RESTON, VA. — As the Earth’s population is expected to grow by more than two billion people in the next 30 years according to a 2017 United Nations report, it will become more imperative to address the sustainability of food processing. Population growth translates to higher required food output and consumers — specifically millennials — have concerns surrounding the environmental impact of today’s food supply chain. This leads them to seek out brands that proactively address the matter.

Some companies embrace this movement, successfully achieving large-scale carbon-neutrality while remaining profitable. However, many food and beverage processors face hurdles in making such significant strides. These companies juggle competing priorities, which include strengthening food safety, adapting to an e-commerce marketplace and increasing operational flexibility to diversify their product lines. As the processors work to do it all, they can still drive both sustainability and productivity through exercising a focus on energy and resource efficiency.

Of course, this approach includes attention to several factors. From measuring the actual energy consumption of equipment to sourcing ingredients mindfully and locally, processors must make a few considerations:

1. Factor energy efficiency into R.O.I. and T.C.O.

Not too long ago, discussions about efficiency and sustainability were siloed, but that way of thinking has given way to an understanding that the two can be mutually beneficial. By minimizing the energy consumption of equipment, processors save on utilities in the long run. It’s a purchasing strategy that requires decision makers to see the bigger picture, and importantly, to factor these savings when determining R.O.I. for a new purchase as well as total cost of ownership (T.C.O.).

In the OpX Leadership Network’s Total Cost of Ownership Packaging and Processing Machine Guidelines for C.P.G.s and O.E.M.s, utility and energy expenses factor into acquisition costs. The guidelines encourage end users to consider compressed air, electrical, gas, water and water treatment when calculating T.C.O. Neglecting to do so can paint an incomplete picture and prompt companies to spend more in the long run.

2. Implement solutions that boost operational efficiency

As equipment becomes more energy efficient, it is also becoming more agile, fostering operational efficiency. Food and beverage processors pursuing a greater diversity of products that require shorter runs, shorter changeover times and streamlined cleaning efforts, call for solutions that ultimately minimize energy usage and waste.

Clean-in-place (C.I.P.) options, modular components and user-friendly Human machine interface (H.M.I.) technologies invite greater operational efficiency and contribute to reductions in utility usage and expenses. Inspection and detection equipment helps processors identify potential issues early on, minimizing fully costed waste — and the much larger and costlier expenditure and brand damage that can come with a recall.

3. Leverage ethical consumption

Increasingly, health-conscious consumers demand products sourced ethically and locally. The certainty around these ingredient origins reassures these consumers that the foods and beverages they purchase have a positive — or less negative — impact on the environment and humanity. If brands can point to supply chain energy and fuel savings owed to ingredients sourced from local farmers and the benefits to the local community, these companies can benefit from both the resulting cost savings as well as a boost in brand loyalty.

Some processors go above and beyond this measure, implementing track-and-trace solutions that allow consumers to see where their product ingredients come from and how they travel throughout the supply chain. They simply scan a barcode to learn about the farm that produced their milk, meat, produce, grain, etc. This kind of transparency bolsters consumer confidence in the brand’s efforts to produce environmentally friendly and ethically sourced products.

Food and beverage processors seeking solutions to boost efficiency and sustainability can visit ProFood Tech, a comprehensive food and beverage processing event showcasing cutting-edge technologies and innovative solutions. Powered by PACK EXPO, Koelnmesse and the International Dairy Foods Association — this biennial show in Chicago from March 26-28 brings the industry together and addresses the key issues facing food and beverage processing operators in North America.

Registration for ProFood Tech is now open. To learn more or register to attend the show, visit