Eye on carbon intensity in supply chain brings cost savings to snack firms

By Lindsey Partos

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Supply chain Carbon dioxide

Food firms are increasingly working to reduce their carbon footprint, reaping cost savings in the process and plugging into new business opportunities, says the UK's Carbon Trust.

Set up in 2001 by the UK government, the trust aims to accelerate the move to a low carbon economy, working with industry and organisations to slash carbon emissions and to develop commercial low carbon technologies.

And in terms of demand, it appears the food and drink industry is at the front of the queue.

"We've been approached by more than 200 companies who want to work with us, and the bulk of interest is coming from food and beverage companies,"​ said Euan Murray, carbon footprinting general manager at the Carbon Trust.

Three years ago Walkers crisp firm, part of PepsiCo, became the first food firm the trust worked with to reduce their footprint.

The project kicked-off with a strict analysis of carbon emissions, examining every link in the supply chain and all elements involved in the full life-cycle of the firm's cheese and onion crisps product sold in a standard bag.

Their data-mining and analysis threw up some surprises, explains Murray. While they had expected the potato to be the most energy-consuming emission, "the contribution from potato distribution was about one per cent of the total footprint, whereas making the fertiliser that the farmer used equalled 15 per cent of the footprint," ​he told BakeryandSnacks.com.

Walkers realised the way forward was to work closely with the farmers. "They didn't pass the buck,"​ said Murray.

Instead, with a collaborative spirit, Walkers now works with its 40 biggest suppliers running quarterly workshops, sharing technology and best practise, and with an eye on logistics, the sharing of lorries between suppliers.

Such work contributed to the crisp firm's announcement last week that it had achieved a 7 per cent reduction in lifecycle emissions for its standard crisp range.

Walkers' carbon savings were the first to be rubber-stamped by the PAS 2050 standard, a new method co-sponsored by the Carbon Trust and the UK's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The standard measures the lifecycle emissions of a product, from initial sourcing of raw materials through manufacture, transport, use and ultimately recycling or waste.

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.

Cost savings through reduced energy

In parallel to improving a firm's green credentials, a hard analysis of the carbon intensity of its supply chain can also provide cost savings.

"Walkers have also reaped the benefit of cost savings from cutting their energy bills,"​ commented Murray.

Walkers reported that the 7 per cent carbon reduction had saved the company more than £400,000 (€450 000) over the past two years, which the firm has re-invested in future energy saving projects.

UK retailers Tesco and Sainsburys, along with British Sugar, Cadbury and ingredients supplier DSM, that is investigating the life-cyle of its vitamin C, are just a handful of the food firms currently working the Carbon Trust.

Predominantly funded by the UK goverment, the Carbon Trust also asks companies to pay, from a "few hundred to thousands of pounds",​ depending on the size of the project.

The timeline for a firm with its eye on the carbon label is "driven by how complicated the product is, the number of products involved, and the sheer amount of data collecting required,"​ said Euan Murray.

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