Arkansas Food and Beverage Manufacturing Goes Green

 January 16, 2019

Growing consumer demand for transparency within food supply chains and responsible sourcing has pushed the food and beverage industry to embrace sustainability to a larger extent than other sectors, according to new research from Ceres, an NGO focused on sustainability. As the demand for food and beverage commodities continues to rise, the food and beverage industry must begin to adopt sustainability and environmental consciousness throughout production lines in order to mitigate the effects of higher demands. Innovative technologies and sustainability strategies can help companies gain a more comprehensive view of their entire supply chain, and make concerted efforts to go green wherever possible.

Several of the top food and beverage manufacturing companies in Arkansas are leading the way in such sustainability efforts.

  • Arkansas is the top rice-producing state in the U.S. and is home to Stuttgart-based Riceland Foods, one of the biggest rice marketers in America. PBH Nature’s Media Amendment is a uniquely processed rice hull product from Riceland Foods, Inc., with multiple uses in greenhouse and nursery environments. It is a readily renewable resource requiring no mining or land disruption to produce. Nurseries that top-dress containers with PBH rice hulls save time, reduce hand weeding and use less herbicide. Greenhouse-proven PBH offers environmental, horticultural and economic advantages. Growers who rely on it gain sustainability and reduce input costs without sacrificing plant quality.
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  • Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, Inc. has developed a new, integrated strategy aimed at feeding the world sustainably and responsibly. The company, headquartered in Springdale, Arkansas, is working to reduce its environmental impact to feed the world sustainably at scale, while protecting and respecting natural resources. When it comes to its food products, Tyson is focused on responsibly sourcing, marketing and labeling ingredients to provide safe, quality and nutritious food products. The company has also put a priority on animal well-being with its animal welfare program. The program promotes the health, safety and humane treatment of all animals from farm to table and aims to deploy the most transparent animal well-being practices in the industry. 

“Developing a sustainable food system is important to our business and the planet,” said Justin Whitmore, executive vice president of continuous improvement and chief sustainability officer, Tyson Foods.

  • Walmart, headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, started a new initiative called Project Gigaton with a mission to avoid 1 billion metric tons (a gigaton) of greenhouse gases from the global value chain by 2030. The initiative has signed up more than 400 suppliers across more than 30 countries. Suppliers can commit to reductions in any of six pillars that include energy, agriculture, waste, packaging, deforestation and product use. Approximately 85 percent of the Project Gigaton emissions reductions reported by suppliers have focused their efforts on the energy and product use pillars, with projects devoted to areas such as renewable energy investments and the development of more efficient products. In 2017 alone, supplier commitments equated to emissions reductions of 20 million metric tons.
  • Global businesses like The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo, both of which have distribution facilities in Arkansas, are investing in packaging innovations, promoting recycling efforts and working together with partners to address waste challenges in an effort to reduce waste and be more sustainable. In fact, Coca-Cola is working with a host of partners to deliver its “World Without Waste” packaging vision, which includes collecting and recycling a bottle or can for every one it sells globally by 2030 and renewing its focus on the entire packaging lifecycle.
  • Another company with operations in Arkansas, Kraft Heinz, has implemented a universal process to reduce GHG emissions, energy consumption, solid landfill waste and water consumption. In its factories, the company has focused on decreasing energy consumption by installing new technologies and more efficient equipment, while optimizing business and manufacturing processes. Kraft Heinz also works with experts in the energy sector to assess facilities and identify potential energy-saving projects. The company has also been focused on finding ways to reduce, reuse or recycle to divert solid waste from landfills, including conserving water across a wide range of actions extending from recycling water and installing new technologies to upgrading water treatment plants.
  • General Mills, the manufacturer behind brands like Cheerios, Pillsbury and Betty Crocker, aims for 100 percent sustainable sourcing of ingredients such as U.S. dry-milled corn, wheat and dairy by 2020. The company, with manufacturing facilities in Arkansas, is currently sustainably sourcing 70 percent of its top 10 priority ingredients. Other areas of focus for the company include combating climate change, advancing the sustainability of water use for farmers and operations, improving the health of ecosystems in its supply chain, and supporting human rights and animal welfare in all business practices.
  • Earlier this year, Kellogg Company, which has a distribution center in Rogers, Arkansas, announced that it is expanding its Global Sustainability Commitments to include a goal of working towards 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by the end of 2025. This aspiration builds on Kellogg's current sustainable packaging commitment, as part of its Sustainability 2020 goals, to continue to ensure 100 percent of all timber-based packaging is either recycled or certified as sustainably sourced. Kellogg has already made steps toward "greening" its own facilities. In April 2018, the company announced the transition to compostable and paper food service products in all of its plants and offices globally by the end of 2018, fully eliminating all remaining single-use foam and plasticware, plastic straws and plastic water bottles. Kellogg has also been actively working with its suppliers to identify packaging designs that minimize waste while ensuring the quality and safety of its foods.
  • Nestle, which has a frozen food plant in Jonesboro, Arkansas, is working towards its ambition to strive for zero environmental impact in its operations by using sustainably managed and renewable resources, operating more efficiently, achieving zero waste for disposal and improving water management. The company also actively participates in initiatives that reduce food loss and waste, and that preserve our forests, oceans and biodiversity. Nestle has a unique way to assess and optimize the environmental performance of its new and renovated products across the entire value chain, from farmer to consumer and beyond. The process involves evaluating the total environmental footprint of a product, or a life-cycle assessment (LCA) approach. From there, the company can see the carbon footprint, water footprint and the impact on land use of a product.

Whether it’s lowering greenhouse emissions, reducing food waste, or innovating packaging practices, food and beverage manufacturers in Arkansas are making a positive impact on our environment. But, there is always room for improvement. Companies will need to continue measuring and evaluating sustainability efforts to keep up with the demand on the industry and our natural resources.