Milk- and Dairy Alternatives

How Bauer and Kern Tec Turn Apricot Kernels into Plant-Based Milk

The private dairy Bauer launched a range of plant-based drinks, yogurt alternatives and puddings at the beginning of 2024 under the ZUM GLÜCK! brand. The products are based on ingredients made from apricot kernels, an upcycled product from fruit farming. Here, Privatmolkerei Bauer is cooperating with the Austrian startup Kern Tec, which has created an innovative ready-to-use solution for the food industry from previously unused fruit kernels.

We spoke to Frank Mayerhofer (Director of Marketing & Innovation) and Sascha Leiser (Sales Director Brand) from Privatmolkerei Bauer as well as Michael Beitl (founder of Kern Tec) about the new brand, product development, and the successful collaboration.

Why did Privatmolkerei Bauer decide to launch a vegan brand? How does this fit into the company’s long-term strategy in view of the growing trend towards plant-based nutrition?
Frank Mayerhofer: In 2022, as part of a strategic process, we at Privatmolkerei Bauer began to put our Bauer brand to the test and modernise the brand essence. Our new vision for our private dairy is “Happiness from milk and more”. We want to create real moments of happiness for our consumers with our products. Our new brand “ZUM GLÜCK!” is the logical translation of our vision into a new and modern product range that fulfils consumer wishes.

Sascha Leiser: We are, of course, very concerned with consumer behaviour and can clearly see that plant-based nutrition is a megatrend that is here to stay. In addition, many consumers want products that stand for conscious and sustainable consumption. “ZUM GLÜCK!” is our innovative and visionary response to consumers’ wishes. In addition to the incredibly delicious flavour experience, our clear brand concept stands for a positive attitude to life, free from authority, and a sustainable sense of responsibility. With the rescued apricot kernels that form the basis for our products, “ZUM GLÜCK!” is a truly sustainable brand.

apricot kernels
© bauer-natur

How will the “ZUM GLÜCK!” product range be marketed in future? How important is the sustainable message behind the products for your marketing strategy?
Frank Mayerhofer:
We are planning wide-ranging communication measures to inform our end consumers about “ZUM GLÜCK!”. Among other things, we are aiming for attractive POS posters and would like to address our target group through the targeted use of out-of-home, digital and social media/online videos. We want to communicate to our consumers how delicious our products are and encourage them to try them. In addition, emphasising our sustainable message and the use of apricot kernels is very important to us. According to the motto “From rescued apricot kernels. Incredibly delicious.”

Where can consumers currently buy “ZUM GLÜCK!” products and what plans are there for the further expansion of sales channels?
Sascha Leiser
: Our “ZUM GLÜCK!” range is particularly popular in hypermarkets and supermarkets as well as in the depths of the well-stocked retail trade – from chain store concepts to the major independent retailers. We are getting very good feedback and are continuing to drive distribution forward with the help of our strong sales team and our retail partners. Of course, we are also considering other options such as food service partners.

How do you ensure that the flavour and quality of your plant-based products meet consumer expectations? Why should retailers stock the product?
Frank Mayerhofer:
The special thing about Bauer “ZUM GLÜCK!” is the right mix of flavour and sustainability. Consumers have confirmed this very positively in numerous studies compared to the main competitors, and they also like the modern, positive and cheerful product concept and design.

Kern Tec and Bauer's Zum Gluck range
© bauer-natur

Sascha Leiser: With “ZUM GLÜCK!” we offer our retail partners an attractive complete range from a single source. We at Bauer have a very strong inner drive, also in terms of economic sustainability and value creation with our retail partners. This positive and constructive cooperation is a matter close to our hearts, which extends from the entrepreneurial family to the management to the employees in sales and field service. As a family business, we always think long-term instead of just from quarter to quarter.

We are supporting “ZUM GLÜCK!” with a strong package of digital measures and social media, PR initiatives, out-of-home advertising, and POS measures. I would like to invite our retail partners to utilise the power of the “ZUM GLÜCK!” introductory package for turnover and additional sales.

Are there any plans to expand the “ZUM GLÜCK!” range in the near future? What kind of plant-based products can consumers expect?
Frank Mayerhofer:
We naturally want to offer our consumers an attractive range of products. Our launch portfolio is already very comprehensive and includes two plant-based milk alternatives in the Barista and unsweetened varieties, four plant-based yogurt alternatives (natural, vanilla, blueberry, and peach-passion fruit), and two plant-based puddings in the classic chocolate and vanilla varieties. In addition, we are already working on the further development of our product range in terms of both drinks and spoon products. We can’t give too much away here yet, but we can assure you that we are of course taking our consumers’ wishes into account.

The Kern tec staff team
© Kern Tec

A major issue for retailers, consumers and producers is the price difference between products made from plant (milk) and cow’s milk. How does Bauer approach pricing, especially in view of the increasing demand for affordable plant-based alternatives?
Sascha Leiser
: One key factor is quite simply the different tax burden on plant-based drinks compared to their animal-based counterparts (19% vs. 7% VAT). In addition, the production volumes of plant-based products are still lower than the quantities we produce with traditional dairy products, even though the demand for plant-based alternatives continues to grow strongly. This means that the raw material and production costs for plant-based products are even higher than for traditional dairy products. With an RRP of €2.59 for our drinks and €1.99 for our spoon products, we are in line with the competitive market level for branded plant-based products.

Why did you choose KernTec as your partner and how did you hear about the young company?
Frank Mayerhofer
: In our search for new, plant-based raw materials for milk alternatives, we became aware of Kern Tec through our Supervisory Board member, Mr Godo Röben. The innovative solution of creating a new raw material for the food industry from previously unused fruit kernels impressed us right from the start. We are delighted that the paths of Bauer and Kern Tec, our strategic partner and supplier of our apricot kernels, have crossed. Sustainability is not only the soul of our product range and strongly anchored in Bauer’s corporate culture, but also a central part of Kern Tec’s business strategy.

By using rescued apricot kernels, a lot of water and CO2 can be saved compared to other raw materials. And, when we got to know Kern Tec, there was an immediate spark of enthusiasm on both sides. Even if there are critical or intense moments, the collaboration works extremely well. Thanks to the open and active culture at Kern Tec, we could always feel the strong enthusiasm for our joint project right from the start.

Kern Tec and Bauer's Zum Gluck range
© bauer-natur

How did you come up with the idea of processing fruit stones and developing solutions for the food industry?
Michael Beitl:
Five and a half years ago, I started talking to Austrian fruit growers who drew my attention to the large quantities of leftover pits. But it wasn’t just Austrian farmers who hadn’t processed the kernels up to that point – it was a global phenomenon involving tens of thousands of tonnes. Very few people realise how valuable fruit stones are as a raw material: They contain many important vitamins, fats and proteins, similar to nuts, and most importantly: they taste really good. It was therefore clear that it was not waste, but a raw material in the wrong place. So I brought the raw material to Kern Tec and put together a team to further process this exciting raw material.

Where does Kern Tec source the fruit stones from and what does the further processing look like?
Michael Beitl:
We only use carefully selected raw materials from fruit growers and fruit processing companies such as juice and jam producers. We have developed a new technology that separates the kernel from the seed – “core splitting”, so to speak – in order to get to the valuable inner part of the kernel, the seed. The seed is then processed into an ultra-fine paste, resulting in a creamy mass that can then be further processed in the food industry.
The processing of unused fruit kernels saves resources such as water, land, and CO2.

Can you describe the positive impact along the value chain in more detail?
Michael Beitl: The phenomenal and unique thing about this raw material is that everyone along the value chain wins. The farmers, who produce the raw materials and can now create value from them – Kern Tec, who produce the side stream to a high-quality food raw material – the end consumers, who receive great flavour and nutritional values, as well as our environment, which is burdened with the smallest possible CO2 footprint. After all, the issue is easy to explain: the apricot kernel is a raw material that does not need to be grown in agriculture, which is why there is no need for water, CO2, and land consumption. If we are currently thinking about global population growth and the status quo already requires far too much land and CO2 emissions than the planet can tolerate, growing crops on even more land cannot be the right way forward. The right way is to utilise existing raw materials that have so far remained unused to produce food. And the great thing about apricot kernels is that the end customer does not have to compromise on flavour and nutritional value.

Bauer Zum Gluck range
© Bauer

Are the raw materials developed by Kern Tec mainly suitable for plant-based dairy products or are there other possible applications in the food industry?
Michael Beitl:
Our raw materials can generally be used in the same way as all other types of nuts.

Are there any special challenges in the production of the raw material or further processing?
Michael Beitl: The raw material requires proprietary technologies and a lot of expertise, which we have had to build up over the years. There is also quality assurance. Side streams that are upcycled are not standardised raw materials, they are basically waste. This is why many critical control points are required along the value chain in order to comply with the food standard. We can also prove this by obtaining the internationally most important quality certificate “IFS”.

Finally, could you tell us how the partnership between Privatmolkerei Bauer and Kern Tec came about and what the collaboration in the development of the “ZUM GLÜCK!” products?
Michael Beitl
: Kern Tec found out about the possibility of a collaboration at an internal Bauer Innovation Day and sent us its apricot kernel drink, and the prototype of the apricot kernel drink developed for Bauer was very positive in terms of flavour. With Bauer, an honest family business came to us directly after the first online call. The special thing about it was the speed of action and the honest co-operation. This is not a matter of course with a company of Bauer’s size.

Personally, I was most impressed by the people with a hands-on mentality who simply want to get stuck in and create something good. They don’t just talk the talk, they do the doing – and I really appreciate that, especially having the foresight for such an innovative revolution. We maintain this good relationship to this day with the same goal of representing delicious flavour and positive impact with every product we develop.

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