Optimal use and valorization of biomass streams from Cichorium

The CichOpt project successfully targeted biorefinery concepts for the sustainable use of Cichorium biomass, including underutilized by-products & waste fractions from agri-food industry. To realize this, firstly advanced metabolomics technologies were used to sample and characterize over 500 samples. Secondly, smartly designed biorefinery concepts, striving for maximal integration focussing on environmentally and energy-efficient processing, extraction and purification technologies were applied. Cichorium crops were chosen for their economic importance and local and regionally clustered availability of large volumes of waste & by-products. Some of the underutilized fractions such as forced Belgium Endive roots are relatively stable and available almost year-round in relatively big volumes (>400.000 tons). In addition, most species were confirmed to be rich in dietary fibers, sugars and secondary metabolites such as sesquiterpene lactones and polyphenols. These relevant assets convinced the actors and stakeholders with whom the project partners interacted, to make underutilized Cichorium biomass an interesting feedstock for multi-input, multi-output small scale biorefineries. Bio-activity guided process & product development resulted in innovative concepts useful for a wide range of actors in the bio-based economy, including food & drink applications and cosmetics & HMF derived biomaterials as non-food applications. A first example is biorefining of Belgian Endive forced roots that led to a dietary fibre concentrate (DFC) with excellent functional properties (water holding & swelling capacity) and a sugar and bioactive rich liquid fraction. The DFC was applied successfully in cookies, plant-based burgers and other innovative food products. The liquid fraction, pure, concentrated or spray dried was appreciated in the development of different drinks such as syrups, beer and gin. A number of these products have been commercialized during the project. As a second example, both hairy root production and enzymatic treatment of Cichorium biomass confirmed an increased antimicrobial activity against S. aureus and P. aeruginosa, the latter considered to be generally more resistant to antimicrobial agents. The extract displaying the highest antimicrobial activity, retained its effect when applied in a standard cosmetic formula by challenge test and during four-week follow-up. These results confirm the high potential of Cichorium by-product for upgraded value and potential applications in cosmetic or health care purposes. Finally, HMF production was further optimized and upscaled proving that Cichorium derived biomass, rich in fructose, is an excellent feedstock. To summarize, economically relevant functionalities and bio-activities have been confirmed during the CichOpt project, leading to specific process and product developments that were taken up by interested actors from the agri-food & biobased sector. Adequate LCA and TEA analysis provided guiding evidence for further future biobased value chain setups. Strategic interaction with all relevant stakeholders right from the start of the project (system innovation) resulted in optimal valorization of the Cichopt results and an effective dissemination. In conclusion, CichOpt contributed to support the wider goal of developing an EU bio-based economy that is sustainable and climate proof.


Dr. Bart Van Droogenbroeck, 

Institute for agriculture, fisheries and food research, Belgium - Flanders



Project partners

Institute for agriculture, fisheries and food research, Belgium - Flanders

Inagro vzw, Belgium - Flanders

Wageningen Plant Research, Netherlands

Nationale Proeftuin voor Witloof vzw, Belgium - Flanders

University of Hohenheim, Germany

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, Finland