Why Food & Beverage Manufacturers Must Be Concerned With Feeding the World Responsibly

With an increasing concern for sustainable sourcing and sustainable food production, food and beverage manufacturers must be aware of the drivers of change in the industry. Recent studies suggest that the food industry lags behind regarding environmental performance, primarily because of its significant impact on the environment and the fact that food supply accounts for up to 30 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

To combat this negative impact, food and beverage manufacturers are turning more toward responsible agriculture and sustainable food production practices.

Why Should Manufacturers Focus on Food Sustainability?

Sustainability is a word rarely associated with food production, but food production has a huge impact on the environment at every part of the food production cycle.

  • Agricultural Production: Agricultural production accounts for more than 50 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, 70 percent of river and stream pollution is caused by agricultural waste.
  • Food Manufacturing: Food processing accounts for up to 30 percent of food-related greenhouse gas emissions and 25 percent of worldwide water consumption. Manufacturing processes also result in the disposal of over 7 percent of farmed food.
  • Food Packaging: Packaging constitutes up to 20 percent of food-related greenhouse gas emissions, and non-biodegradable packaging has had a severely negative impact on wildlife in both aquatic and terrestrial environments.

While providing safe food for the population is the primary focus of the food industry, the environmental impact the food industry causes can’t be ignored. Food production and manufacturing processes, as they exist today, contribute significantly to pollution, water misuse and food waste. In addition to these negative worldwide effects, such unsustainable practices can also turn back on food manufacturers —foodborne illnesses and quality concerns are on the rise in the food manufacturing industry, primarily as a result of quantity-oriented food production practices.

The Benefits of Sustainable Food Manufacturing

The environmental impacts of non-sustainable food production are extensive, which is why many environmentally-minded food manufacturers have turned to sustainable production methods. Sustainable food production can include everything from modifying processes to be more energy-efficient to sourcing raw materials from sustainable sources and producers. For many, it means producing sustainable food additives like glycerin.

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While this may sound like an unnecessary expense for your food manufacturing business, the reality is quite the opposite. In fact, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development found that businesses incorporating sustainable practices had greater financial success than those with unsustainable practices. This usually appeared in the form of lower production costs, improved product quality and increased market share.

Sustainable businesses also found that their environmental performance improved, along with their relationships with their stakeholders, while their organizational and procedural risks decreased.

In addition to these benefits, sustainable companies historically experience more stability than their counterparts. A recent study found that sustainable companies financially outperformed their industry averages by 15 percent between May and November 2008, a key period during the most recent economic depression.

Popular interest also seems to be on sustainable corporate practices. Consumer interest in sustainable products increased from 50 percent to 70 percent between 2007 and 2010, and popular interest has continued to increase.

Examples of Sustainable Food Additives

According to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), 90% of the typical American’s diet is spent on processed foods, which often contain additives to keep food fresh or change its texture, appearance or flavor. While the FDA lists 3,000 approved additives for food use, many are produced using energetically expensive synthetic materials that are expensive to transport and produce.

Sustainable alternatives include natural food additives made from plants, which often require fewer chemicals and processes to produce.

In their search for opportunities to incorporate sustainability into their business models, many food manufacturing companies have pursued sustainable alternatives to common additives, including the following:

  • Hydrogenated Tallow Glyceride: This food additive is created by adding hydrogen to tallow glycerides, derived from the fatty tissue of livestock. The result is a natural food additive used as a softening agent.
  • Calcium Stearate: This white, odorless powder is the product of heated calcium oxide and stearic acid. It’s often produced from tallow or vegetable products and is commonly used as a food emulsifier, surfactant and flow agent.
  • Propylene Glycol USP: This clear, colorless liquid is produced from propylene oxide derived from plants. It’s often used as a humectant to prevent moisture loss in foods.
  • Triple Pressed Stearic Acid (TPSA): This long-chain fatty acid can be produced from either vegetables or tallow and is a versatile additive for the food manufacturing industry. It’s commonly used to harden candies and also acts as a mold-release agent.

The Sustainable Food Market

With 2015 surveys showing that at least half of U.S. consumers think about the environmental sustainability of their food choices at least a little, the sustainable food market is poised to grow in the next few years. In addition, 42 percent of North American consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products. With statistics like these, the profitability of sustainable food manufacturing becomes apparent.

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Start Thinking Sustainably

Sustainable food is a growing concern among both consumers and manufacturers. With so many food and beverage manufacturers worldwide looking toward sustainable food production, you can’t afford to fall behind. And, Acme-Hardesty can help.

Acme-Hardesty has been a leading distributor of oleochemicals for more than 70 years. Currently focused on developing innovative green and sustainable oleochemical options for consumers, we are at the forefront of developing a new way of doing business. If you’re interested in learning more about how our oleochemical products could help your food and beverage manufacturing business, contact Acme-Hardesty today.