Today, more than one-third of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) caused by human activity are attributed to the way we produce, process, and package food. In the face of supply chain, economic, and labour challenges, the time to work together for more sustainable, equitable food systems is now. Food and beverage manufacturers can help make this possible and reach their sustainability goals today. Here’s how:
Optimise water, steam, energy and utilities
Food, water, and energy have one thing in common: global demand for all three continues to rise. These resources are under pressure today from several factors, including population and economic growth, changes in consumer diets, urbanisation, and more. For food and beverage manufacturers, enhanced management of utilities such as energy, water, and steam can reduce overall operating costs and GHG emissions.
This has become a heightened pressure for many customers in recent years, as global energy markets have been especially volatile. For manufacturers prioritising projects to improve sustainability and reduce overall costs, initiatives related to water stewardship and energy management were high on the list. Technology that supports efficiency and systems-wide utilities reduction can support these efforts by shortening overall processing times, enabling increased product output while simultaneously reducing the use of energy, water, and steam. For example, as popularity of frozen vegetables continues to rise, better blanching systems can store energy released by the product, which it later uses to reheat the water. Energy-flexible equipment also gives manufacturers the freedom to power their operations as they see fit.
Reduce packaging waste
Today, 60-70 per cent of consumers are willing to pay more for brands that implement sustainable packaging alternatives for their products. Food and beverage companies benefit from aligning their strategies and adopting more sustainable packaging. Looking ahead, we will continue to see companies across the sector shift to packaging alternatives that use compostable, paper and paperboard materials. Tray sealing packaging, for example, is a popular solution as it significantly reduces the use of plastic and energy, while also preserving product quality all the way from the production line to the end-consumer. Mono-material plastics are being adopted across the industry, which can be substantially easier to recycle than the current industry standards of multi-material layered plastics.
Extend the lifespan of equipment and consumables
Investing in food and beverage manufacturing equipment is a serious consideration. Technology solutions that are durable and dependable will deliver top performance on high-yield processing lines for decades. Instead of buying new equipment, consider tech solution providers that proactively maintain equipment and have circularity-focused initiatives to recover, upgrade, and remanufacture used machines. These efforts boost the long-term value of food and beverage processing technology and also reduce the amount of water, energy, metals, and other materials — as well as the GHG emissions—associated with manufacturing new machines.
Maximise efficiency by leveraging integrated and automated solutions
As production and plant managers continually seek ways to optimise operations, machine optimization has emerged as a key solution for reducing energy consumption, increasing throughput, and enhancing product quality. FoodTech partners can support machine optimisation by working closely to analyse production data, identify potential areas for improvement, and set goals for energy savings. New digital tools, such as JBT’s Omniblu platform, can monitor machine health and performance in real-time, and therefore optimise energy and water usage.
By monitoring factors such as the concentrations of cleaning chemicals, the volume and temperature of cleaning water, and more, immediate feedback is taken to reduce waste and costs at all stages of the production process creating quantifiable results. A machine optimisation project led by JBT saved one European customer 300 kilowatts per hour, translating to potential annual savings of $150,000-$200,000, depending on energy prices. Some solutions can even optimise the use of raw materials and reduce food waste by using data analytics and machine learning to identify opportunities for improvement and provide recommendations for optimising processes.
Develop sustainable foods
As people gain awareness of the health and environmental ramifications of their diets, many are re-thinking the types of products they consume. In a recent U.S. study, 47 per cent of participants
identified as “flexitarians,” meaning they lean toward a plant-based diet, with moderate consumption of dairy and meat. In addition to already popular plant-based proteins and dairy alternatives, demand for culture-based proteins is expected to increase. The market was valued at over $163 million in 2021, with a projected compound annual growth rate of 11.4 per cent from 2022 to 2028.
Because this production method eliminates the need to raise farm animals for food, cell-based proteins have the potential to revolutionise the way food is produced. The foods pose benefits to the environment and human health and can help customers bolster global food supplies while reducing costs. As our industry advances the development and commercialization of these products, food and beverage manufacturers should consider how their existing technology can be adopted for protein and dairy alternatives.
As the world’s population grows and solutions for the climate crisis become increasingly urgent, the need for collaboration to create a more sustainable and equitable food system has never been greater. Working together with food and beverage technology providers that can support sustainable solutions across the manufacturing process is key to implementing strategies that optimise water and energy resources, reduce packaging, extend product lifespan, proactively maximise efficiencies, and bolster food supply by developing sustainable foods.
About the author
Carlos Fernandez is the executive vice president of customer sustainability and market development for JBT Corporation where he oversees customer support to reach their sustainability goals, while enhancing new product and end market development opportunities in support of growth. A visionary food processing executive, Carlos was at the forefront of sustainable food processing technologies and pioneered JBT’s Liquid Foods business franchise by driving profitability through successful acquisitions and business strategies. Carlos brings more than 20 years of demonstrated business acumen and experience leading multinational operations to JBT and the food and beverage industry.