Alberts Purvegan has expanded its business to include processing of lupine beans. Compared to soy alternatives, lupines have minimal soil requirements and act as a natural fertilizer. As protein substitutes, lupines offer a replacement for meat and soy products, offering consumers an additional vegan or vegetarian option that provides a substantial digestive benefit. The organization procures its ingredients from local suppliers, contributing to environmental sustainability and supporting its local community.
Nina Theresia Schmidt
Technische Universität Kaiserslautern (TUK)
Food scarcity is a formidable issue - consider the rapidly increasing human population and present-day number of impoverished people. Solving the problems of sufficient food production and distribution have never been more urgent. Yet to ensure sustainability for subsequent generations, the food production ecosystem must also develop eco-friendly practices to ensure clean air, soil, and water.
Alberts Purvegan is addressing these problems by partnering with local farmers to cultivate an abundance of healthy food with minimal environmental impact. Situated in the small town of Ramsen, 30 km northeast of Kaiserslautern (Germany), the company procures the beans of locally-grown lupines and processes them into vegan protein substitutes. Lupines are not only an alternative to meat but also a lower-fat equivalent to soy products. One advantage over soy is that lupines have minimal soil requirements and can adapt extraordinarily well to diverse climatic conditions. This resilience makes it possible to grow lupines almost anywhere in the world, including regions where other plants do not flourish.
Initially founded in 1983, Alberts began as a tofu production plant and added the processing of lupines in 2005. The motivation for this expansion was not economic -- for the founder, it was a desire to do something good for the world by helping preserve the environment. As can occur when profitability is isolated from the sustainability initiative, Alberts declared bankruptcy in 2012.
The company was soon acquired by Hermann Kraemer and Alexander Bauer under the new label “Purvegan,” and they preserved the original trade logo of “Alberts” to uphold brand familiarity. Kraemer and Bauer orchestrated a major organizational restructuring within the company but retained the fundamental sustainability principles. The new owners manage the dual objectives of maximizing profit and preserving the environment in a uniquely harmonious way. One focuses on the functional purpose of managing finances and monitoring potential economic development, and the other affirms the aspirational ideology of the company by representing the brand image and engaging stakeholders within the community.
Since its reorganization, Alberts Purvegan has continued producing tofu and has also steadily expanded its lupine production. Growing market acceptance of this lower-fat alternative to soy creates a unique niche with considerable growth potential and few competitors in the German market. Indeed, the future is bright for the company -- according to Mr. Kraemer and Mr. Bauer, demand for such regional products has continued to rise steadily throughout Germany and across all European markets.
While Alberts Purvegan provides a healthier alternative to soy products, by choosing to process lupine beans, the company also contributes to ecological sustainability. Lupines can flourish in nearly any type of soil, and they nourish the soil after cultivation with compounds that assist in subsequent crop production. As such, a cottage farming industry has grown around Alberts Purvegan, reducing overall transportation distance and minimizing carbon requirements.
The company also benefits society by supplying an all-natural product that is an equivalent to meat -- it contains the same nutritional components, and it is digested much more easily from the body. The company embodies this "healthy living" principle in its slogan, "HAPPYTARIER," which is a combination of the word "happy" and the German word for "vegetarian," demonstrating that they promote human well-being through plant-based diets (both vegetarian and vegan).
Alberts Purvegan is proof that exploiting a market niche rooted in improving well-being for all stakeholders can also be economically sustainable. The market for lupine-based protein substitutes has tremendous potential for future growth, and the company is well-positioned to reap the benefits of further expansion into additional gluten-free products and subsequent development in foreign markets.
Both Mr. Kraemer and Mr. Bauer report that a combination of growing consumer attraction to veganism and popularity of gluten-free food has led to substantial increases in annual revenue -- from €860,000 to over €3 million in the last six years. The company has worked extensively through this period to reduce debt and relieve financial pressure to ensure future product development will not require external financing or support. Having entered other European markets, including France and Spain, there is the pervasive ambition to become an internationally-recognized brand. Despite this aspiration, Alberts Purvegan never waivers from its bedrock principles of first serving the local community and producing healthy products with minimal environmental impact.
It is often difficult for an organization like Alberts Purvegan to manage conflicting economic and sustainability goals. For example, leaders face the challenge of deciding whether to source inexpensive lupine beans from Ukranian farmers (at a higher environmental cost), or maintain their original sustainable vision of procurement through local farmers (at a higher economic cost). Through a careful balance of competing goals, the company has managed to continue its growth trajectory by sticking with sustainable principles that ensure long-term well-being for all stakeholders.
Supplying lupine-derived products helps enrich society, giving customers an opportunity to choose between animal- or plant-based nutrition. Alberts Purvegan produces meat substitutes based on lupines because of their nutritional value -- high in protein, essential amino acids, and fiber to assist digestion. Compared to meat, plant-based products have less influence on overall cholesterol levels and actively lower blood pressure. The company recognizes that not every customer prefers vegan substitutes, as demonstrated via their slogan, "HAPPYTARIER," acknowledging that nutrition should be a choice -- an individual preference that encourages well-being and happiness. Nutrition should not be limited to constrictive labels, including omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan.
Alberts Purvegan also focuses on employing residents lacking a high level of education and offers an extensive training program that provides both the required skills and actively encourages further educational opportunities. The organization works to support employees financially, for example, by granting interest-free loans for unforeseen expenses such as auto repair. CEOs Kraemer and Bauer also ensure that the organization supports local charity organizations through financial and in-kind donations.
Cultivating and processing lupines demonstrates a smart evolution of sustainable practices. The lupine plant can be grown in many different regions and does not require fertile soil -- yet by collecting nitrogen from the air, it enriches the ground, making it more productive for a myriad of alternative crops. Alberts Purvegan purchases lupines from local farmers, minimizing air pollution emissions and lowering transportation costs. Processing lupines require less energy (thus fewer carbon emissions) than soy because only a single heating/cooking process is required.
In comparison to other protein substitutes, the lupine performs very well. While soy and lupines have nearly identical nutritional profiles, the latter has a slightly lower fat content and is considered by the European market as a more "natural product" owing to the lack of any (current) genetically-modified varieties. Given the heartiness and resilience of this crop, positive impact to local stakeholders, and growing appeal to customers seeking an alternative to soy-based foods, the locally cultivated lupines processed by Alberts Purvegan have an exceptional future!
Alexander Bauer, Executive Director
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Ramsen, Rhineland Palatinate, DE
Business Website: www.purvegan.de
Year Founded: 2012
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
Alberts Purvegan is a company that cultivates a regional and biologically-sustainable species of lupine - a legume crop with characteristics similar to soybeans. Their sustainable practices create a benefit for the environment, their customers, and job security for local residents.