Hormel: ‘Sustainability is truly a journey’

By Jenni Spinner

- Last updated on GMT

A slight reduction in the size of its Natural Choice deli meat packaging enabled Hormel Foods to reduce material use by 800,000 pounds.
A slight reduction in the size of its Natural Choice deli meat packaging enabled Hormel Foods to reduce material use by 800,000 pounds.

Related tags Hormel foods Carbon dioxide Sustainability Greenhouse gas

CPG giant Hormel Foods has taken steps in advancing operational sustainability—reducing packaging by nearly 5m pounds in 2013, for one—but the company reports there is more to be done.

Hormel Foods has unveiled its 2013 Corporate Responsibility Report, outlining the progress the food producer has made in sustainability, safety, humane treatment of animals, sodium reduction, and other factors.

The company in 2013 managed to cut packaging material consumption by almost 5m pounds. That may sound like a lot; however, according to Kelly Braaten, external communications director for Hormel Foods, the company does not intend to rest on its laurels.

Sustainability is truly a journey​,” she told FoodProductionDaily. “We must continue to build off of our successes to take our efforts to the next level​.”

Braaten spoke with FPD about the sustainability accomplishments at Hormel Foods, and its strategies to continue driving sustainability across the operation.

What are the top packaging-centric sustainability gains Hormel has made?

In 2013, we reduced packaging by 4.72m pounds and completed 37 packaging reduction projects. More than 1.2m pounds pounds were realized through switching to an industry standard tote bin design, which eliminated an internal insert; another 800,000 pounds were saved by reducing Hormel Natural Choice deli meat packaging from roughly 8 inches wide to 6.55 inches wide.

What about operational sustainability gains?

In 2013, Hormel Foods implemented projects that resulted in a reduction of 17,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reduced energy use by 204,000 MMBtu, reduced water use by 154m gallons, and reduced solid waste sent to landfills by 1,000 tons.

One example of a project that helped reduce energy use was an energy conservation project by our Austin (Minnesota) Plant team. They uncovered an opportunity to reduce the energy required to operate the ammonia refrigeration system by reducing ammonia discharge pressure and determining various obstacles to fully utilize the condensing capacity that had been previously installed.

To solve this problem, the team implemented a new condenser that utilized only 33% of capacity and lowered the discharge pressure. This project resulted in reduced compressor horsepower and associated electrical savings of approximately 2.9 kWh. 

Our Fremont (Nebraska) Plant team implemented a project that reduced GHG emissions. They identified an opportunity to recover waste heat from the cooking and cooling process of select products. Water and heat recovery equipment were integrated into the recently installed retort cooker addition. In total, this project reduced GHG emissions by 2,300 metric tons CO2-e in 2013.

How do you get the message of Hormel’s sustainability efforts across to consumers?

Our corporate responsibility report plays an important role in educating consumers and customers about our efforts. We also utilize social media to help spread the word.

This year, we held a Twitter trivia contest featuring facts from our report, and we donated $8 to Feeding America (up to $5,000) for every person who engaged in the contest or tweeted about the release of our report using the hashtag #HormelCR. We also publish a Responsibility Post newsletter that gets distributed to customers; the newsletter is a great vehicle for us to provide updates throughout the year.

What other marks has Hormel Foods hit in the past year?

In fiscal 2013, Hormel Foods donated $9.1m in cash and product donations. Donations specific to hunger relief organizations throughout the US and abroad totaled more than $6.5m; this included donations of Spammy, a shelf-stable poultry product fortified with vitamins and minerals that is distributed to malnourished children in Guatemala.

In 2013, we donated 2.4m cans of Spammy through our partnership with Food for the Poor and Caritas Arquidiocesana.

We also reduced sodium in six product categories and have a great story to tell in the people section of our report with our safety and tenure metrics. 

We are on track to meet or exceed all of our 2020 goals. Our efforts would not be possible without the hard work and dedication from everyone throughout the company. We are proud of the progress we have made.

Related topics Processing & Packaging

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