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Business / Food and Related Products

Sustainability in the food industry

Sustainability in the worldwide food industry
The food industry is the single largest manufacturing sector in the European Union and continuously growing when it comes to turnover, employment and adding value.

Therefore, it is increasingly important to look at new ways of refining your organisation’s overall ecological footprint.

The leading multinational food ingredient and product producers set strategic goals and operational procedures when it comes to producing food in a more sustainable way. However, there are still many challenges they may encounter.

Having the right tools and solutions can help organisations come a long way in keeping up with the current sustainability trends and innovations and improve resource efficiency across the total food value chain.

A survey published by the FDF has shown that food processing and manufacturing organisations are prioritizing projects to improve their overall ecological footprint by i.e.  reducing their water consumption. Changing the design of equipment and processing is amongst one of these projects.

Water sustainability

Especially organisations that undertake in “wet processing” are benefitting from making significant environmental developments. Not only are they becoming more sustainable in the processing of fish and diaries, they save costs along the way; studies have shown that overall consumption of water can be cut down between 20% and 50%.

NESTLÉ is also very involved in maintaining a sustainable use of water. The company shows their commitment through ‘The Nestlé Water Policy’, in which they explain how they direct worldwide research and development towards new manufacturing methods minimizing water consumption.

Packaging sustainability
Additionally, in the packaging of food ingredients, companies work towards a more circular economy through using packaging that can be recycled in conventional waste streams.

Large food processing organisations such as Heinz and Coca-Cola are working towards more sustainable packaging and improving their packaging of existing brands. Their bio-based PET “PlantBottles” and containers are the result.

An example of the Heinz ketchup bottle shows that the amount of resin used in these containers was cut down by 2,500 metric tons just by making them more lightweight.

Role of new and used machinery
The most energy-consuming processes in the food industry are: process heating (evaporation, pasteurisation, boiling, drying), process cooling/refrigeration and processing   machinery such as fans, pumps, ventilation or compressed air, and finally, transport. Water use is mostly related to washing, dilution and separation processes.

Consequently, sustainability is becoming highly relevant to companies in the food processing sector.

The European Parliament is currently evaluation new technology options for sustainable food processing.

Therefore, it is of importance that everything in the primary processing (slaughtering, mixing, mincing) of food ingredients is optimized to leave a minimal ecological footprint, as many products have to go through several stages of processing methods.

Especially refrigeration processes are highly relevant for a sustainable food supply, as it is a contributing factor to minimizing of food losses.

Investing in sustainable refrigeration technology would thus be a wise decision; new refrigerants and equipment often have higher energetic efficiency and lower greenhouse emissions. Used freezing equipment can be sold in order to uphold the circularity in the food industry and keep contributing to a sustainable corporate environment.