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Carst and Walker
Flake

OPINION: Make every crumb count

Waste and sustainability are key trends and points of focus for the food and drinks industry for 2013 and beyond. Steve Osborn, Leatherhead RA’s Business Innovation Manager, argues that the food industry can learn much from sport, especially cycling, in taking waste management and beneficiation further. [Caption: Cadbury Flake, originally a new product from waste]
Osborn writes:

Waste and sustainability are key trends and points of focus for the food and drinks industry for 2013 and beyond. This was especially endorsed on 25 June by FoodDrinkEurope (http://fooddrinkeurope.eu) who brought together leading players in the European food supply chain to launch ‘Every Crumb Counts’ – a campaign that provides a set of tools and philosophies to address the issue of food wastage.

As part of the campaign there were a number of topics that resonated as being key elements that could help the food and drinks manufacturing industry to make the step change needed. It was also encouraging to see that recent discussions from Leatherhead Food Research (read more on this here) corresponded with the position of FoodDrinkEurope.

The first point of note is the headline ‘Every Crumb Counts’. I am sure that the intention of the statement is to underline the need to ‘not waste anything’ – an admirable proposition indeed.

However, I think there is a greater message here, that amounts to the application of a philosophy embraced in sport, and especially cycling, where the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’ has become a mantra. The principle is that macro gains are almost always catered for through efficiency data, preventative maintenance and output data etc.

To gain the incremental advantage that takes the process to a higher level, however, attention to the minutiae is required as is the need to leave no stone unturned; therefore, each slight improvement builds into a quantifiable gain. It is this approach that many manufacturers, even those who consider themselves efficient, need to take to achieve even further waste reduction benefits. While there are many continuous improvement models and lean manufacturing techniques being used to great effect, the next generation of waste reduction is only likely to be achieved by an even more critical look at the process.

The second comment that caught my eye was the statement recommending partnerships where waste streams could be integrated and utilised; such collaborative and open innovation could be highly beneficial and create value for both parties. This approach isn’t a new one. After all, yeast extracts are essentially by-products of other processes – but it is a potential avenue that may have been overlooked during times when, as a society, we considered ourselves ‘resource-rich’.

An analytical (chemical, nutritional and functional) screen of waste materials is an essential step to understanding the nutritional value of what is being discarded, and with knowledge of the nutritive waste, collaborative partners could be more easily identified.

My third ‘favourite’ was the recommendation to ‘Innovate new products from food and ingredients that would normally be thrown away’. Coming from the confectionery industry, the idea of re-working or inventing new products from waste is not a new one especially since many well-known products have origins as a by-product; for example, Cadbury Flake.

I am sure that there are many processes that produce what is considered to be unusable waste that may not be re-worked into an existing product, but could be valorised through development of something new. However, the success of your new product may result in there being insufficient waste from your primary process to fulfill demand; I’m sure Flakes aren’t made from chocolate scrapings any more!

Ultimately, this would be a ‘nice’ problem to have, and it would enable you to start the waste reduction process again – and, from thereon, who knows what product may arise?

Each of these elements is going to require a ‘step back’ approach, but if waste reduction targets are to be achieved, serious reflection of what was previously considered acceptable and efficient is required. This process will also require a greater degree of collaborative and open innovation of food and drinks to achieve an even more sustainable food chain.

So, take a step back and try to look at the process differently. Challenge every stage. Ask yourself some of the difficult questions and don’t accept what you previously knew as true: you may just find that it may not be true after all.

The final take-home message to motivate waste reduction and innovation is that whenever waste is reduced, whether through efficiency gains or as a product/ingredient, it’s a win-win as the waste becomes an asset rather than a cost. The value of investing into such activity should never be underestimated!

About Steve Osborn BSc (Hons), M Phil, FIFST; sosborn@leatherheadfood.com

sosborn@leatherheadfood.com
sosborn@leatherheadfood.com

Having graduated as an analytical chemist, Steve completed a research Masters on Maillard Reaction Flavours with the University of Reading. He then spent many years in confectionery manufacturing with Nestlé and Northern Foods, working as scientific and technical support to key brands, and later, technical manager at Ashbury Confectionery, a leading manufacturer of retailer and contract branded products.

Steve joined Leatherhead Food Research in 2006. He currently undertakes a wide range of commercial and project management activities for the Food Innovation group. Steve’s technical and industry knowledge are often drawn upon to deliver technical training courses and conference engagements on a variety of topics, including open innovation, product development and confectionery, and running innovation workshops, including Food Innovation: INTENT, Leatherhead’s Open Innovation community. Steve is a Fellow of the IFST and chairs the Consultancy Special Interest Group.

There is no doubt that waste and sustainability are key trends and points of focus for the food and drinks industry for 2013 and beyond. This was especially endorsed on 25 June by FoodDrinkEurope (http://fooddrinkeurope.eu ) who brought together leading elements of the European food supply chain to launch ‘Every Crumb Counts’ – a campaign that provides a set of tools and philosophies to address the issue of food wastage.

As part of the campaign there were a number of topics that resonated as being key elements that could help the food and drinks manufacturing industry to make the step change needed. It was also encouraging to see that recent discussions from Leatherhead Food Research (http://www.leatherheadfood.com/innovation-a-waste-of-potential) corresponded with the position of FoodDrinkEurope.

The first point of note is the headline ‘Every Crumb Counts’. I am sure that the intention of the statement is to underline the need to ‘not waste anything’ – an admirable proposition indeed.

However, I think there is a greater message here, that amounts to the application of a philosophy embraced in sport, and especially cycling, where the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’ has become a mantra. The principle is that macro gains are almost always catered for through efficiency data, preventative maintenance and output data etc.

To gain the incremental advantage that takes the process to a higher level, however, attention to the minutiae is required as is the need to leave no stone unturned; therefore, each slight improvement builds into a quantifiable gain. It is this approach that many manufacturers, even those who consider themselves efficient, need to take to achieve even further waste reduction benefits. While there are many continuous improvement models and lean manufacturing techniques being used to great effect, the next generation of waste reduction is only likely to be achieved by an even more critical look at the process.

The second comment that caught my eye was the statement recommending partnerships where waste streams could be integrated and utilised; such collaborative and open innovation could be highly beneficial and create value for both parties. This approach isn’t a new one. After all, yeast extracts are essentially by-products of other processes – but it is a potential avenue that may have been overlooked during times when, as a society, we considered ourselves ‘resource-rich’.

An analytical (chemical, nutritional and functional) screen of waste materials is an essential step to understanding the nutritional value of what is being discarded, and with knowledge of the nutritive waste, collaborative partners could be more easily identified.

My third ‘favourite’ was the recommendation to ‘Innovate new products from food and ingredients that would normally be thrown away’. Coming from the confectionery industry, the idea of re-working or inventing new products from waste is not a new one especially since many well-known products have origins as a by-product; for example, Cadbury Flake.

I am sure that there are many processes that produce what is considered to be unusable waste that may not be re-worked into an existing product, but could be valorised through development of something new. However, the success of your new product may result in there being insufficient waste from your primary process to fulfill demand; I’m sure Flakes aren’t made from chocolate scrapings any more!

Ultimately, this would be a ‘nice’ problem to have, and it would enable you to start the waste reduction process again – and, from thereon, who knows what product may arise?

Each of these elements is going to require a ‘step back’ approach, but if waste reduction targets are to be achieved, serious reflection of what was previously considered acceptable and efficient is required. This process will also require a greater degree of collaborative and open innovation of food and drinks to achieve an even more sustainable food chain.

So, take a step back and try to look at the process differently. Challenge every stage. Ask yourself some of the difficult questions and don’t accept what you previously knew as true: you may just find that it may not be true after all.

The final take-home message to motivate waste reduction and innovation is that whenever waste is reduced, whether through efficiency gains or as a product/ingredient, it’s a win-win as the waste becomes an asset rather than a cost. The value of investing into such activity should never be underestimated!

 

Steve Osborn B.Sc. (hons), M.Phil, FIFST

Business Innovation Manager

sosborn@leatherheadfood.com

Leatherhead Food Research

Having graduated as an analytical chemist, Steve completed a research Masters on Maillard Reaction Flavours with the University of Reading. He then spent many years in confectionery manufacturing with Nestlé and Northern Foods, working as scientific and technical support to key brands, and later, technical manager at Ashbury Confectionery, a leading manufacturer of retailer and contract branded products. Steve joined Leatherhead Food Research in 2006, bringing with him a wealth of industry knowledge and understanding. He currently undertakes a wide range of commercial and project management activities for the Food Innovation group. Steve’s technical and industry knowledge are often drawn upon to deliver technical training courses and conference engagements on a variety of topics, including open innovation, product development and confectionery, and running innovation workshops, including Food Innovation: INTENT, Leatherhead’s Open Innovation community. Steve is a Fellow of the IFST and chairs the Consultancy Special Interest Group.

– See more at: http://www.foodingredientsglobal.com/europe/learning-hub/blogs/-/blogs/innovating-in-waste?cid=fie_ema_nws_vis_02jul2013_informer4_blog1#sthash.gIZTcGdz.dpuf

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