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United Biscuits set to 'raise the bar' on green targets

By Jane Byrne , 23-Mar-2010

Leading UK manufacturer of biscuits and snacks United Biscuits said it is reappraising its water efficiency, transport carbon emissions, food waste and packaging reduction targets, as its progress to date on these commitments, it claims, has exceeded expectations.

In its new two-year-on update on its environmental sustainability efforts, the company, which produces many high-profile brands including Jaffa Cakes, McVitie's biscuits and KP nuts, said it intends to raise the bar in terms of these efficiency objectives.

Asked whether United Biscuits (UB) is informing consumers about its sustainability achievements, a spokesperson for the manufacturer told this publication that it has published its achievements on its corporate website but at this stage has not including any on-pack labelling in this respect.

It added that it is currently evaluating the extent to which a consumers' loyalty to a brand is based on the company's environmental practices.

Energy adjustments

The company, in the report, UB’s Achieving Sustainability 2009 Update, said the introduction of improved energy management systems helped it monitor exactly where energy is used in its sites and when. "For example we now monitor when ovens are switched on at the start of production to ensure that they are not heated up too early and left wasting energy before the products are ready to be cooked.

In Northern Europe we achieved a reduction in emissions of 14.8 per cent. While some efficiency savings were achieved, the bulk of this saving was achieved by switching to an electricity supplier generating power from renewable sources."

It said it has improved processes so that no food waste goes to landfill at all so that its target date for the goal to send zero non-food waste to landfill has been brought forward from 2015 to 2012.

Packaging

In terms of packaging amendments, the firm said that it has reduced the thickness of its snacks film by 17 per cent which cut back on its packaging output by 200 tonnes. "We also reduced the volume of our bags of mini biscuits by 30 per cent, which in turn reduced the volume of packaging by approximately 22 tonnes."

Water savings

The report also shows that water usage has been cut by 28 per cent since 2007, exceeding the target the company set ten years ago to reduce this utility by 25 per cent by 2020. The company states that it is now pushing for a 45 per cent reduction target in water usage by 2020.

Water efficiency was generated by a range of small investments, maintains the biscuit manufacturer, such as spray nozzles for taps and trigger valves for hoses, but one item of major investment that impacted hugely was its water recycling plant at Teesside.

Transport carbon emissions, it said, have reduced by 29 per cent since 2005, which surpass the 22 per cent by 2012 target previously drawn up. UB said that, as a result, it has set a new target of 40 per cent by 2012 to reduce this source of emissions.

The company said initiatives such as the conversion of its waste vegetable into biodiesel, reducing its transport emissions by 1,400 tonnes, optimising case and pallet fill to improve load efficiency and collaborating with other manufacturers and retailers on logistics has helped it reach its transport goals.

Palm oil sourcing

Furthermore, UB said that in terms of sustainable sourcing of ingredients, all UB products that contain palm oil will be made with certified sustainable palm oil from mid-2010, as previously reported.

This is possible through a deal it has secured with palm oil supplier New Britain Palm Oil (NBPOL), a firm which maintains that is able to segregate the palm oil throughout the supply chain.

NBPOL, who are building a new palm oil refinery in the UK, delivered the first shipment of segregated shipments of oil in November and December 2009.

And UB claims that by the end of 2011 it will have all ingredients containing palm oil using oil that is sourced form sustainable and segregated sources.

"By June this year we will have sufficient supplies to use for any biscuit doughs that require palm oil. Any other ingredients that contain elements of palm oil such as creams will be covered by green palm certificates until we can source a segregated supply of sustainable palm oil for them too," a company spokesperson told BakeryandSnacks.com

UB said it has also reduced the amount of palm oil used by 40 per cent since 2005 using alternative vegetable oils as replacement ingreidents. It said it would not disclose the quantity of palm oil it is currently using in its products.

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