Food Processors Make Progress on Sustainability Goals in 2011

General Mills, Kellogg Co., Kraft and Purdue Farms talk about what they are doing to meet their sustainability goals.

By Food Processing staff

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For our September 2011 series on sustainability, we've reported on consumer perceptions of sustainability, sustainability rankings; and leaders in sustainability. We've also highlighted several food and beverage manufacturers' sustainability initiatives (for instance: ConAgra; Unilever ; Odwalla and MillerCoors.) As most food processors are learning, it's essential for food and beverage companies to commit to a long-term strategy of sustainable business practices. As part of our sustainable processing coverage we've talked to many food and beverage processors about their sustainable business practices. Read on to find out what General Mills, Kellogg Co., Kraft, Purdue Farms are goind to meet their sustainability goals.

General Mills Makes Substantial Progress on Environmental Sustainability Goals

General Mills made substantial progress on achieving environmental sustainability goals during fiscal 2010, along with developing expanded and more aggressive sustainability goals for our manufacturing facilities by fiscal 2015.

New equipment was brought online that burns oat hulls left over from the milling process to provide 90 percent of the steam to operate its Fridley, Minn., facility that makes oat flour for Cheerios and other products, saving about $390,000 per year.

“Burning them on-site is a more sustainable – and cheaper – solution over the long haul,” said John Hellweg, Fridley manufacturing manager. “There is an environmental cost around the transportation of a bulky fuel like oat hulls.” In recent years, the oat hulls, which have roughly the same energy value as bituminous coal, have been used to fuel a U.S. Steel plant in northern Minnesota and as fiber for a food company in Cambridge, Minn. Currently burned by Koda Energy, a biomass plant in Shakopee, Minn., the oat hulls generate enough electricity, on average, to power about 17,000 homes.

General Mills’ first U.S. facility to produce some of its own electricity via solar panels came online at its Methuen, Mass., and a second bank of solar panels was installed at its headquarters in Minneapolis. They supply about 55 percent of its annual electricity needs – 80 percent of its consumption in the summer and about 40 percent during the rest of the year, enough energy to power about 12 average Massachusetts homes each year, and save $19,000 per year in electricity costs. To help underwrite the solar panels, General Mills received a combination of state and federal incentives that Massachusetts has used to create more “green” jobs in the state. While a northern state like Massachusetts may seem like an unlikely place to install solar panels, the sun shines an average of 202 days annually in Methuen, making it a good location for generating solar power.

LEED-certified buildings opened their doors, including a distribution facility in Georgia, and an existing office building in Minneapolis that was upgraded. And all of the company’s European manufacturing locations are now ISO 14001 certified, a globally recognized environmental management system.

Chairman and CEO Ken Powell is an avid supporter of sustainability. In addition to championing sustainability within General Mills, Powell chairs the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s (GMA) Sustainability Leadership Committee. At the GMA/FMI Sustainability Summit in December, Powell delivered the keynote address and said sustainability efforts are not only the right thing to do, but are also good for business.

Companywide efforts to reduce its environmental footprint have been furthered by two ongoing internal movements: Continuous Improvement (CI) and Holistic Margin Management (HMM). Continuous Improvement leverages standardized tools to help cross-functional teams identify, eliminate and prevent waste. CI encourages total employee ownership of processes – from plant production lines to the creation of company advertising.

As of the close of fiscal 2010, General Mills achieved a 33 percent reduction in solid waste generation, a 9 percent reduction in water usage; an 8 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; and a 6 percent reduction in energy consumption in its wholly-owned manufacturing facilities.

New, expanded goals for General Mills (using fiscal 2005 as a baseline) are to reduce energy usage by 20 percent, greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent, and water usage by 20 percent by 2015 (From a fiscal 2006 baseline) and solid waste generation by 50 percent. In addition, the company’s transportation goal for North American operations is to reduce the fuel used to ship a pound of product by 35 percent by fiscal 2015.

“We’re pleased with our overall progress and feel confident we have the systems in place to achieve more substantial gains in the next five years,” says Larry Deeney, director of environmental sustainability.   

Kellogg Sustainability Goals Doing G-Gr-R-Reat!

Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Co. has made good progress toward its environmental goals by continuing to embed sustainability practices into every aspect of its business. Since 2005, the company has decreased its energy use by 7.5 percent, greenhouse gas emissions by 9.8 percent, water use by 7.4 percent, and decreased total waste sent to landfill by 41.5 percent per metric ton of food produced.

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