Walkers' carbon savings are the first to be rubber-stamped by the PAS 2050 standard, a new methodology that measures the carbon footprint – or lifecycle emissions – of a product.
Recently launched by the UK's BSI British Standards, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Carbon Trust, the standard was designed to allow businesses to measure greenhouse gas emissions from their products – from production through to consumption and disposal.
Under the new measure, Walkers' CO2 emissions have fallen from 85g per standard pack to 80g over the past two years, equal to 6g of CO2 per standard bag of crisps and to overall savings of 4,800 tonnes of CO2.
"The carbon reduction label applies to our core range of Walkers' crisps: We sell 10 million packets of these crisps a day," a press officer at Walkers' crisps said to BakeryandSnacks.com.
As the economic crisis tightens its grip, food businesses could be tempted to ditch their green credentials but there is a persuasive body of thought that believes businesses that understand and emphasise the importance of moving to a low-carbon economy will reap the rewards for doing so.
"The business opportunity to develop new or enhance existing products and services for a low-carbon market is potentially huge," Dr Neil Bentley, director of business environment at CBI, the UK's business organisation, said earlier this month.
Compounding this argument are the potential cost savings. Walkers' reports this week that the 7 per cent carbon reduction has saved the company more than £400,000 (€450 000) over the past two years, which Walkers has re-invested in future energy saving projects.
Carbon saving initiatives
Overall, Walkers states that since 2006 its internal footprint from manufacturing has shrunk by 15 per cent.
The UK firm reports that the 7 per cent saving was achieved through a range of initiatives that include: A 41 per cent reduction in manufacturing gas consumption; a 37 per cent decrease in manufacturing electricity consumption; and 10.5 per cent from the light-weighting of corrugate boxes.
In addition, savings were felt through: A 5 per cent fall from potato transport, including biofuel, reduced mileage and improved fuel efficiency; a 4.5 per cent drop in emissions associated with producing crisp packets; and a 2 per cent contribution from product distribution efficiencies.
Consumer education required for carbon labels
While the progressive PAS 2050 standard is certainly a concrete move to actively tackle carbon emissions by industry, only third of consumers in the UK are actually aware of and comprehend carbon labelling.
However, there are signs that awareness is picking up.
According to Walkers, while 36 per cent of consumers now say they are aware of and understand carbon labelling, this represents a 10 point increase since July 2007, shortly after the crisp company began to display the Carbon Trusts' Carbon Reduction Label on its products.