By Sam Lewis
Some of the food industry’s biggest players are elevating sustainability practices while meeting customers’ high expectations
It’s no secret that sustainability is an enormous issue for food and beverage manufacturers. Minimizing emissions, using recycled and recyclable materials for packaging, regulating water and energy use, and investments in energy-efficient factory equipment are just a few ways the world’s leading food makers are themselves and the environment. Highlighted below are initiatives being taken by a few of the world’s leading food companies to enhance both sustainable practices and supply chain efficiencies.
North America’s largest chocolate producer, Hershey, has made big moves to reduce its waste output. In 2011, the company’s Reese’s factory in Hershey, PA became a zero-waste-to-landfill facility. This means none of its routine manufacturing waste went directly to the landfill. In fact, more than 91 percent of waste produced by this plant in 2010 was recycled. The remainder was sent to an energy incinerator to be used as a source of fuel. Additionally, the company unveiled solar panels on its global flagship retail store. These panels create an estimated 273 megawatt hours of electricity each year while eliminating hundreds of metric tons of greenhouse gasses.
Another company making a run at becoming a zero-waste-to-landfill manufacturer is Kellogg’s. The world-famous maker of breakfast cereal has set a goal to reduce waste-to-landfill by 20 percent per metric ton of food produced in its producing facilities by 2015. In addition, the company plans to reduce water and energy use, along with reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, by anywhere from 15 to 20 percent by next year. Kellogg’s is also investing in energy-efficient equipment to reduce its carbon footprint. At the company’s San Jose, CA plant, a new fuel cell technology was implemented in Sept 2013, allowing one megawatt of electricity to be produced on site, offsetting almost half of the energy it purchased from its utility provider.
The world’s largest producer of fresh fruit and vegetables, the Dole Food Company, may have the most comprehensive plan for overall sustainable practices. The company’s efforts fall into four categories — water management, carbon footprint, soil conservation, and packaging. The company’s water management program teaches methods to recycle water along with processes that reduce overall usage. Dole’s carbon footprint plan includes analyzing and mapping activities which locate sources of carbon emissions. This allows the company to develop alternative practices in processes that produce high emissions.
Soil conservation is very important to Dole. Producing high yields of high-quality produce each year requires a lot of attention to detail to soil and landscape preservation. Before soil is used to grow Dole’s crops, it must undergo extensive fertility analyses, landscape assessments, and soil class determinations. These steps are part of the company’s soil conservation plan that aims to maximize productivity and minimize nutrient depletion. Finally, Dole has a reuse or recycle policy throughout the company. From production resources to shipping cartons, all aspects of Dole’s supply chain are urged to be reused or recycled, allowing the company to maximize efficiency.
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