Zentveld and Milklab on their shared commitment to sustainability


Zentveld’s discusses its partnership with Milklab and their shared passion to operate sustainably.

For most people, the early stages of a new relationship is all about excitement, exhilaration, and fireworks. That initial buzz was experienced by coffee farm and roastery Zentveld’s and premium barista milk brand Milklab when they started working together.

After just a few meetings, both brands saw great potential to grow together sustainably, and collaborated to stock Zentveld’s New South Wales coffee house with Milklab products, including its popular reusable coffee cups.

“We see Milklab as an industry leader for alternative milks in Australia. The company has strong vision and branding, and it’s easy to see they are committed to partnering with other businesses in this space that share their values and sustainability ethos,” says Rebecca Zentveld, Director of Zentveld’s.

“We use Milklab in our coffee house on our family farm and have combined our social channels to bring audiences high-quality content, which showcases and promotes both our businesses.”

Milklab milks are specifically designed to complement espresso coffee. Its range features almond, oat, soy, macadamia, coconut, full-cream dairy, and lactose-free milks.

Rebecca says Milklab’s oat milk is her biggest seller. It’s made from 100 per cent locally sourced Australian oats from growers across Victoria and South Australia.

“We are excited to now also offer Milklab macadamia milk, made from 100 per cent Australian macadamias. Choosing local has been our ethos since we started, so it feels like a perfect pairing to celebrate local nut milk with our local coffee blends,” Rebecca says.

“Offering the full crop-to-cup experience is pretty unique and we are pleased to share it. From the veranda, our farm views extend across macadamia hillsides. Serving Milklab macadamia milk, with our home-grown coffee, is the epitome of localness in a cup.”

Rebecca set up Zentveld’s coffee roastery on her 18-hectare family farm in the hills behind Byron Bay in 1993, five years after the first arabica coffee trees were planted in New South Wales. Her parents, June and John Zentveld, are a driving force behind the area’s coffee farming industry.

“We grow coffee that’s naturally free of pesticides, which is remarkable as coffee is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world. With our cooler climate in the subtropics, we are free of coffee rust and berry borer, so do not spray any herbicides or pesticides on our trees,” she says.

Over the past 35 years, Rebecca and the Zentveld’s team have made a conscious effort to increase biodiversity on the farm to avoid a monoculture.

“The farm grows rainforest plantings, native shrubbery borders, orchard trees, flowers, fruits, vegetables, ground covers, and cover crops among the coffee rows. These benefit biodiversity and soil cover, and create an animal-friendly habitat. Because we don’t use sprays, we’ve welcomed collaborations with beekeepers, and now have over 36 native bee boxes and loads of honey hives on-site all year round. We even sell our own coffee blossom honey,” she says.

The focus over the last few years under Rebecca and husband John’s watch has shifted to looking after life below the soil, as well as life above it.

“Seasonal cover crop planting between the coffee rows adds life to the soil and encourages nutrient transfer naturally. Feeding the microbiome and activating the roots’ fungal pathways replace the use of commercial fertilisers,” says Rebecca.

“We are building plant resilience. We are producing coffee with minimal inputs, energy use and water use.”

Zentveld’s also makes its own compost. Plant trimmings, roastery chaff, spent coffee grounds, processing waste, and even plastic-free paper coffee cups are composted.

“What is waste to others is a valuable compost food source to us, so we accept local farm processors’ waste such as macadamia shells, wood chips, and even protein rich hemp seed husks,” says Rebecca.

“Spreading compost under the coffee trees cools the soil, holds moisture, and slowly releases nutrients. We also have a solar-powered roastery and coffee house with two big storage batteries that provide most of our electricity needs, cost-free from the sun’s rays.”

One of the reasons Milklab was eager to partner with Zentveld’s was the companies’ shared sustainable ethos. Milklab is Australian-owned and operated in Shepparton, Victoria, and Ingleburn, New South Wales, and its products have no artificial flavours, colours, or preservatives.

“We installed 10,000 solar panels on our Shepparton production plant, which cover 20 per cent of the site’s total usage. It’s the largest installation of its kind in Victoria and one of the largest in all of Australia,” says Milklab Brand Manager Melanie Ung.

Milklab’s product packaging is made with Forest Stewardship Council board, which supports responsible forestry and carries the Australasian Recycling Label logo to inform consumers on the best approach for pack recycling through kerbside streams.

“We encourage people to reuse our cartons as carry trays to give them a second life,” Melanie says.

“We’ve also recently launched new reusable coffee cup designs, which are available on our online merch store. We’re collaborating with Zentveld’s to promote the cups to their community and give back to local charity organisations like the Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital and Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea for the Cancer Council.”

For the second year running, Milklab’s stand at the 2024 Melbourne International Coffee Expo in May was made with saveBOARD, a low-carbon building material made from hard-to-recycle liquid paper board used in long-life milk and juice cartons.

“saveBOARD is focused on building a circular economy by turning composite packaging waste, such as milk cartons, ingredients bags, coffee cups, and soft plastics, into low-carbon products that can re-enter the local supply chain and eliminate future waste,” Melanie says.

saveBOARD manufactures high-performance building materials from its facilities in Hamilton, New Zealand, and Warragamba, Sydney.

The company upcycles packaging waste in Australasia through the implementation of scalable technologies which turn locally collected waste into locally distributed, recyclable building products.

“Each board saves 500 used beverage cartons from landfill, with each saveBOARD plant capable of recycling 4 million kilograms of soft plastics and fibre every year,” Melanie says.

“As a brand, we’re constantly looking for ways to increase the sustainable initiatives we undertake, including partnering with roasters and partners who share the same ethos. Whether that’s partnering with The Common Good Company to create sustainable merchandise which uses eco-friendly materials and ethical production practices, or promoting our recyclable milk cartons, we always try to put the environment first.”

For more information, visit milklabco.com or zentvelds.com.au

This article appears in the June 2024 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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