If there’s one industry that finds it extra difficult to go green fully, it’s food manufacturers.
Now, it’s the nature of food manufacturers to be highly dependent on traditional (non-renewable) sources of energy. Everything, from cooking to preserving food to keeping the lights on in large plants, requires a significant amount of energy that might be costly to source from renewable energy providers. Also, a food manufacturing company can’t simply switch to organic, more conscientious suppliers — disrupting the already-established supply chain will mean an adjustment period and related expenses.
It’s also not unusual for plants to generate a lot of waste. Since most supplies have a short shelf life, and waste management is a complex topic, the US restaurant sector generates about 11.4 million tons of food waste every year — 7.3 million come from full-service restaurants, while 4.1 million come from limited-service counterparts. The price tag? Over $25 million.
Despite the high cost, some organizations prefer this set-up because of the limited availability of recycling facilities, high transportation costs, and strict recycling requirements. It’s much more convenient and business-friendly to throw food away.
Shifting to sustainable practices, therefore, can affect the bottom line of the business. If sustainability requires this much effort and resources, should food manufacturers still go green?
The Case for Sustainable Practices
Even though it might seem like a painful transition, shifting to sustainable practices is healthier for the business in the long run. This is because sustainability can help mitigate the various problems that the food manufacturing industry is facing.
Slow Industry Growth
This industry got by through price increases and convincing customers to purchase pricier, more premium items. In fact, in 2019, menu prices in restaurants that many manufacturers supply food to were up by 3.3%.
However, median sales growth for publicly traded chains has been 1.3%, according to a Restaurant Business analysis of Technomic data. That is not much more than the 1.2% from the year prior. From a business perspective, it makes sense that businesses choose to cut corners and choose less expensive food suppliers who do not employ sustainable practices.
The catch is, the market trend favors sustainable businesses.
Companies that are committed to environmental protection are likely to outperform establishments that waffle on their sustainability stance. According to a meta-analysis Morgan Stanley, 88% of studies found that companies that upheld social or environmental practices recorded better operational performance. About 80% of the studies demonstrated a positive effect on stock price performance.
Difficult Customer Acquisition and Retention
Customers are also willing to pay more for a sustainable brand. In a Nielsen study, 66% of global respondents say they can accept higher prices if:
- The products are made from fresh, natural, and/or organic ingredients
- The company claims to be environment-friendly
- The company is known for its commitment to social value
In fact, companies who prioritize sustainability are poised to win the heart of the emerging consumer power — Generation Z. A podcast held by Foodable, a restaurant, and hospitality media company, argues that Gen Z tends to favor brands that care about sustainability and social justice. So, to court this huge demographic, businesses (even those who aren’t serving food directly to restaurant patrons) need to invest in:
- Eco-friendly packaging
- Sustainable sourcing
In the long run, it might be healthier for food manufacturers to switch to sustainable practices.
Talent Acquisition and Retention
Going green leaves a positive effect on the people side of the business. In fact, these days, it’s one of the first things applicants look for when they are researching companies to work for.
Bain & Company, a management consulting firm, surveyed about 750 employees in Brazil, China, India, Germany, the UK, and the US. Many of these respondents say that sustainability is “extremely important” to them.
A study by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) revealed that 90% of employees engaged in their company’s sustainability efforts claim that it enhances both job satisfaction and attitudes towards their employers.
The Push for Sustainability
Sustainable practices bring significant advantages to a company, including a positive impact on revenue growth, talent retention, and customer acquisition, despite the somewhat painful transition.
To help you join the movement for sustainability, GF Commodities put together a rough guide on how restaurants can take part in the movement for sustainability:
- Conscientious Energy Consumption
- Effective Waste Management
- Sustainable Supply Chain
- Eco-Friendly Operations
1: Conscientious Energy Consumption
There are huge opportunities to cut back on restaurant energy consumption these include:
Investing in Energy-Efficient Equipment – commercial equipment accounts for a huge amount of your energy consumption. So, it’s imperative that you begin with investing in energy-efficient appliances and machinery.
Perform Regular Equipment Maintenance – Equipment that isn’t clean or regularly maintained works harder than it should. Consequently, it consumes more energy than necessary. It isn’t enough that you invest in energy-efficient equipment; you should keep it that way, as well.
Use Energy-Efficient Lighting – If your commercial kitchens are still using incandescent bulbs, you need to switch immediately to either: LED Bulbs – these use less electricity and last up to 10 times longer than a standard incandescent bulb. Or CFL Bulbs – though they may not last as long as LEDs, CFL bulbs are still about four times more efficient than conventional incandescent bulbs.
Control Ambient Temperatures – When the ambient temperature in the hot environments is too high, freezers work harder than they should to keep food supplies fresh. It’s best to, if possible, invest in induction cookers, which don’t use flames or burners. Utilize the exhaust hoods to release hot steam in certain production areas, too.
Involve Your Employees – Lastly, set strict energy-saving protocols for your employees to follow. These regulations should also be incorporated into the training sessions for new employees. Post reminders in strategic places within the plant.
How do you know if your efforts work? Easy. You’ll see a massive dip in your electricity bills.
2: Effective Waste Management
Implementing effective waste management can help boost a company’s bottom line. Champions12.3, an organization dedicated to achieving SDG Target 12.3, analyzed about 1,200 business sites under 700 companies across 17 countries that have streamlined waste management protocols.
The researchers found that 99% of the respondents cite a positive return on investment. The median benefit-cost ratio is 14:1, meaning, for every $1 spent on waste reduction, the company earned $14 in savings.
To help you reduce food waste, we divided your efforts into two parts: pre-consumer and post-consumer food waste.
Reducing Pre-Production Waste
Pre-consumer food involves food supplies that don’t leave the kitchen.
- Asses Inventory – Evaluate your inventory regularly to ensure that you aren’t ordering too much product. A long-term, effective solution would be to log the production output, waste, and weather every day. This allows you to project how much supplies you need to order next year, depending on the output that season and the prevailing weather.
- Maximize Shelf Life – Keep stock organized and labeled so you can easily identify which supplies need to be used first. Develop a rotation system to ensure perishables are used promptly.
- Train Staff to Reduce Waste – Your staff is at the frontline of waste reduction, so make sure that they’re briefed and motivated to follow protocol. Moreover, equip them with the proper preparation techniques so they can practice food waste reduction practices on their own.
Reducing Post-Production Waste
Post-production waste involves product that was used to create what was sold, but not used by the customer.
Manage Customer Expectations – Make sure the descriptions for the product are accurate to manage the customer’s expectations. Also, your sales staff should be able to explain the items you produce and answer the thoroughly answer customer questions.
Track Product Popularity – Identify which products are returned or aren’t reordered and either revamp the product or remove it from your offerings completely.
Choose a Used Oil Disposal Partner – Used cooking oils (UCOs) can be tricky to dispose of and recycle, so it’s best to let a professional handle it for you. GF Commodities, LLC, for instance, handles the UCOs for you and makes sure they’re recycled and disposed of responsibly. Click here to contact us for more information.
3. Eco-Friendly Operations
Now, it’s time to focus on operations. There are many small things you can tweak in your daily activities that could boost your sustainability efforts.
The receipts and paper invoices add up quickly. By the end of the week or month, you have a significant amount of paper waste. Even though these can be recycled, it still makes more sense to reduce waste in the first place.
In your long-term growth plans, explore the idea of using digital ordering processes as often as possible. This will cut down on waste but also increase your business’s efficiency and accounting organization.
Even if your establishment isn’t producing much pollution, it still pays to cut down activities that cut down emissions.
- Allocate parking spots for bicycles, so both employees are encouraged to cycle
- Offer parking lots for employees who use alternative fuel vehicles or hybrids
- Create a delivery system that utilizes foot, hybrids, or bicycles, if possible.
- Use eco-friendly cleaners or partner with a professional cleaning agency with eco-friendly cleaning practices
Switch to More Sustainable Practices Today
Changing established practices may seem difficult, but going green will pay in dividends for your company. Not only will your organization be part of a global movement that preserves the planet’s resources, but you will also draw in more customers, attract more talent, and outperform competitors that aren’t committed to the environment.
GF Commodities, LLC will help you in this endeavor. We buy UCOs, vegetable oils, choice white grease (CWG), tallow, yellow grease, brown grease, margarine/shortening, and more. We make sure that these items are disposed of responsibly and will help you meet environmental regulations. Also, these unwanted materials can become a new income stream for your business — our team pays 100% of the in-spec weight of the UCOs.
For inquiries about our UCO services, call Dan Kozubek at 816-812-8685.