When food is wasted, all of the resources that went into its production are lost – including precious natural resources such as water and fuel. Not only does it represent a missed opportunity to feed a growing world population, but it also has negative environmental and economic consequences. Food and drink manufacturers are actively working to prevent food loss from arising during the production process. The industry also strives to preserve the value of resources, including water, energy and materials, which went into producing the food.


Preventing food loss by optimising manufacturing processes, training employees and innovating new products from leftover by-products and ingredients

Many organisations are taking concrete steps to avoid food loss during processing. In a survey of FoodDrinkEurope members, over 80% of respondents stressed that they are trying to identify causes of food waste where it occurs and are optimising their production systems to prevent it arising. Training personnel to prevent food waste, such as through awareness-raising, is also a key step for over half of respondents.

When food losses cannot be re-worked and fed back into the production line, food and drink manufacturers explore other food uses, such as purées, soups and jams.

of respondents stressed they are trying to identify causes of food wastage where it occurs

of organisations are optimising their production systems to prevent it arising


more than half of respondents are training personnel to prevent food wastage, such as through awareness raising

The UK’s resource efficiency charity WRAP unveiled a new commitment in March 2016 that has been signed by over 100 organisations including Nestlé, Unilever and Coca-Cola.

New targets include a 20% reduction in food and drink waste and a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of food and drink consumed in the UK by 2025, as well as a reduction in impact associated with water use in the supply chain.

PepsiCo continues to make investments to conserve energy and raw materials, reduce waste in its facilities, recycle containers, use renewable resources and optimise packaging design to use fewer materials.

In Europe, 25 of PepsiCo’s manufacturing facilities have achieved the goal of zero waste sent to landfill.

In 2013, nearly 93% of total waste generated by more than 280 company-owned manufacturing facilities was put to beneficial use, such as recycling or reuse; only 7.2% was disposed of through more traditional methods, such as landfills. This has been delivered through effective measurement systems, developing solutions to eliminate waste and strong engagement with employees.

Beyond the production process, PepsiCo is always looking for innovative ways to cut packaging waste as part of its Global Sustainable Packaging Policy.

The Top Institute Food and Nutrition, co-financed by the Dutch Food and Drink Industry Federation (FNLI), is developing a decision-support system for the various operators in the perishable food products supply chain. The decision-support system helps evaluate the contribution of logistical and technological innovations to spoilage reduction.

Spanish Strategy

The Spanish food and drink federation, FIAB, is actively involved in different initiatives in the Framework of the National Strategy “more food, less waste” promoted by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

In this context, FIAB has designed and is implementing its 2015 efficiency improvement plan, with a focus on preventing food waste in food and drink factories.


The Italian food and drink federation (Federalimentare) is a partner via SPES GEIE of the EU-funded FoodWARD project, which aims at quantifying food waste and delivering specific training focused on this theme.

It aims to deliver technical training to food suppliers in order to reduce food waste by focusing on the following themes:

  • compositional analysis of food waste and losses in participating countries;
  • food waste quantification in milk, meat and canning sectors;
  • training of production engineers in plants;
  • building awareness of waste problem and
  • reducing food waste and creating a sustainable food future.

Nestlé runs a specific campaign to encourage its employees to reduce food waste in canteens by inviting them to take an appropriate portion of food on the self-service buffet and allowing them to buy left-overs and bring them home. This resulted in a 30% reduction in food waste over six months in the international headquarters.

Dutch producer Provalor uses rejected fruits and vegetables from manufacturers and farmers to produce juices. The remaining pulp is sold to a sauce producer.

Dutch ingredient producer Sonneveld has developed a product that allows bread produced outside specification to be reworked into sourdough bread. Sonneveld is trying to convince industrial and small-scale bakeries on board to use this product and thereby reduce food waste in the bread supply chain.

Most potato processors use cut-offs of potatoes to make potato flakes or purées. Possibilities for future innovation from cut-offs and shredded potatoes include hash browns and other formed products.

The wet starch by-product from the cutting process also finds other uses as in many cases it goes to potato starch industries or is being used for the production of bioplastics.


Edible non-sellable food is redistributed to feed people

Food and drink manufacturers actively work to prevent food losses from occurring during the production process. However, food or its packaging may occasionally be damaged during the production process, making it perfectly edible but unsuitable for sale.

In such instances, FoodDrinkEurope has developed an industry toolkit on food waste, where it encourages food and drink manufacturers to find alternative channels, such as food donation partners or markets, to redirect surplus food to people.

The Spanish food and drink federation (FIAB) is taking part in the Spanish Association of Manufacturers and Distributors’ (AECOC) “Food is too good to waste” initiative, along with many other food and drink companies and the Spanish Federation of Food Banks.

The initiative seeks to foster good practices for food waste prevention and reduction along the agri-food chain and also aims to optimise the redistribution of food with all proper safeguards.

Since 2013 when Kellogg launched Breakfast for Better Daysa global programme to provide food for communities in need, Kellogg’s European operations have committed to diverting edible non-sellable food to people. Kellogg developed a new set of product donation guidelines which has made the donation of food easier.

Kellogg has also committed to helping European Food Banks improve their capacity by making cash donations to support their growth and is also working with food banks to overcome some of the local barriers to food redistribution. During 2015, Kellogg operations in Europe donated 1.110 tonnes of food to food banks and food redistribution charities in 15 European countries.


Nestlé UK continues to support FareShare, a charity working to address food poverty and food waste. FareShare redistributes surplus, fit-for-consumption food from the food manufacturing and catering industries, to charities that feed an average of 35,000 homeless, disadvantaged or vulnerable people a day.

Nestlé UK donated over a million meals worth of food to FareShare and consequently diverted 460 tonnes of food to food banks.


By-products are used as animal feed and as inputs for other industries, while waste can be turned into fertiliser and energy

When channels for surplus food to be consumed by people are not available, animal feed is a good alternative, since it indirectly goes back into the food chain. Animal feed also provides a way to valorise trimmings and other products that are not fit for human consumption.

Meanwhile, food and drink production waste can be turned into fertiliser, which helps to enrich the soil for new ingredients to be grown. In addition, the energy from agricultural waste can also be used as a renewable energy source.      

By products

At Croatian food producer Belje’s dairy factories, remains of whey represent a burden in waste water, making the treatment of waste water very expensive. Belje is now partially shipping whey, a by-product in its dairy plant, to biogas facility. Whey is also partially used as wet feed on pig farms. Annual production of whey is roughly 55 thousand tons. Currently, 10% of Belje’s annual production of whey is used in the bio-gas plant and 90% is used as pig feed. By directing whey to re-use Belje achieves 70,000 Euro of savings per year.

In Finnish food producer Fazer’s bakery and confectionary factories and mill and mixes in 2014, 90% of the total amount of waste was recycled or recycled as energy.  Most of the unsellable by-products from production is recycled as raw material for bio-ethanol, and the rest is used as animal feed and also donations to food aid if possible. For instance, in 2014 Fazer began a partnership with Lahti Energia for the utilisation of oat husks from milling operations for power generation.

Nordic meat producer HKScan has been putting into place different measures to increase industrial symbiosis. Food industry manufacturing processes are optimised and surplus food is redirected to feed people or animals to prevent food waste.

Meanwhile, the parts of the animals that are not sold as food are used for pharmaceuticals, food ingredients, animal feed, pet food and biodiesel for renewable energy. Wastewater sludge and cow stomach content are turned into biogas, resulting in renewable energy for car fuel, electricity and heating and nutrients for soil improvement and organic fertilisers.

Of the total volume of all categories of waste for Croatian meat processor PIK Vrbovec, approximately 70% is recycled or reused. Of the by-products categorised as animal by-products, the majority of it (57%) is used in the nearby biogas plant, while the remainder is sold to companies producing pet food, animal proteins and animal fat. Annual savings resulting from this novel approach to industrial symbiosis amount to 330,000 euros.


PepsiCo cooperates with farmers in Turkey to use an organic fertiliser for potatoes, Naturalis, which is made from its Turkish potato chip factories’ waste. While offering nutrients for the soil, organic fertilisers reduce chemical usage in fertilisers for potato production by 40%. PepsiCo’s ultimate goal is to cover 100% of the fertiliser needs for its Turkish potatoes.

Unilever’s factory site canteen waste is being used for vermicomposting. The compost is used to grow more vegetables for the kitchen on site.


Nestlé’s factory in Fawdon has achieved zero waste to landfill by turning waste from the confectionery site’s manufacturing processes into renewable energy and clean water through anaerobic digestion (AD).

Every day, up to four tonnes of solid waste residues – a mixture of rejected chocolates and sweets, along with leftover residues of starch and sugar – are broken down and partially dissolved using 200,000 litres of liquid waste from the site’s cleaning processes to create a ‘chocolate soup’. This is fed into an oxygen-free AD tank, where bacteria breaks down the biodegradable material and converts it into by-products such as biogas, which is used to meet 5–8% of the site’s energy needs.

As well as generating renewable energy, the water discharged from the factory is now virtually clean.

As part of its ‘Sustainable in a Generation’ goals, Mars has installed a ground-breaking wastewater treatment site at its Veghel (Netherlands) factory, which produces biogas from the waste water while purifying the water to 99% purity. Similar technology is also in place at Wrigley factories in Poznan (Poland), Porici (Czech Republic) and Biesheim (France). Using the biogas helps reduce the Veghel factory’s annual CO2 emissions by 1,5kton and energy consumption by 25,4 TJ.

A Slovenian brewery, Pivovarna Lasko, launched a research project on the use of brewer’s yeast in the generation of biogas in anaerobic digestion. After successful results, the company built its own anaerobic waste water treatment.

Through the biogas production, Pivovarna Lasko contributes to providing a significant share of renewable energy from its own by-products in addition to achieving efficient waste treatment. By adding yeast to the waste water used to make biogas, Pivovarna Lasko generated 40% more biogas and saved up to 18% in natural gas consumption, which means more than €80.000 of annual savings, at a natural gas price of € 0.3per/m3.


Mahou, a Spanish beer company, has been implementing an integral system of energetic recovery from the 4% of unfermented beer that is wasted as vapour. The vapour is led to a heat interchanger where its heat energy warms up water from 80ºC to 96ºC and the vapour is condensed.

This technique allows Mahou to recover hot water, which is used in several processes. In addition, biogas produced by the anaerobic wastewater digestion is used as fuel, supplying around 30% of the energetic needs of the brewery.

In 2013, DairyGold, Ireland’s largest farmer owned dairy business, invested in an innovative anaerobic digestion system. The digester is designed to pre-treat a large portion of the process wastewater from DairyGold’s production facility. The reactor anaerobically digests the majority of the organic load. It converts the degradable organics in the wastewater into energy-rich biogas and generates a small amount of waste anaerobic sludge.

The new process has directly displaced the burning of natural gas, supplying 6% of site heat requirements from a renewable source, with an equivalent greenhouse gas reduction of over 2,700 tonnes per year.


Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company is powering one of the boilers at a Swedish factory by using fatty acid by-product from ice cream production as an alternative fuel. Another example of waste to energy is Hellmann’s mayonnaise factory waste production can be recycled to produce bio-diesel.


Innovative packaging design can contribute to reducing packaging waste, but it should also help improve the overall environmental footprint of the product

While bearing in mind the variety of functions that packaging must perform, food and drink manufacturers are taking action to improve the overall environmental performance of their products, including their packaging.

Packaging helps to prevent food waste and extend the shelf life of food and drink products through the vital protective role it plays in helping to ensure that the safety and quality of food and drink products are maintained from production to consumption.


Coca-Cola unveiled the world’s first PET plastic bottle made entirely from plant materials in 2015 at the World Expo in Milan. PlantBottle packaging™ uses patented technology that converts natural sugars found in plants into the ingredients for making fully recyclable PET plastic bottles. The packaging looks, functions and recycles like traditional PET but has a lighter footprint on the planet and its resources. Moreover, Plantbottle material can, in combination with recycled PET produce a bottle from renewed and recycled materials.

Since 2009, Coca-Cola has distributed more than 35 billion bottles in nearly 40 countries using its current version of PlantBottle packaging, which is made from up to 30 percent plant-based recyclable materials. The use of PlantBottle packaging has helped save the equivalent annual emissions of more than 315,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Over the last years, Spanish dairy producer Calidad Pascual has been working on reducing the weight of the packaging associated with its products. The weight of Bezoya PET bottles have been reduced by 10% and the weight of packaging materials overall has been reduced over 2 million kilos over the last three years.

Nestlé is committed to continuously improving the environmental performance of its packaging. Nestlé Waters has saved more than 22,000 tons of PET worldwide within the last 3 years by driving standardisation through Best-In-Class bottle designs.

In addition, Nestlé uses recycled materials for its packaging where they are proven by Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) studies to be equal or better in environmental performance, and do not jeopardise the quality, performance, safety or consumer acceptance of their prod­ucts.

For example, Herta uses 25–30% of recycled PET in trays in France, the Italian mineral water brand Vera has incorporated 25% of recycled PET in its bottle range and Nestlé Hungary uses recycled PET for plastic trays for seasonal chocolates.

In 2012, the Spanish National Association of Bottled Drinking Water (ANEABE) signed a voluntary commitment called “2015 Naturally” with the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

The main objective was to prevent the generation of packaging waste by: reducing the raw material used in the manufacture of primary and secondary packaging by 10% by the end of 2015; maintaining the best primary packaging ratio of the market in Spain; implementing measures to improve PET packaging recyclability and increasing recycled material in primary and secondary packaging to reach 5% by the end of 2015. The initiative ends in the first trimester of 2016.


Croatia’s largest water and soft drinks producer, Jamnica, is supporting eco-innovation in packaging materials and design by changing the design of the bottle, reducing the weight of PET and changing the existing cap with “Short-Neck”.

Thanks to the new bottle design, Jamnica reduced the impact of production activities on the environment resulting from greenhouse gas emissions expressed in carbon dioxide units. The carbon footprint of carbonated natural mineral water in PET bottles has been reduced by 7% compared to the old bottle. By reducing the weight of its primary packaging, Jamnica reduces the carbon footprint of products in all stages of its life cycle and significantly reduces its effect on the environment.


A Unilever tea factory in Brussels is promoting greater reuse of transport packaging by modifying the packs so weaker postage tape can be used on the inbound packaging, thus making it easier to reuse the packaging and save resources. The supplier’s delivery trucks pick up the packs and enable reuse of packaging for the next load.


Croatian meat processor PIK Vrbovec has continuously been using innovative packaging and packaging materials and reducing CO2 emission due to lower packaging weight. For instance, reusable plastic boxes were introduced as a replacement for cardboard boxes in the production of fresh meat, and cardboard trays were implemented in the production of processed meat products.

With regards to polymer foils and bags, a project was conducted to consolidate prices, design and materials in order to generate benefits in terms of financial savings, packaging optimisation and environmental protection.

In 2019, MARS launched their 2025 Sustainable Plastic Packaging Plans. As a partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation New Plastic Economy initiative, MARS has planned to reduce virgin plastic use by 25% in addition to ensuring that 100% of plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable, or compostable, by 2025. In addition, MARS plans to:

  • Create 10 reuse programs that test new business models;
  • Ensure 30% average recycled content in our plastic packaging;
  • Establish recycling guidance for consumers in all major markets;
  • Eliminate PVC use by 2020.

Bio-based recycled plastic

Reduced packaging weight

Reusable transport packaging

Reusable packaging in production


Where allowed by food hygiene laws, investments have been made to recover and reuse water, heat and steam, without compromising food safety

A circular economy is about preserving the value of resources, including water and energy, for as long as possible. Food processing involves a number of operations in which water and energy are essential requirements, such as washing, boiling and steaming.

European food and drink manufacturers undertake significant efforts and investments to ensure sound wastewater treatment and energy recovery. These actions allow water and energy to be recovered and reused, either within the factory, where allowed by food hygiene laws, or by other users.

Water recovery and reuse

Heat and steam recovery and reuse

Water recovery and re-use is increasingly common within dairy processing sites of European Dairy Association members. Innovative water treatment technologies, such as reverse osmosis, allow sites to recycle waste water for reuse across dairy operations from cleaning the filling lines to pasteurising the milk. Several sites in the EU have introduced this technology. Significant steps are also being taken to improve the quality of waste water and to reduce the impact on water basins.


In 2007 Coca-Cola set an aspirational goal with its bottling partners to replenish the water it uses in its finished beverages by 2020. Today Coca-Cola is on track to meet its 100% replenishment goal as of 2015 — five years ahead of schedule. In addition, Coca-Cola returns the water used to produce beverages back to nature through high-quality treated wastewater. It is also working to upgrade its system-wide facilities to improve water use efficiency— improved approximately 24% from 2004 to 2014—and implementing source water protection plans and vulnerability assessments in all facilities globally.

Based on independent third-party verification, and thanks to many critical partners, the Coca-Cola system is replenishing, or balancing, an estimated 94% of the water used in its finished beverages based on 2014 sales volume. Since 2004, Coca-Cola system has replenished an estimated 153.6 billion litres of water back to communities and nature through 209 diverse, locally focused community water projects in 61 countries, including many projects across Europe.


UK dairy food company Dairy Crest made an extensive investment to allow the company to further recover significant volumes of treated process water for reuse within its creamery operations. Nutrient rich process water is first treated to remove the phosphate, which is present in the incoming raw milk. Process water is mixed with solubilised hydrated lime to chemically combine the phosphate to produce a so-called ‘cake’. The resulting cake is rich in both phosphate and calcium and is therefore well suited for reuse in agriculture as fertiliser.

The downstream water treatment and recovery plant then produces high quality water suitable for reuse and a final effluent stream suitable for discharge to the river.

Around 1.7 million litres per day of high quality water will be produced by the recovery plant for reuse within the company’s operations. This is equivalent to the daily fresh water needs of around 11,000 people. The investment also enables the production of recovered water at less than 50% of the purchase price of municipal potable water.

Exemplifying its commitment to improving its impact on natural water resources, Nestlé has introduced ‘zero water’ technology at its dairy factory at the heart of Lagos de Moreno in Mexico. This system – a world’s first and unique to Nestlé – enables it to operate without using any local groundwater. Through this new approach, their powdered milk factory in the water-stressed state of Jalisco now uses the water vapour generated from evaporating cow’s milk, instead of withdrawing groundwater. This steam is condensed, treated and recycled for use as potable process water, and then treated again for cooling and cleaning – even for watering plants in the factory grounds.

This initiative is expected to save the factory around 600 000m³ of water a year, equivalent to the average consumption of 4 500 local residents. It also earned Nestlé the Corporate Water Stewardship award at the 2015 Global Water Awards, as voted for by attendees at the Global Water Summit in Athens and online members of the 2030 Water Resources Group.

Good management of water resources is central to the operation of a dairy factory. At Dairy Crest Davidstow, water vapour produced during the evaporation of whey is already recovered to meet around 50% of site requirements and the Creamery uses a range of simple solutions to reduce freshwater abstraction, such as optimisation of automated cleaning systems, fixing leaks and using low water cleaning methods.

These measures have contributed to more than a 20% reduction in relative fresh water imported to Davidstow since 2007/08.

Steam generated from a nearby incineration facility burning household waste is transferred to Mars’ Haguenau factory via 1,2km of underground pipes. The heat is used mainly for melting chocolate to produce M&M’s and to heat the buildings. It has reduced the factory’s carbon dioxide emissions by 8,700 tonnes annually and its emissions from energy consumption by 60%.

The green steam system now meets 90% of the steam requirement of Mars Chocolat France. To achieve Mars’ target of zero carbon emissions by 2040, the next step will be to cover 100% of plant demand with locally-generated green steam.

The engineering teams at the Kellogg factories in Manchester and Wrexham have identified innovative applications for the capture and use of heat as an energy source, which has helped reduce gas consumption. The Wrexham factory has initiated a project to recover previously wasted heat from the exhaust systems on the cookers, and to use it to preheat the water going into the boiler.

Meanwhile, the Manchester plant installed an advanced heat pump system on the wastewater treatment system to cool the wastewater treatment tanks down to the required temperature, and also recover energy to heat water for use in the factory for cleaning and staff use. The heat pump is capable of producing 25% of the site’s hot water demand.

Both projects have recognised energy reductions of over 3,700MWh with a payback of less than four years. The Manchester factory has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 24% since 2009 and is now seen as a global front runner within Kellogg for meeting reduction targets. Across all of its European manufacturing operations, Kellogg has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by over 17% in the last 10 years.

At Zvijezda, Croatia’s largest producer of edible oils, overheated steam is needed in the process of oil refining and margarine production. Sudden chilling transforms steam to water condensate. Previously the condensate was wasted, thus wasting water and heat. With improvement of the process this condensate is pumped back into heating facility, slightly heated and returned back to process. In this way water as well as heat is re-used. Savings are approximately 80,000 EUR on annual basis.

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