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Microwaves and thin tins:How to cut carbon in food manufacture

28 September 2010

Baking bread in lighter tins, using microwaves to dry fruit gums and jellies and cleaning pipes with ice instead of hot water: these are just some of the ideas being explored by the Carbon Trust and food industry leaders to reduce energy use and carbon emissions at UK manufacturing sites.

Over the last year, the Carbon Trust has worked with companies including Cadbury, Nestlé, Dairy Crest, Irwin’s and Jackson’s to identify more energy efficient manufacturing processes with the potential to cut industry carbon emissions by some 450,000 tonnes a year: equivalent to taking more than 150,000 cars off the road.

Now – in partnerships with the Food & Drink Federation and Dairy UK – the Carbon Trust has challenged bakery, confectionery and dairy producers and equipment and technology providers to help prove the business case for these new processes and is co-funding up to £250,000 and in exceptional instances up to £500,000 per project.

A launch event will kick off the application process for each sector, sharing the Carbon Trust’s latest findings on the key carbon and cost saving opportunities in the food sector, and will explain how manufacturers, equipment suppliers and technology providers can take advantage of the funding opportunities.

This is part of the Carbon Trust’s Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator (IEEA): a £15m programme aimed at catalysing low carbon innovation in industry.

“More than a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions come from industry and we’ve got to find new opportunities to reduce them,” said Benjamin Sykes, Director of Innovations at the Carbon Trust.

“The way to make truly substantial cuts is to get to the heart of manufacturing. We want to work with manufacturers, equipment and technology providers to rethink production processes from the ground up. Innovation is the backbone of the low carbon industrial revolution that will not only reduce carbon emissions but will also generate jobs and cut costs.”

In the confectionery sector, key carbon saving opportunities identified includes alternative methods to dry popular sweets such as fruit jellies and gums, by using microwaves, for instance. This could cut carbon emissions by more than 15% a year, according to Carbon Trust estimates.
In commercial bakeries, reducing the weight of baking tins, improving the efficiency of ovens and recycling waste heat could together cut the sector’s emissions by around 9%.

And in the dairy sector, the cleaning of pipework using alternative technologies such as ‘ice pigging’ – a process that uses solid plugs of ice to clean pipes and is commonly used in the oil industry - and new methods for homogenisation – the process that prevents a cream layer separating out from the milk – could cut the industry’s emissions by around 5%.

The Carbon Trust is looking to work with consortia – likely to include manufacturers and suppliers of technology and equipment – to demonstrate and deploy new energy efficient technologies, processes and equipment in these areas.

Commenting on the opportunities, David Prosser, Operations Director at Tangerine Confectionery, makers of Butterkist popcorn and Barratt’s sherbet fountains, said:
“The possibility of using microwave technology to generate heat for our stoving cycles to help reduce product turn round times as well as reducing cost is an exciting prospect, which would if successful provide huge benefits for our particular industry. We look forward to being part of this exciting venture and hope that our original trials using microwave ovens can be scaled up and a microwave process can be installed at one of our production sites.”
Applications for funding open on 14 October for the bakery sector and 21 October for the confectionery sector. Launch events will be held in Birmingham on these dates to highlight key carbon saving opportunities and explain how companies can get involved in the programme. Applications for funding in for the diary sector opened on 21 September.

Companies interested in attending a launch event should contact or call 020 3069 8245. Please visit for more information.

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