Sustainability is increasingly part and parcel of conducting business in food. Environmental sustainability embodies maximum preservation of our global natural resources at its core. This means minimizing use—and misuse—of nonrenewable resources, like water, while striving toward zero-waste landfill operations and actively reducing and eliminating point sources of pollution. It also means maximizing the clean-energy resources like wind and solar power, and making use of efficient approaches to generating energy, like fuel cells.

Pepperidge Farm, which received top honors in the new Wholesale Bakery category for this year’s IBIE 2016 B.E.S.T. in Baking Program, has invested in fuel cell energy for its bakery in Bloomfield, CT. The bakery has installed a state-of-the-art, DFC1500, 1,400-killowat fuel cell for the on-site generation of electricity. This is an extremely efficient approach to energy generation, and one that has a near-zero pollutant profile. In the wake of a successful trial, Pepperidge Farm is now adding a second fuel cell. Along with the bakery’s 1-megawatt solar installation, the two fuel cells will provide all of the facility’s required energy, selling excess juice back to the grid when possible.

Not only is this a fantastically clean way to generate energy, but it’s economically sustainable, as well. Pepperidge Farm estimates that they will save $7.2 million in energy costs over the 15-year expected lifespan of the fuel cells. The new fuel cell will result in the reduction of over 6,300 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, with the use of heat recovery, Pepperidge Farm can generate 99 percent of the bakery’s required steam and hot water.

This is a quintessential example of the beautiful merger of environmental and economic sustainability.

More new bakery construction is building-in high levels of sustainability from the start. Clif Bar recently announced the opening of a new $90-million, 300,000-sq.-ft. bakery in Twin Falls, ID. The bakery’s design includes hybrid cooling towers that help the facility use roughly one-third less water than conventional installations. Other energy-saving features at Clif Bar include on-demand conveyors, LED lighting, a reflective roof and a water source heat pump that, collectively, cut typical energy usage by an estimated 20 percent. And all of the electricity required to power the bakery is generated by a wind farm in the area. Clif Bar is pursuing LEED certification for the building from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The bakery will also reportedly utilize cutting-edge processing and packaging systems to reduce energy use, as well as efficient refrigeration equipment that will help cut typical refrigerant emissions by approximately 40 percent.

But establishing the right infrastructure is only half the battle. The next step toward supreme 
efficiency is in the execution—and lean manufacturing has much to teach us. As efficiency guru Dwayne Hughes, senior vice president at Hearthside Food Solutions in Downers Grove, IL succinctly notes in this month’s Plant Efficiency Report: “Lean manufacturing is a distinct, continuous improvement initiative, bearing little resemblance to traditional managed environments. At its core is a culture of waste elimination through and across all of the various value streams within, and a focus on customer satisfaction.” Anything without value, that adds work to the system, is eliminated.

As the largest contract manufacturer in baking today, Hearthside knows a thing or two about operational efficiency.

During IBIE, make a point of stopping by the B.E.S.T. in Baking Lounge to learn more about the companies that qualified for this year’s program—and let me know about your own initiatives and experiences. There are some great resources out there to help your business grow into a more-sustainable—and more-profitable—future.