Strict regulations for the food and beverage industry require complex solutions

In terms of water usage, the food and beverage industry is heavily regulated compared to other industries. The Swedish Food Federation (Livsmedelsföretagen), the employer and industry organisation for companies producing food and drinks in Sweden, has now included a new item in its Sustainability Manifesto – more efficient water use. Ground water levels and water quality are being discussed in a different light, with new seriousness, also in Sweden.

Clara Tamm is working as, New Business Developer at Adven and expert in solutions for a more efficient use of water, was interviewed to outline the challenges and opportunities in the food and beverage industry.

“It’s important to leave no stone unturned – including the green ones,” she says. The food and beverage industry is already doing great things for the environment and it needs to take sustainability aspects into account to meet the demands of environmentally aware consumers.”

Competition in the market is tough and improving the environment is one factor among many when companies choose strategic measures to make them sustainable for the future. The water used by the industry must be of drinking quality throughout the entire production process, not only when used as ingredient.

 “Although water is not a finite resource in the sense that it would disappear once it has been used; water should be used again and again, in a cycle, provided that it is cleaned,” Tamm points out.

Water quality and supply must be secured

In Sweden, the water issue has not been given priority as a sustainability factor up until now. Municipalities have supplied good and inexpensive water to the industry, and the food industry has rarely or never had the need to question the quality of water. But today, all major players in the food and beverage industry must take a stand on the water resource issue.

“Water must have a certain quality level and it must be secured in the same ways as other ingredients,” Tamm says. With climate change and the need for investments in new equipment, food industry companies must think of water in strategic terms and assess the company’s water-related risks – operational risks, financial risks and regulations. In the long run, companies also face the risk of having their reputation harmed if they do not take water into account sufficiently.”

The wastewater from food and beverage producers often goes to municipal treatment plants for further cleaning. But municipalities are not always capable of meeting industrial companies’ need to have their wastewater cleaned, for example when production is increased.

“It is our shared responsibility as individuals, companies and society to protect water as a resource so that the future generations will have access to clean water. By wasting less, polluting less, reusing more and increasing the efficiency of water use we can reach higher levels of water productivity (economic output per drop) and reduce water risks”.

A holistic concept for complicated processes

The Swedish food industry is launching a joint sustainability manifesto with five measures towards sustainable and viable Swedish food production. The manifesto highlights the issue of more efficient water use (goal 5) and promises to set concrete targets in 2020.

Adven can be a partner in helping companies in the food and beverage industry to reach the sustainability manifesto’s goal 5, but also goals 1 and 2 by guiding them through the regulations to reuse water. Besides being an important ingredient in the products, water is also a process media used throughout the process (e.g cleaning), and an energy source for producing heat, steam or cooling. All use of water consumes energy, which in turn requires the use of more water.

“The energy used in the sourcing, processing and distribution of water causes an energy footprint; a waste of water leads to a waste of energy. Therefore, improvements in water management have a direct positive impact on energy utilisation. Adven increases the efficiency of water use, saves water and reduces consumption with smart solutions,” says Tamm.

Adven participates in investments for the future

There are also other aspects to consider when it comes to water, for example sludge, rest products and waste streams. Energy can be recovered from process and waste water, and rest products in the water can be recovered and utilised. Adven takes a holistic approach and carries out flow analyses on the customer’s various systems to make them more efficient and to enable recovery and reuse in line with circular thinking.

“It’s important to see the big picture,” says Tamm. “One of the cornerstones of Adven’s business model is that we bring in the capital. It allows companies to invest in a plant for the future, in a world with short-term payback rules. Adven supports its customers as a long-term partner and the strength lies in the system change that both parties are driving together. Our goal is for industry stakeholders and end-customers to feel happy about the approach and to want to continue to buy the products offered by the companies.”

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