Each year, Brenn-O-Kem receives tons of grape pomace and wine lees waste from all major cellar in the Western Cape. These are trucked to both Wolseley and Worcester plants where it is processed and recycled into valuable products, from grape seed extract to cream of tartar.
Brenn-O-Kem was started by a large German groups of companies(Benckiser) in 1968 with the purpose to collect filter cakes from the wine industry for the production of tartaric acid in Germany. The late Chris du Toit, the previous Chairman of Brenn-O-Kem oversaw the production of the plant that was started in the buildings of the Old Waverley blanket factory, just outside Wolseley. Some of the original buildings, erected in 1875, where blankets were produced during both the Anglo-Boer and First World Wars, are still in existence today.
After the German group sold the company during the 70’s, Chris took over the company, which over the year had various shareholders, until the du Toit family became sole owners in 1997. Chris passed away in 2001 and the second generation sons, Kobus and Wynand du Toit have continued to manage the company until today.
Brenn-O-Kem is all about recycling by-products of the South African wine industry, such as skins, seeds and lees to produce value-added natural products, including an anti-ageing-oxidant (Oxiprovin) made from grape seed extract. They also produce cream of tartar, raw materials for the production of tartaric acid, alcohol and grapeseed oil. Brenn-O-Kem’s products are manufactured to international standards and are exported to Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia.
To add to the sustainability of the operation, once the relevant extracts have been drawn from both seeds and skins, they are dried, compacted and used as a fuel in the factory boilers.
What’s left after processing and burning is a tiny fraction of the volume of the original grape skin and seed mix that is delivered. This final waste product is then recycled as compost, which breaks down and becomes more accessible much faster than the unprocessed skin and grape waste.