How one Dutch company is making vegan leather from mangoes

  • Over half of the mangoes in Europe are imported or traded by the Netherlands.
  • One Dutch company is turning the wasted mangoes into vegan leather.
  • But it faces major competition from the $US396 ($AU541) billion leather industry.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Hugo de Boon and Koen Meerkerk started the company Fruitleather in 2015.

“We want to turn something valueless into something that has value,” said Koen.

Fruitleather gets the mangoes from Total Exotics, a Dutch firm that imports 6 million kilograms of mangoes each year. Around 1,500 mangoes go to waste each week because of the quality control process.

“I wanted to have an outlet for that instead of just throwing it away like trash,” said Anneke Bouman, the quality assurance and sustainability manager at Total Exotics.

Giving them to Fruitleather was the perfect option.

In addition to reducing food waste, Hugo and Koen said they also wanted to reduce emissions from the leather-making process. The chemicals used to tan leather can be toxic to both humans and the environment. There’s also the methane emissions that come from raising cattle.

But some experts say reducing emissions is not that simple.

“Leather is not primarily what’s driving the cattle industry,” said Elizabeth Cline, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Remake.

“I think that there’s a pretty compelling argument to be made that as long as beef production is still continuing, that we should make use of these hides.”

Still, the synthetic leather market is growing. In 2020, it was valued at over $US30 ($AU41) billion and one study predicts it will grow to over $US40 ($AU55) billion in the next five years.

But that’s still only a fraction of the leather industry, which was valued at nearly $US400 ($AU547) billion – 13 times more than its synthetic counterpart.

Hugo says their goal isn’t to compete with the leather industry.

“We are not here to replace leather at all, but we do want to give an alternative,” he told Business Insider.

Instead, they are aiming to make leather production easier on the environment, one mango at a time.