran: No. Even though a large part of our products are already organically grown or certified organic, a part of our portfolio is not. You can look up which products are specifically certified organic on our website by entering "organic" in the search field or by clicking on one of the tabs, e.g. "breakfast", and then filtering for "organic" in the properties. This will show you all the organic products in that category.

Piran: The main reason for this is simply the taste: we tested both conventional and organic nuts for the nut butters that we offer in conventional quality. We were more convinced by the taste of the conventional products. In the case of almonds, for example, conventional almonds have a much milder taste because their cultivation area is outside Europe. In the European cultivation areas (Italy, Portugal, Spain), the proportion of bitter almonds is higher, which are responsible for the bitter taste due to the traces of prussic acid they contain. Another reason for not offering our nut butters in organic quality is the significant price difference. As long as we remain competitive with products in organic quality, we offer them. It varies from product to product. We are not a company that only offers organic products and we want to offer high-quality food for every budget - that's why we go for the conventional and therefore cheaper option for some products.

We currently purchase about 65% of our products directly from manufacturers or producers. For the remaining 35%, we work with importers and wholesalers.

Piran: The smaller the quantities purchased, the more we have to resort to wholesalers or importers, because we are not yet big enough as a company to always source directly from the country of origin or from producers. Importers, for example, bundle the quantities and thus enable efficient transport from the country of origin, which ultimately saves emissions for logistics. When we buy products from wholesalers, we skip the step of packaging printing and design, which also saves costs, transport distances and packaging waste. However, we already source some of our products directly, for example our mangoes from private farmers in Burkina Faso. The proportion of products that we buy directly from producers or manufacturers increases every year with our size and the volume we buy, and with it our transparency within the supply chains. Our declared goal is to verticalise all products to the origin and thus create maximum transparency.

Piran: We know that many potential customers are very reluctant to order large packages online without being able to test the products first. That's why we wanted to create an opportunity to get to know KoRo offline (often in smaller formats) in retail stores. Smaller packs and snacks as well as our own creations like the date-hazelnut cream are very suitable for this. This way, our customers can first try out what KoRo is all about in a small format before ordering large packs online. And that can sometimes be the more sustainable alternative. Before a single date-hazelnut cream makes its way to your home, we deliver the jars in large trays to the place where you go shopping anyway. Fewer delivery routes means fewer climate-damaging CO2 emissions.

Piran: We don't want to tell anyone what to buy or how to eat. Our assortment therefore includes a wide range of vegan - but also non-vegan - products. Our goal is to offer high quality products at fair prices.

Piran: In 2021, we saved 30-50 tonnes of plastic by using bulk packaging and skipping trade stages compared to retail. For 2022, we plan to save over 100 tonnes of plastic. By shortening transport routes and skipping trade stages for the majority of our products, we generate lower CO₂ emissions. The filling material for our packages is made from recycled materials and we are constantly evaluating alternative packaging options for our products. We offer an almost exclusively vegetarian/vegan range and will be equipping the first unpackaged stations at individual retail partners with our products from 2022. However, we do not want to market ourselves as a sustainable retailer. We want to make our products available to many consumers at fair prices and are convinced that selling many products with a small sustainable aspect can also have a sustainable impact. For us, more sustainability means above all creating radical transparency in our actions and openly communicating internal decisions. However, we also always have open ears for criticism, ideas or comments and want to work out a new vision for KoRo together with all employees this year.