Worldwide olive oil production results in hundreds of thousands of tonnes of olive by-products such as peels and seeds that used to be considered as waste.
However, with new technologies emerging, changes in supply chains and globalisation, whole sub-industries are cropping up (pun intended) and using these raw organic materials in a way that maximises their benefits in all kinds of commercial applications of natural raw ingredients.
Uses of olive byproducts in food products
Olive seeds, in particular, contain high concentrations of polyphenols and antioxidant properties and have been identified as a possible superfood due to a high level of quality dietary fibre.
From the olive seed, companies can produce olive seed flour which can be marketed and sold as a consumer packaged good, for instance as topping in baked dishes both savoury and sweet. It can also be used in bread dough or even toasted and caramelized for a twist on ice cream or chocolate topping. Olive seed flour can also be used as an alternative healthier batter for meats, sides and salads.
Uses of olive by-products for heating
The olive by-product of olive cake is composed of peel, pulp, stone fragments and seeds mashed into a pulp. Olive cake can be compacted into pellets or briquettes or left in its mat-like state. It burns very well when dry and is consequently being used as a bulk fuel in biomass burners and commercial furnaces.
Uses in animal feed and farming
By-products from olive oil production including the olive leaves can also be used for animal nutrition. They are considered crude lignocellulose feed and are a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins and polysaccharides. Another possible use for olive byproducts is as orchard mulch used by farmers.
Pharmaceutical uses of olive byproducts
Pharmaceutical companies using olive extracts are seeing the potential of replacing their current fillers for capsules and pills with olive stone powders. This is because the olive stone powder is known to be smooth with binding and carrying capacities making it an ideal filler.
There are also certain pharmaceutical companies obtaining cellulose fibres from the olive stones. Others are testing avocado stone powder for pharmaceutical uses or in food supplements for the seed’s nutritional properties and natural benefits such as anti-oxidants.
Personal care and cosmetics
Fruit stone granules can be integrated by personal care manufacturers into scrubs and toothpaste due to their natural and gentle abrasive properties. They can also replace synthetic base materials in make-up as part of products like eyeshadows, face powders, foundations, make-ups, and lipsticks.
Bio-based additives and bioplastics
Olive stone powders can be used as bio-based additives by the tyre industry to replace petroleum-based rubber. They are even contributing to reaching full sustainability, improving the plastic waste issue related to packaging. More bioplastics manufacturers than ever are turning to olive by-products rather than use plant-based products which, while biodegradable, are not actually sustainable as they have a negative impact on the ecosystem.
The trend is that manufacturers needing natural ingredients are not just working with olive leaves and olive extracts, but have dedicated R&D teams exploring the by-products seeds and pits, which can be ground and turned into fine powder or granules. The commercial applications of olive by-products are seemingly endless.