Food Processors Make Progress on Sustainability Goals in 2011

Sept. 15, 2011
General Mills, Kellogg Co., Kraft and Purdue Farms talk about what they are doing to meet their sustainability goals.

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.

With a focus on transportation-related energy use and CO2 emissions, Kellogg decreased per-case fuel in its U.S.-operated truck fleet by 40 percent by designing more efficient routes, restricting idling time and recently increased the amount of product on each truck to reduce miles and save fuel. Working with contract carriers, diesel fuel consumption has been decreased by 39 percent compared to 2005, or 10.9 million gallons per year.

Working with its partners and suppliers to reduce their environmental impact is also an important part of the company's corporate responsibility strategy, as a part of its responsible sourcing framework, launched in 2009.

Almost all Kellogg cereal cartons are made of 100 percent recycled fiber, with at least 35 percent from consumer-recycled material. In fact, the company is one of the largest users of recycled paperboard in the U.S., estimating that packaging amounts to about 15 to 20 percent of its products’ lifecycle carbon footprint.

Seven of Kellogg Co. U.S. cookie and cracker bakeries have earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) first Energy Star certification for bakeries that demonstrate best-in-class energy performance. These facilities (Augusta Bakery, Augusta, Ga.; Cary Bakery, Raleigh, N.C.; Charlotte Bakery, Charlotte, N.C.; Cincinnati Bakery, Cincinnati, Ky.; Columbus Bakery, Columbus, Ga.; Florence Bakery, Florence, Ky., and Louisville Bakery, Louisville, Ky.) represent more than half of the 13 EPA-recognized U.S. cookie and cracker bakeries from multiple companies. Collectively, these facilities prevent more than 85,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually compared to average performing bakeries, and according to the EPA, these bakeries use one-quarter less energy than similar plants across the country.

" EPA recognition was the result of many projects and initiatives – both large and small – at our facilities, as well as the ongoing contributions and dedication from our employees," adds Alistair Hirst, senior vice president, operations, for Kellogg Co.'s U.S. Snacks business unit. "Some of these efforts include installation of motion sensors and high efficiency lighting as well as installing more efficient ovens and boilers, among other initiatives."

Since 2005, Kellogg has reduced its energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 7.5 percent and 9.8 percent per metric ton of food produced. As part of the company's more than 100-year commitment to corporate responsibility, each plant around the world has reduction goals for energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, water use and waste sent to landfill.

Overall, more than 93 percent of the waste Kellogg generates is recycled, sent for energy recovery or used for animal feed. Twenty-four Kellogg facilities in 12 different countries currently send less than 5 percent of the waste it generates to landfill.

"We've committed to reducing our energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 15-20 percent by 2015 and already, we've made steady gains toward these goals in the last several years," says Celeste Clark, chief sustainability officer and senior vice president, global public policy and external relations.

Kellogg’s goals for 2015 are to reduce energy use, GHG emissions and water use by 15 to 20 percent (per metric ton of food produced), using 2005 as a baseline, and continue to reduce waste sent to landfill (per metric ton of food produced) beyond the 50 percent already reduced since 2005.

Krafting And Expanding Sustainability Goals

Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foods has made significant progress reducing energy, CO2 emissions, water, waste, packaging and transportation across its global operations. From 2005 through 2010: Energy use is down 16 percent, CO2 emissions are down 18 percent, incoming water is down 30 percent, net waste is down 42 percent, packaging is down 100,000 metric tons (200 million lbs), and16 million km (10 million road miles) have been removed from its network.

Kraft Foods expanded its sustainability goals -- now including the Cadbury and LU businesses acquired since 2007. For the 2010-2015 timeframe, it added transportation and agricultural commodities to what it will be measuring. Significantly, all of the company's European coffee brands have committed to sustainably source 100 percent of its coffee by 2015.

"We're building upon our successes to date," said Steve Yucknut, vice president, sustainability. "We're learning, improving and looking beyond our four walls for opportunities. Our new goals will help us do more. For example, our increased focus on sustainable agriculture will further boost our scale to help accelerate long-range development in more communities and for more commodities than ever before."

Using 2010 as a base, Kraft’s new sustainability goals raise the bar to accomplish a variety of goals by the end of 2015. They include: Increase sustainable sourcing of agricultural commodities by 25 percent; Reduce energy use in manufacturing plants by 15 percent; Reduce energy-related CO2 emissions in manufacturing plants by 15 percent; Reduce water consumption in manufacturing plants by 15 percent; Reduce waste at manufacturing plants by 15 percent; Eliminate 50,000 metric tons (100 million lbs.) of packaging material; and Reduce 80 million km (50 million miles) from transportation networks.

As one of the world's largest buyers of cocoa, coffee and cashews, Kraft Foods can have a positive influence on the long-term future of these commodities. The company will meet its agricultural goal through third-party certification groups like Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and 4C. In different ways, these certifications address the three pillars of sustainability -- social, economic and environmental — by setting standards farmers must meet, helping them command a premium for their crops.

"Our commitment in coffee is a great example of how we're making sustainability an integral part of how we do business," said Hubert Weber, president, coffee, Kraft Foods Europe. "Our consumers and customers care about the benefits that certification delivers. That's good for business. As a result, we're making a positive impact across our supply chain – from crop to cup."

In 2010, the company purchased nearly 50,000 metric tons of Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee, more than half of which went to the EU coffee business; approximately 11,000 metric tons of Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa; roughly 19,000 metric tons of Fairtrade cocoa; and about 24,000 metric tons of Fairtrade sugar.

Perdue Farms Sustainability Mentality: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

“Back when my grandfather, Arthur Perdue, was saving the leather from his old boots to make hinges for his chicken house doors, he wasn’t thinking “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Yet, his frugality included a belief that you were responsible for the resources entrusted to you. That sense of stewardship has guided our company’s growth across three generations and more than eight decades,” said Chairman Jim Perdue, Perdue Farms, Horsham, Pa.

Perdue’s AgriRecycle litter recycling plant, the industry’s first large-scale alternative to land application of poultry litter, has handled more than 650,000 tons of litter in its first eight and a half years of operation, the equivalent of 52 million lbs of nitrogen, 26 million lbs of phosphorus and 30 million lbs of potassium with more than half of the finished product relocated to nutrient-deficient areas. It represents an initial $13 million capital investment in protecting the environment, processes surplus poultry litter from Delmarva farms into pasteurized, organic fertilizer products, provides free poultry house clean-outs to farm partners who have surplus litter, and is open to poultry farmers regardless of their company affiliation. The finished product is an Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) certified organic fertilizer and meets the requirements of the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP). It is used in horticulture, landscaping, organic crop production and as a key ingredient in popular organic lawn-and-garden products.

Another initiative, Shore Water Conservation resulted in an average reduction in water use of 2.3 million gallons of water per week for each of four Delmarva processing plants, and a similar program in the Cromwell, Ky., plant saves 2.4 million gallons of water per week.

Cold cathode lighting in the farm partners’ chicken houses reduces energy use by 80 percent. Lighting projects are reducing electricity use across the company, including annual savings of 1.2 million kWh at the Milford, Del., processing plant; 346,000 kWh at its Eagle Springs, N.C., hatchery and 780,000 kWh at the wastewater treatment plant in the Cromwell, Ky. processing plant.

Recycling efforts at the Lewiston, N.C., processing plant reduced solid waste by 2,170 tons, and the Dillon, S.C.; facility recycles more than 55 percent of its solid waste.

The Environmental Management System (EMS), piloted at the Salisbury, Md., processing plant and modeled after internationally recognized ISO 14001 standards, integrates environmental sustainability goals and measures into every aspect of plant operations, an initiative being rolled out in all company facilities.