Sustainability has never been higher on the agenda for food and drink companies than it is now. Not only does operating in an ethical and environmentally responsible way make sense for both planet and pocket, but it's clear that this is what consumers want, too. Research from Globescan has revealed that 92% of consumers think that food companies should focus their efforts on securing the future sustainability of food, with many also believing that farmers should be paid more for their produce. So, what more could America's food producers be doing to increase their sustainability credentials?
Making the most of waste
In recent years, some of the country's most forward thinking food companies have developed a truly circular approach to resource use. Alongside minimizing the volume of waste they generate, they are also turning the unavoidable fraction that does occur into renewable energy, for use in their on-site operations. Anaerobic digestion (or AD) - in which organic matter is naturally broken down to produce energy and biofertiliser - has taken big strides in the US over recent years, with over 2,000 AD plants now in operation.
While the vast majority of these AD facilities treat wastewater, and more than 240 are situated on farms, there is also a huge potential for on-site industrial plants processing feedstock such as food waste and residues, ranging from vegetable peelings and sugar beet pulp, to liquid malt waste and distilling residues. The benefits for the companies operating these plants are multiple - reduced waste disposal costs; reduced energy costs; security of energy supply, with reduced reliance on fossil-fuel derived power; carbon mitigation; superior green credentials; and creation of a nutrient-rich biofertiliser.
Furthermore, the fact that these plants have an on-site use for the power they produce means they are less affected by changes to state and federal legislation on renewable energy.