A Plus Industrial Installation

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Sustainable Sourcing: A Path to Security

If there is one constant driving force of nature, it is change. Our ability to adapt to changes in our society, industry and environment will be one of the most important traits for our survival. As we continue to develop technologically, it will become more and more important for us to find a balance between our exponential growth and the systems that support us. The world we live in today, is not the same world our grandparents knew. It is more connected, more demanding, and it’s getting hotter.

According to the climate data from NASA, 9 of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000. This shift in temperature will eventually impact every aspect of food security, production and price according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The food and beverage industry is the largest purchaser of raw agricultural materials in the world and it depends on a stable and consistent supply chain. Any shift in the environment, from a single damaging storm to a decade long drought can directly impact the supply and future viability of the entire industry.

In addition, the food and beverage industry is dependent on consumer demand. As people become more aware of the coming environmental challenges, they demand more from the companies they patronize. Producers and manufacturers will need to be more environmentally responsible and practice sustainable management if they are to secure a future for the industry.

Unilever2016 will be the year of sustainable sourcing. Unilever, one of the largest suppliers of food, personal care and home products in the world, has stated that sustainable sourcing of raw materials has never been more important and is essential for the future of their company. They have an ambitious goal to sustainably source 100% of their agricultural materials by 2020. Their Sustainable Agriculture Code (SAC), which is now required of all their suppliers, utilizes 11 social, economic and environmental factors such as soil health, soil loss, nutrients, pest management, biodiversity, farm economics, energy, water, social and human capital, local economy and animal welfare.

Because of their size and market impact, Unilever is driving transformational change within the industry and within the environments where the raw materials are sourced. Sustainable agriculture does more than reduce risk and volatility in the supply chain. It can increase yields substantially while revitalizing biodiversity in local ecosystems, eliminating deforestation, reducing the amount of water, nutrients and thus capital required for production, all while supporting small farms and local economies. It is a “win-win” for everyone.

Unilever believes, “industry collaboration is essential to achieve the level of change needed to tackle the world’s major social, environmental and economic issues.” To that end they have launched several programs such as Field to Market and the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform which have helped over 800,000 smallholder farmers with training and support as well as more than 50 companies from the food and beverage industry.

There is tremendous opportunity for local producers and manufactures to have a positive impact on the economy and the world. By taking advantage of free resources and collaborative industry, companies can transform into responsible producers their customers can feel proud to support. A reputation as a forward thinking, socially and environmentally responsible company is of great value in today’s market.

Another area of sustainability companies and research institutions are developing is within the packaging industry. Recycled plastic has been used for years. Some companies are even utilizing plastic harvested from garbage floating on the ocean but new technology is being developed to reduce and in some cases even eliminate packaging waste.

Sustainable Sourcing

In an effort to reduce waste, Kraft Foods along with Rutgers University and the University of Connecticut have invented an “electronic tongue”. The smart packaging technology uses a sensor which will change color as food spoils and becomes rotten so consumers know when food is still ok to eat and when to throw it out. Other technologies being developed for packing include an insta-preservative which saves food right before it begins to go bad and an antimicrobial layer which repels bacteria giving the product a longer shelf life.

Harvard University professor David Edwards and his team of researchers are creating new packaging inspired by the skin of an apple which is edible and preserves the fruit inside. Two of the new products being developed are a pumpkin soup protected by a spinach membrane and a chocolate syrup within a cherry membrane. The edible covering serves to reduce thrash and increase flavor. Bontan Ame, a Japanese candy company, has been using this kind of packaging for many years by putting its candy in an edible rice wrapper.

MonoSol, a company in the fast foods and instant foods markets, has created a new water soluble packaging for cereals and soups that only require water to cook. The packaging dissolves in water with no trace of residue, completely eliminating its packaging waste.

Texas A&M University scientists are tackling the problem of plastic waste by creating an alternative micro packaging made from a material that is stronger, more durable and thinner than a strand of hair. This micro packaging is made of water, a soluble polymer and clay and is much easier to decompose. This packaging uses nanotechnology to produce and greatly increases the shelf life of processed foods.

As the world becomes more focused on sustainability, it is inevitable that new technologies will be developed which reflect this value system. These new developments will have the potential to meet the challenges we face head on and launch us into a more secure future. For producers and manufacturers in the food and beverage industry, there is a promising future for those willing to adapt and embrace the change.

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Our home office is centrally located just outside Dallas. Over the years we have built a nationwide presence by completing many projects throughout the U.S. We specialize in automation, equipment & conveyor installations, rigging, mezzanine & structural steel fabrication and erection, machine moving & rigging, plant equipment decommissioning, and plant maintenance. Our projects range from half-day preventative maintenance procedures to turnkey assembly/production line installations.

A Plus Industrial Installation
Division of Surpass Inc.
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