Nizo Food Research, which conducts R&D for food processors, has seen sustainability high on the agenda for some time, but there is an increasing need for projects that build both sustainability and profitability.
David Hollestelle, business development, said that shareholders scrutinize the sustainability reports of big food firms to see “what they are doing for people, planet and profit.”
“They buy shares only when sustainability is well included in the management strategy.”
“If you want a company to be profitable for the long term, they have to be sustainable,” he said, adding that this is especially important for the food industry since it is very close to society and the people.
Projects geared towards sustainability can be both long- and short-term – for instance, investment made in developing breakthrough technologies now may not be recouped for a number of years.
Moreover, investment now is seen as all the more important since “in 10 years plus sustainability will be even more important”.
That said, the business case is not always linked directly to profits. “The image of a company is also important. Food companies want a natural image. But the bottom line is money.”
Nizo’s workshop, which is scheduled for 2-3 April, will look at a range of areas in which sustainability may yield profits. These include life cycle analysis – that is, the need to look from the growing of the plant all the way to the consumer.
Amongst the suggests Nizo makes is for food companies can take a look at the production chain, and see if there are any changes they can make to streamline the links.
For example, in some countries such as Germany and Australia, the concentration of milk can now take place at the farm. Although food safety measures need to be in place, this practice has an impact on the volume of product that has to be transported – and the associated costs and emissions.
Peter de Jong, division manager for processing, said that Nizo also receives requests to look at a company’s waste streams, as they look for ways to extract value from by-products that have, until now, been thrown away or used in animal feed.
The idea is the “valorisation of waste streams that were a big cost and hassle, but are now up-traded to other outlets.”
Waste valorization projects Nizo has worked on in the past include finding a use for spent yeast as a taste enhancer for soups and savoury products; and using chicken feathers as a source of foaming agents and emulsifiers for use in bioplastics.
Investment in new technologies, even if the effect on profits will be seen years after the outlay, is also a good sustainability plan.
One example is developing equipment with very smooth surfaces that uses ultra-sound technology to clean itself as it is working. The idea is that the machinery stays clean for days, and removes the need to interrupt the process every 8 to 12 hours for cleaning.
More information on Nizo’s workshop is available from david.hollestelle ‘at’ nizo.nl