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Sustainability Becomes Commonplace

BY: Kelly Hensel
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Sustainability is becoming increasingly important for the food industry, as many consumers are demanding it. In fact, a Strategy One survey found three-quarters (75%) of adults surveyed agree that “eating green or sustainable foods will help me lead a life that is good for my body and the environment.” A majority of consumers say they purchase more sustainably produced food now than they did a year ago. As one of IFT’s Focus Areas, it is obvious that the “green” trend is here to stay. Here are some sessions that will offer insight into this growing movement:

  • Fundamentals of sustainability for the food industry (Session 8): Sustainability is a trend that continues to be reflected in the business models of various companies and organizations in the food industry. It is based in three pillars: environment, economy, and society. This session teaches the basics of the sustainability movement.
  • Greening of food processing and packaging technologies (Session 26): Energy consumption is a major contributor to the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) in food processing, packaging, and transportation. Characteristics of green food technologies include recyclability and/or biodegradability of packaging material, eco-friendly transportation, and savings in water usage. Several promising food technologies for reducing impact on climate change exist: high hydrostatic pressure processing (HHP), microwave heating, ohmic resistance, pulsed electric field, electrolyzed water, ultra-violet treatment, and irradiation. HHP technology has been shown to use substantially lower energy than traditional heat processing technologies. Novel packaging technologies include plant-based packaging systems and totally compostable packages. This panel discussion focuses on possible greener approaches to technologies in processing and packaging of foods.
  • Sustainable food systems: Nutrition and the environment (Session 79): Sustainability encompasses many complex, environmental, economic, and social intersections and means many things to many people. With much of the focus on the environmental impact, there is a need to broaden the definition of what constitutes a sustainable diet: foods and beverages that are not only environmentally responsible but also promote health and wellness. This session explores multiple and overlapping perspectives that include diet, nutrition and health, agriculture land use in the face of population growth, and practical aspects relevant to consumers and families. The session also explores areas of research needed to build a coherent framework for the health of Americans, to serve families and communities, and to sustain the environment.
  • What does sustainability mean to the food industry? Part 1: Defining sustainability (Session 124) Part 2: Industry case studies (Session 142): Sustainability has many interpretations. This session defines sustainability and a second session examines case studies within specific segments of the food industry. From these two sessions, participants will gain insight into the aspects of sustainability. The first session begins with experts describing different measures being used by consumers, investors, and retailers to define sustainability for the food industry. The second session includes presentations from leaders within different segments of the food industry (e.g., ingredient suppliers/manufacturers, packaged food manufacturers, and restaurant industry) who present and discuss their efforts to achieve sustainability. Both sessions will help IFT members define and implement sustainable solutions to their food, nutrition, and health agendas.
  • Greening of the restaurant (Session 186): The roadmap to environmental responsibility for the restaurant industry follows a path of incremental steps. It is an ongoing process that continually challenges businesses to generate greater efficiencies, reduce waste, and expand their capacity to use renewable resources as new technologies and practices become available. This session reveals the latest consumer sustainability trends along with best practices and case examples from the latest industry-led initiatives. These will provide tools to help reduce the cost of running restaurant operations.
  • Sustainability: How beverage innovation award winners did it (Session 230): Winners of the 2010 Beverage Innovation Awards in sustainability discuss the processes they developed and deployed. The concepts include an innovative conveyer lubrication that has reduced water usage by 720 million gallons in 160 countries while improving sanitation, a process to create a sanitizer that has fewer issues than traditional chemical processes, and a completely renewable bottle that does not impact plant-food sources. This session focuses on the process rather than the products: how hurdles were overcome.

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