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PLU Brewery, part of the Heineken Group

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1. Challenge

The brewery faces a challenge in maximising the value and minimising the carbon footprint of its spent grain, traditionally used as cattle feed.

Producing 100 liters of beer generates approximately 20 kg of waste, which is rich in proteins, fibers, and fats.

Despite its nutritional value, the high moisture content of Barley Spent Grain (BSG) poses significant challenges for storage and transport due to microbial spoilage risks. Drying BSG to reduce these risks introduces substantial costs, making the dried product uncompetitive with conventional lignocellulose residues.

The need for an innovative solution to valorise BSG more effectively and sustainably is evident.

2. Solution

Value Chain Generator® conducted a comprehensive analysis of regional industries and cutting-edge technologies to identify the highest added-value application for BSG, taking into account the specifics of the local market.

The investigation revealed that based on quantity and quality of the residual biomass, current supply chain, local market, and general economic and environmental impacts, converting brewery waste into high-value products through insect bioconversion is the most optimal solution. 

A diagram of different types of brewery

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Such valorisation would result in a far lower environmental footprint: for a brewery with 50.000 tons of waste BSG per year, the CO2e savings would rise from 3.200 tons with direct use for cattle feeding, to more than 116.000 tons. Additonally, the waste for landfill would be reduced to zero.

The analysis also provided detailed financial insights, including capital expenditure (CapEx) estimates, expected return on investment (ROI), and the impact on climate and waste reduction.

It also identified potential regional buyers for the end products, ensuring a market for the newly created materials. Most promising buyers were identified as local companies producing pet food that have the need for these specific inputs.

3. Partner’s Testimonial

“We put a lot of effort towards circularity. Value Chain Generator played a big role. They open the doors by using artificial intelligence. I think that this solution will be applicable not just for the brewery segment, but also for other industries”.

Blaž Medja, Sustainability Manager, PLU Brewery, part of Heineken Group

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