Food and Beverage Companies Go Green

Consumers are making choices based on sustainability efforts; here’s what the top food and beverage companies are doing. Includes bonus online content.

By Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor

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In the early 1990s, PepsiCo’s Frito Lay division formed Green Teams to focus on energy efficiency projects. Solar power was installed in six of its distribution centers, and in October last year, solar power was installed on the roof of its largest distribution center, located in Arizona. It produces roughly 350,000 kWh of electricity annually.

In addition to solar power installations at its distribution centers, plants such as the Tropicana facility in Fort Pierce, Fla., use supplemental power from a local landfill’s by-product methane gas for its energy needs. The Casa Grande, Ariz., potato chip factory has a goal to run almost entirely on renewable fuels and recycled water. PepsiCo is also an award-winning company in the EPA’s Energy Star program, and it is encouraging its supply chain partners to develop more energy efficient ways. 

Unilever: Greenhouse gas profiling tool

In addition to making most lists of global sustainable companies, London-based Unilever (www.unilever.com) uses a Business Partner Code to ensure that its suppliers meet expectations on environmental and social impacts. Since more than two-thirds of Unilever’s raw materials come from agriculture, its Sustainable Agriculture Programme has a key role in managing upstream impacts.

Unilever has reduced emission in manufacturing by more than a third between 1995 and 2006. It’s committed to reducing CO2 from energy used in its manufacturing operations by 25 percent by 2012 (against a baseline of 2004).

In partnership with Forum for the Future, Unilever has developed a “greenhouse gas profiling tool” to enable R&D teams to assess whether innovations will improve a product’s greenhouse gas footprint across its lifecycle, from sourcing to use and disposal.

During 2007, Unilever increased its use of energy coming from renewable sources to 15.2 percent, up from 14.8 percent in 2006, and reduced water usage per ton of production by 61.7 percent.

Anheuser-Busch: Turning waste into fuel

More than five billion 12-oz. servings of beer – or about one in seven beers brewed by St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch in the U.S. – are expected to be brewed using renewable fuel by the end of 2009, thanks to environmental efforts at the company’s 12 U.S. breweries.

The company’s breweries in Fairfield, Calif., and Houston are installing alternative energy technology that will be operational by year end. As a result, the company’s U.S. breweries will run on more than 15 percent renewable fuel. The Houston brewery will use biogas, a natural byproduct of waste decomposition, from a nearby landfill. Combined with the facility’s bio-energy recovery system (BERS), more than 70 percent of the brewery’s fuel needs should be met by alternative fuels. The Fairfield brewery will turn brewing wastewater into fuel and receive electricity from solar panels on site.

Once the Houston and Fairfield projects are operational, 10 of Anheuser-Busch’s 12 U.S. breweries will be producing renewable fuel. The company’s brewery in Fort Collins, Colo., applies nutrient-rich brewery wastewater to nearby land to grow crops that can be turned into biofuel. Busch is also exploring the use of wind, solar, wood and landfill gas at several other breweries.

Anheuser-Busch’s 12 U.S. breweries recycle or reuse more than 99 percent of the solid waste from their brewing and packaging processes – a tradition that began in the late 1800s when the company first recycled brewers’ grain into cattle feed. This amounted to nearly four billion pounds of materials such as spent grain, beechwood chips, plastic, glass cullet, cardboard and metal in 2007. 

As a member of the EPA Climate Leaders Program, Anheuser-Busch has committed to reducing total greenhouse gas emissions to 5 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2010 for all of its U.S. operations – that’s equivalent to taking nearly 30,000 passenger vehicles off the road or heating more than 14,000 homes. In addition, the company has also committed to increasing the total use of renewable fuel from 8 percent to 15 percent in the same time period.

Busch also saves more than 21 million lbs. of metal per year by trimming an eighth of an inch off the diameter of its beer cans, according to Natural Capitalism author Paul Hawken, who adds, “The trimming doesn’t reduce the volume of beer one bit.”





Dole: Fueling sustainability
Dole Food Co.
(www.dole.com), Westlake Village, Calif., was named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for a second year in a row by Ethisphere Magazine. Its Dole Fresh Vegetables Co. division is converting all of its Salinas, Calif., and Yuma, Ariz., harvesting equipment to B20 bio-diesel fuel, a domestic renewable fuel for diesel engines derived from natural oils, which according to the EPA, yields 20 percent less unburned hydrocarbons than conventional diesel, as well as less carbon monoxide and particulate matter.

“Being good stewards of the environment is very important to Dole and this includes reducing emissions and using alternative sources of energy,” said Kevin Fiori, Dole’s senior vice president agriculture operations. ”Dole has been testing B20 Bio Diesel since August 2007 in farm equipment and off road vehicles with very positive results.”

Nestle: Investing in sustainability
Vevey, Switzerland-based Nestle (www.nestle.com) saved $510 million through a combination of packaging source reduction, re-use, recycling, and energy recovery between 1991 and 2006. In 2007, Nestlé invested over CHF 100 million in environment-related industrial improvements, and is one of the first food companies to join the Global Reporting Initiative multi-stakeholder program to develop global reporting standards and indicators on sustainability in the food industry. Nestlé reduced its direct greenhouse gas emissions by 16 percent, compared to 10 years ago, and its overall water withdrawal by 28 percent, while at the same time increasing the total volume of goods produced by 76 percent.

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