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 companies that understand and emphasise the importance of moving to a low-carbon economy will reap the rewards for doing so.
Compounding this argument are the potential financial gains, and a presentation from the International Food Information Service (IFIS) at the recent Anuga FoodTec show in Germany highlighted where the food and drink manufacturing sector could generate such energy and cost savings.
Professor Jeremy Selman, managing director of IFIS, claims energy reduction in plants can be achieved through a variety of methods including the use of heat exchangers in processing, the regular monitoring of the stack temperatures of boilers, minimization of the area and amount of refrigeration required and regular service and maintenance of electric motors.
He also encourages manufacturers to control air and light usage in processing plants by “checking for and preventing leakage in compressed air systems and implementing fine control of air conditioning systems, using energy efficient lighting and incorporating timer devices to avoid lighting areas unnecessarily.”
Moreover, food and drink processors should avoid the overheating or overcooling of products, continued Selman.
And the reuse of water in a facility can also initiate further cost saving exercises, he argues.
“Avoiding the use of hose pipes alone to clean floors where sweeping and hosing combined would substantially save water use, while purified waste water that is of potable standard could be utilized for use in food production, cooking and other processing activities,” said Selman.
In addition, purified waste waters of non-potable standard can be clean enough for use in cooling and heating systems, for washing equipment, toilet flushing and other similar uses, he added.
According to the professor, it is also possible to increase efficiency by minimizing waste and he suggests reducing the possibility of contamination or spoilage of raw materials through the regular maintenance and correct calibration of equipment and the detection of foreign objects.
Selman also cites the recycling and reuse of excess product such as pasty off-cuts back into the process stream as effective waste management.
Improving its green credentials, Walkers' crisps becomes the first company in the UK to retain a carbon reduction label, after cutting its carbon footprint by seven per cent in two years.
Walkers' carbon savings are the first to be rubber-stamped by the UK’s PAS 2050 standard, a new methodology that measures the carbon footprint – or lifecycle emissions – of a product.
Overall, Walkers states that since 2006 its internal footprint from manufacturing has shrunk by 15 per cent.
The UK firm reports that the seven per cent saving was achieved through a range of initiatives including 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.
Walkers' reported that the seven per cent carbon reduction has saved the company more than £400,000 (€450 000) over the past two years, which it said it has re-invested in future energy saving projects.
In addition, savings were felt through a five 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 two per cent contribution from product distribution efficiencies.
While changing garden hoses to high-pressure washing equipment, reducing water use, and improving housekeeping procedures also helped US based Sparta Foods reduce their water use by 1.9 million gallons, and saved the company $20,200 (€15,225.79).
However, Selman maintains that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for food and drink manufacturers and individual companies will need to audit their energy and water usage, while also keeping abreast of the growing body of knowledge related to green issues in journals and databases targeted at the sector, in order to make the best savings.