Sustainability is a strong trend in the Portuguese shoe industry, and it is being forcefully pursued by Procalcado, one of the biggest manufacturers of soles and injected plastic footwear in the country. The new generation at the head of the company, led by José Azevedo Pinto, decided six years ago to move into fashionable women's and children's footwear with the launch its own brand of sustainable shoes, Lemon Jelly.
One of the reasons for the diversification was that the company wanted to secure its future after losing a big client to a Chinese competitor in footwear components a few years earlier. In 2008, moreover, it launched Wock, a brand of injected work shoes particularly suited for surgery and other medical and healthcare uses.
It also decided to set itself apart from the competition by using recycled materials in the production of footwear components as well as in the shoes themselves, drawing mainly on its post-production waste, but also on waste from local producers.
Under this strategy Lemon Jelly launched the Wastless Act (sic), a range of shoes produced with uppers using only post-production waste from its own factories, soles made of recycled TPU and linings 70 percent made from recycled plastic bottles, obtaining a product which emits 90 percent less CO2 than a regular shoe.
The objective of the company is to reach zero waste in production. At last February's Micam show in Milan, Lemon Jelly showed its first line of wasteless boots for the autumn/winter 2019/20 season, after concentrating on sandals and other types of closed shoes.
Sales of Lemon Jelly shoes have been growing at a double-digit rate since the beginning, reaching an annual turnover of about €4 million. They are sold in 35 countries and on the company's website.
The company wants to establish closer connections with its retail customers in the near future to help spread its message of creating a better world. Together with its agents in Germany, France and other countries, it is transmitting this message through social media, PR agencies, the use of special POS display materials and by organizing special events.
The core business at Procalado, better known as For Ever, remains the production of soles, even though it has declined to an annual level of about five million units. It began 45 years ago, and the company continues to make soles for Ecco, Gabor, Birkenstock and many other big and small shoe companies.
The company offers a choice of more than ten production technologies, using more than 25 different materials. As part of this strategy, Procalcado has developed a series of sustainable options such as a bio-rubber Pura Latex formulation, bio-rubber soles with Tencel fibers and various biodegradable solutions.
Procalcado has been pursuing sustainable manufacturing guidelines in all the aspects of its production. A good example of this was the installation two years ago of 900 solar panels to power its own facilities. For the remaining power requirements, the company signed a contract with a provider certifying that all the energy is obtained from renewable sources.