Based on statistics from the German Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, the German food production industry used a total of 217,656 terajoules of energy in 2009. That same year, the food processing industry, which processes raw agricultural materials and turns them into the food we buy at supermarkets, used altogether 3,552,020 terajoules. One terajoule represents 1,000,000,000,000 (i.e. one trillion) joules. One joule is the rough equivalent of 4.2 calories. It's clear that every joule that is saved or more efficiently used will lead to fewer emissions and greenhouse gases — and of course fewer production costs.
Last but not least, due to our strict environmental protection laws the German food industry is already working to very high environmental standards. There is great awareness of environmental issues here. The German industry is just as motivated to deal responsibly with agricultural raw materials and to achieve even greater efficiency in the food production cycle. In particular when it comes to the raw materials used, the food industry continues to seek constant improvement. This includes increasing use of cascade utilisation which aims to employ raw materials as comprehensively as possible across several phases of use, thus ultimately reducing resource consumption. This works for instance by using by-products and residual materials from the food production process in order to create animal feed or to power biogas systems.
Saving energy is a concern for the industry
For apetito AG, a ready-meal producer based in Rheine, refrigeration is an important key for producing its frozen meals. The company produces cold by using electric motor-powered compressors. Thanks to a comprehensive heat recovery system, the company is able to use the waste heat generated during the cooling process. The system delivers all of the hot water needed for the cooking and steaming areas as well as the hot water used for cleaning the plant. In addition, it heats the company’s administrative offices. Further measures, such as additional airlocks and cooling systems featuring microprocessor-operated compressors and volume ratios, also help to use energy as efficiently as possible.
Carlsberg Deutschland is also constantly working on optimising its energy efficiency. The company achieves transparency by using a comprehensive energy controlling system, which is the basis for this energy efficiency optimisation. The system works by having more than 1,000 different points throughout the company that measure energy use and energy-related operating conditions and then visualise these online. This enables employees to react immediately to any deviations from the ideal values. A special measure for increasing energy efficiency is a cogeneration plant being used in the Holsten brewery in Hamburg, which is owned by Carlsberg. By burning natural gas in a gas turbine connected to a generator, the plant allows the kinetic energy to be used for electricity production and the waste heat to be used for production of process steam. The steam is used up completely for producing beer at the brewery, while the electricity is utilised by its many electric motors. Since the plant is almost always used under optimal operating conditions, even greater efficiency is achieved.
There’s a lot of water out there, but not enough
Improving the use of process water and waste water treatment in the food industry is another important step toward creating and maintaining a sustainable economy. And like all of us, the food industry is dependent on water since almost no foodstuffs can be produced without clean water. A majority of global water supplies however cannot be consumed or used — at least without investing a lot of energy in the process. That’s why for many years the food industry has focused on saving and reusing water through several small steps. These steps are to be further developed in conjunction with various integrated approaches in order to achieve efficient management of water, energy and material flow, and ultimately achieve production-integrated environmental protection. The Kellogg company in Bremen is playing a pioneering role with its recycling plant for domestic water, which clearly exceeds the authorities' environmental regulations. A special condensation system cleans the accumulated waste water so effectively that the overall water need is reduced by 250,000 cubic metres, i.e. by more than half. Altogether the company has invested approximately nine million euros in the production water recycling plant in Germany, thus taking on a leading global position in terms of responsible management of natural resources. Today it operates one of the world’s few cereals plants using a closed water cycle. In January 2009 Kellogg published its first report on corporate responsibility, in which the company not only made a binding commitment to reduce overall energy and water consumption by 15 to 20 per cent by 2015, but also to cut greenhouse gas emissions and minimize the amount of waste produced per ton of food.
Another new aspect of the sustainability debate that the food industry has to address is that of “virtual water”, which refers to the volume of water contained in a product or service or the amount used to manufacture it. The environmental impact of production conditions can be assessed with the help of a product’s or service’s virtual water footprint. More water is needed to grow fruit in deserts than in temperate climates, for example. In addition, the water footprint makes it possible to depict international water relationships.
Transport to the loading ramp by train — a clean solution
Food is mostly transported by trucks nowadays. Although there is no other way to distribute goods to individual supermarkets, large volumes of products and raw materials can also be transported by rail. Kraft Foods Deutschland, for example, operates a “Jacobs Kaffee Logistics Train” twice a week to bring raw coffee from the port of Bremen to the company’s roasting facility in Berlin’s Neukölln district. Each train is 510 metres long, consisting of 60 containers carrying a total of 1,200 tons of raw coffee. Transporting the coffee by train eliminates 6,500 truck trips per year. In the 15 years of its existence, the train has cut transport-related CO2 emissions by about two-thirds, or around 35,000 tons.
Processes were improved further by transporting the coffee in bulk containers instead of bags. As a result, each container can now transport 20 per cent more coffee beans than previously. The bulk containers are completely lined with inlets so that they can be filled to the top with loose coffee beans.
Similar systems are also used for finished products. The Warsteiner brewery, for example, has set up a complete container train station at its factory, while the Berentzen company has reactivated old but well-preserved rails at its production facility, as well as at the central warehouse located 41 km away, enabling it to eliminate 5,000 truck trips per year.
Environmentally beneficial alternatives will soon be available for regular use in delivery services as well. Daimler, for example, is using hybrid drive technology to recover brake energy and feed it back into an air-cooled lithium-ion battery. The trucks are also equipped with a start-stop system that automatically shuts off the diesel engine whenever the vehicle is stationary for two or more seconds. An electric motor is used to get the vehicle moving again. The trucks are also fitted with a booster, which is also powered by the electric motor and kicks in whenever the vehicles drive uphill. The recovered brake energy increases the engine’s efficiency by 11 per cent and cuts CO2 emissions by between ten and 15 per cent.
Last but not least, McDonald’s in Germany makes a virtue of necessity when dealing with waste grease. Instead of throwing the used frying fat away, the company turns it into biodiesel that is used to operate the fleet of delivery vehicles which supply goods to the various restaurants.
27th to 30th March 2012