Carbon Trust

Ice pigs and thin tins: the keys to cutting carbon in food manufacture?


Source: Carbon Trust

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

Over the last year, the Carbon Trust has worked with companies including Allied Bakeries, Dairy Crest, Cadbury and Nestlé 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 food producers and equipment suppliers to help prove the business case for these new processes. It is offering co-funding of up to £250,000 per project and in exceptional instances up to £500,000.

The challenge comes as 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 Benj Sykes, Director of Innovations at the Carbon Trust.

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

The food industry processes identified by the Carbon Trust as key targets for its IEEA programme include the cleaning of pipework in dairies. This is usually done by heating water to 80°C and flushing it through the pipes before sending it down the drain taking the wasted heat and energy with it.

“Ice pigging” – a process that uses solid plugs of ice to clean pipes and is commonly used in the oil industry – is a lower carbon alternative.
Homogenisation, the process that prevents a cream layer separating out from the milk, has also been identified by the Carbon Trust as an opportunity to reduce energy use and carbon emissions. Homogenisation is currently done by pumping milk at high pressure through narrow tubes to break up the fat molecules - a relatively energy intensive process. Lower carbon alternatives could include the use of ultrasound.

Together, these new methods of ice pigging and homogenisation could cut the dairy sector’s carbon emissions by around 5%.

Carbon emissions from the production of gums and jellies in the confectionery sector stand at around 60,000 tonnes per annum. Using alternative methods such as microwave technology to dry (or “stove”) the sweets could cut these emissions by 10% a year, according to Carbon Trust estimates.

And 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%.

“Real progress in industrial energy efficiency requires rapid sector-wide change,” said Benj Sykes.

“We can’t wait for market forces to take effect when some manufacturing processes have barely changed in forty years. Through our Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator we want to catalyse change by demonstrating the business case for lower-carbon solutions that can be replicated widely across an entire sector. The response from industry so far has been very encouraging with leading trade bodies and industry players keen to be involved.”

The Carbon Trust has already kicked off IEEA projects in the asphalt industry with companies including Tarmac, Hanson and Aggregate Industries. These initiatives could wipe over a third off the asphalt industry’s carbon footprint by developing road surfaces that can be laid at lower temperatures and increasing the use of recycled asphalt in new roads.

Andrew Kuyk, Director of Sustainability at the Food and Drink Federation said:
“The IEEA is an important programme of support for our members in their aim to improve energy efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions under FDF’s Five-fold Environmental Ambition. We are delighted with the progress FDF members involved in the first phase of the programme have made, and we now look forward to wider industry engagement with phase two.”

Fergus McReynolds, Environment Manager at Dairy UK, said:
“Making processors more efficient and reducing the carbon footprint of dairy products remains a key goal for the sector. The second phase of the IEEA programme will enable dairy companies to trial the new technologies identified by the project, which will add to the efforts to improve the environment championed in the Milk Roadmap.”

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.”

Ann Lovering, Group Environmental Manager at Dairy Crest, said:
“Through participation in the IEEA we are keen to learn of emerging and future technologies with potential to reduce our environmental impacts and help achieve our carbon reduction targets. Carbon Trust assistance will aid in acceleration of trialling and funding of technologies which may not otherwise be currently viable.”

Nick Law, Operations Director at Allied Bakeries, said:
“Energy consumption plays a significant contribution to the carbon footprint of our business. The work we have done with the IEEA programme has enabled us to gain a greater understanding of our energy usage, which is key to driving improvement as part of our journey to reduce the environmental impact of our business”

Ken Hawkridge, director at Hull-based bakery Jackson’s, said:
“Working with the Carbon Trust through the IEEA programme has enabled us to identify our energy hotspots. Bringing the industry together through this collaborative project is an effective approach to inspiring action and change across the sector that we have been keen to support.”

Key Statistics

  • Dairy sector carbon emissions from processing activities are approximately 860,000 tonnes per year.
  • The UK dairy industry produces over 13 billion litres of milk a year (DEFRA: 2009) from over 100 sites although the market is dominated by seven producers operating across 40 sites.
  • The bakery sector emits approximately 570,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. Through research conducted as part of its Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator, the Carbon Trust estimates that emissions can be reduced by over 25% through good practice and process innovation.
  • Three companies account for over 50% of the output of the industrial baking sector: Allied Bakeries (Kingsmill and Allisons), Premier Foods Bakeries (Hovis) and Warburtons with commercial regional bakeries accounting for the remainder.
  • Main plant items in the bakery industry such as ovens, provers and coolers have long lifetimes and it is not uncommon for equipment over 30 years of age to be still in operation.
  • Gums and jellies  - or “stoved” sweets - account for approximately 28% of the confectionery market in the UK (by volume).

The calls for proposals are open as follows:

Dairy: from 21 September 2010 to 16 November 2010.
Bakery: from 14 October to 9 December 2010.
Confectionery: from 21 October to 16 December 2010.

The Carbon Trust is encouraging interested parties to attend seminars at which the programme and application process will be explained in detail. Insights will be shared from the research phase undertaken in collaboration with industry players. The seminars will take place in Birmingham, on 14 October for the bakery sector and 21 October for the confectionery sector. The dairy sector seminar was held on 21 September.

Further information can be found at or by emailing

About the Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator

The Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator (IEEA) is a £15m innovation programme designed to cut carbon, reduce costs and make UK manufacturing more competitive and is backed by Dairy UK.

Through the IEEA, the Carbon Trust aims to transform the traditional sector-specific processes that underpin British manufacturing. In partnership with industry leaders, the organisation will identify and demonstrate new, lower-carbon solutions that can be replicated widely across each sector.

The IEEA will uncover opportunities for manufacturers to save around half a billion pounds per annum on energy costs and cut their annual carbon emissions by up to four million tonnes. Up to half of these savings could be delivered as a direct result of IEEA projects if the energy efficiency solutions are adopted widely across sectors.

These projects are also expected to increase the capacity of businesses to respond effectively to the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.

The Carbon Trust aims to work with up to 20 sectors through the IEEA. Aside from the dairy industry, it is already working the bakery, confectionery, asphalt, animal feed and plastic blow moulding sectors.

About the Carbon Trust

The Carbon Trust is a not-for-profit company with the mission to accelerate the move to a low carbon economy, providing specialist support to business and the public sector to help cut carbon emissions, save energy and commercialise low carbon technologies. By stimulating low carbon action we contribute to key UK goals of lower carbon emissions, the development of low carbon businesses, increased energy security and associated jobs.

We help to cut carbon emissions now by:

  • Providing specialist advice and finance to help organisations cut carbon
  • Setting standards for carbon reduction

We reduce potential future carbon emissions by:

  • Opening markets for low carbon technologies
  • Leading industry collaborations to commercialise technologies
  • Investing in early stage low carbon companies

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