Sustainability Snapshot: The Food Chain Supply Chain

Sustainability Snapshot: The Food Chain Supply Chain

Wednesday September 15, 2021

Consumers are increasingly looking to eat more sustainably, and it’s important to reduce the environmental impact of all aspects of the supply chain. Food shortages due to COVID-19 were a wake-up call for many, and people are paying increased attention to the impacts that supply chains have on their lives and the environment.

The food supply chain is the process by which food from a farm ends up on our table. This process includes everything from food production, energy inputs, processing, packaging, distribution, consumption, and disposal. Over the past year, the food system has been evolving, and companies must keep up with new consumer demands to deliver a more sustainable product to our tables. Bullfrog invited three organizations at various stages of the supply chain to our Sustainability Snapshot to explain what are doing to improve the sustainability of their products.

Organic ingredients: the bread and butter of sustainability

Let’s start with the bread and butter: Teresa Schoonings, Senior Director of Sustainability and Government Relations at Bimbo Canada, discusses the methods that they use to select the best ingredients for their baked goods and the best packaging to keep them fresh. That means ingredients that are both nutritious for your family, and those that are healthier for the soil that grows them. That includes Oroweat Organic, their sustainably-baked line of breads made from organic, non-GMO ingredients and baked in ovens bullfrogpowered with green energy!

Bimbo Canada have deep connections with supply chain, sourcing from Canadian farmers and working closely with their 16 bakeries, more than 200 sales centres, and over 1,000 independent operators who move the bread to your local grocery store. By taking this wholistic approach through their Baked For You and Baked For Nature initiatives they are supporting sustainability efforts like the move toward regenerative agriculture. This is the practice of farming with a focus on soil health; increasing biodiversity particularly among the microbes in the earth which helps keep it nutrient-rich for many harvests to come.

They also have a focus on ensuring their product packaging can be disposed of properly and on reducing the plastic used where possible, having removed 174 metric tons of material from their packaging in the process. Our audiece asked Teresa about packaging disposal and how it can be made simpler for consumers, businesses, and government:

Q: How can packaging manufacturers make recycling labels clearer for consumers? Do EPR programs like in BC or the upcoming program in Ontario make recycling labels easier or harder for manufacturers?

A: The challenge today is that there isn’t a clear path for what can and can’t be recycled, it depends on municipality.  This means a label on food packaging could say the package is recyclable, but it may not be in every jurisdiction.  As Extended Producer Responsibility rapidly expands across Canada, consistency in recycling capability will be a benefit of this.  This means labelling to promote recycling behaviour by consumers can naturally follow.

A plant-based food chain as a sustainable supply chain

Maybe you want a protein to go between those slices of bread: Chris Shields, General Manager of Lovingly Made Ingredients, explains the up-and-coming world of plant-based meat options they are cooking up for their parent company The Meatless Farm. If you’ve wondered about the different ways that peas and other legumes become burgers this fascinating food science is for you! They use a process of extrusion which separates the pea or seed into its component parts like proteins, fibers, and starches for use in different products such as cereals or plant-based meats.

Their supply chain starts right at the seed. By working with farmers they have been able to breed crops which result in the higher protein content needed to make their products, and results in a reduction in energy use and up to a 90% reduction of water. This also means fewer crops need to be grown, allowing Lovingly Made Ingredients to support farmers to use that freed up land for re-wilding projects. Through this initiative a farmer is paid for the value of what the productivity on a given parcel of land would be while instead allowing natural processes to restore the ecosystem while sequestering carbon in the soil.

No strangers to using plant-based materials in innovative ways, our audience asked Chris what Lovingly Made Ingredients and their industry are doing to use food and farming waste to create the packaging for their products:

Q: Are you exploring options to work with farmers to use agricultural and food processing waste as part of your packaging?

A: Absolutely, it is still early days for this field of packaging but we have a vision that when we split the pea for the protein we can take the other element to make the packaging! Our first choice is too look at by-products from other industries and see how we can upcycle this into great food products but where we can’t then we look at packaging. It’s a few years away and a big challenge but one we’re facing into.


Packaging for the planet: designing for sustainability

We have our ingredients, now it‚Äôs time to get it transported safely and unspoiled to your plate: Phil St-Cyr, President and CEO of Rootree, explores the technical feats and challenges of keeping food fresh in sustainable packaging. If you’ve ever been unsure about where that plastic pouch should go, in the recycling bin or the garbage, and discusses the ways that Rootree are setting themselves apart by using monomer plastics which improve the recyclability of their products.

The topic of compostables is never far away from discussions of food. Phil outlines why compostable packaging is better suited for your backyard compost than industrial composting facilities at the moment. Our audience had a question for Rootree about the growing number of composting facilities at the municipal level, and what that means for innovation with compostable plastics:

Q: There seems to be a favourable trend with municipalities who now have or are planning to have industrial composting facilities. What are your thoughts on this development for the compostable packaging industry compared to using traditional plastic packaging?

A: Increasing the number of facilities for industrial composting is certainly a great step, however, municipalities must collaborate with industry partners to resolve processing challenges for compostable products. To create successful composting programs, overall support from end-users, retailers, manufacturers and governing bodies is essential.

In anticipation of more and more composting facilities, Rootree continues to develop and improve our compostable packaging line. We aim not only to address some of these industry challenges pre-lifecycle (e.g., using renewable resources for materials) but also to provide customers with a sustainable alternative that can be composted at home, while still fulfilling the product’s packaging needs. We strive to continue paving the way to a more sustainable future for flexible packaging.

Want to contribute to the conversation? Share your thoughts and ideas on sustainable food supply or agriculture by contacting us today. We would love to feature your story in an upcoming event or e-communication. Contact today, and don’t forget to subscribe to our business event distribution list.