Green Machines: How to Make Food Manufacturing Eco-Friendly


The benefits of ‘greening up’ your business are aplenty, both for the environment and your bottom line. Studies show three out of four customers will pay more for a product created with sustainability in mind. “Maybe ten years ago it was different,” says one consumer interviewed by Nielsen. “But everybody does it now. It’s expected… a standard baseline,” another chimes in. This consumer trend has begun to impact every industry from apparel, with Adidas designing shoes that’ll literally decompose in your sink, to pet, where owners buy raw dog food for their furry friends. But perhaps the most affected industry is food and beverage.

“Brands like SBT Seabuckthorn, Amafruits, and many more are champions at sustainability. Brands have the consumer top of mind as they know the demand is growing,” says Zaafir Ladha, one of Hubba’s Growth Advisors.

More people than ever are reading the back label of your product. What’s in it? Are there chemicals and preservatives? Where was it made? Did you source locally or fair trade?

Your brand is under a microscope right now. Are you measuring up to new consumer environmental standards?

One often overlooked area of a brand’s eco-conscious philosophy is manufacturing. In a recent Hubba survey, brands indicated they’re growing increasingly concerned with this aspect of their business.

Thinking of greening your process? We’ve got you covered all the way from sourcing your product’s materials to when you place it on the shelf.

There are so many options when it comes to sourcing your ingredients in an environmentally-friendly manner – options which also benefit the health of your consumer. The first and most obvious option is ensuring your ingredients are organic. If you’re not sure where to find organic wholesale, amazing and thorough databases like The Organic Pages help you search according to ingredient needed and location of the company.

Pro tip: If you’re still a small-batch company, consider sourcing your ingredients locally to reduce the high emissions of transporting your product across the country.

When it comes to building your product, have you kept best environmental practices in mind? Take some time to run through the journey your product takes.

Consider whether your process produces a lot of waste. When you use the ingredients, do you use every part of them, or discard other parts of it? If so, there may be an opportunity to use those pieces in an innovative way. Take European grocer Intermarche who, upon discovering 20 to 40 percent of ‘imperfect’ produce gets thrown in the trash, decided to package them and sell it at a discounted price to reduce food waste and add a little bump to their sales.

Energy and water conservation are two other areas there is opportunity to reduce your carbon footprint. Switching your process to run on renewable energy can do a lot for the environment and prove your dedication to sustainability to your customers. It’s not all just for optics, though. Did you know many states offer tax breaks for companies who have invested in a sustainable solution to manufacturing? Head here for a list of incentives your business could cash in on.

Packaging your product sustainably is not only good for the environment, but it’s an opportunity to be innovative and stand out on the shelves. “Brands like Spoonk are doing amazing things to ensure all materials are sourced and manufactured with the environment in mind,” says Yousef Rayyes, our in-house Community Manager. “Many even have packaging the consumer can re-purpose after the product is delivered!”

In consumers’ minds, your recyclable package isn’t enough anymore. Recyclables are only effective when there is both a market for the raw material and when it’s easy to break it down. Chips bags are a great example of being recyclable but not so environmentally-friendly. These common bags are composed of several layers of foil and plastic, which there is no way to separate. “When things are mixed together, you devalue the [material],” Tom Carpenter, Executive Director of Waste Management’s sustainability services, told The Guardian. Some of the layers are too difficult for recycling machines to process. Check out this list of other commonly used ‘recyclable’ materials that aren’t as eco-friendly as you might’ve thought.

To avoid this question altogether, consider using what has been coined “rapid renewables” for your packaging. Rapid renewables are naturally-occurring, strong, and fast growing materials like bamboo, cotton, corn, or even hay like this incredibly innovative company

It’s not easy to figure out how to get your product to the retailer, and your method depends heavily on how close you are to them. Locally, brands have been known to skip motors altogether and opted for bike courier delivery. But as you grow and scale nationally and eventually internationally, things get a bit trickier.

If you’re shipping across country, there are a few measures you can take to ensure the most efficient delivery of your products. The first is to develop an inventory management system. Are you able to coordinate your ingredient delivery with your outbound product deliveries? If so, you could cut the cost and make it one trip instead of two.

Internationally, consider the mode of transportation your products are making their journey on. Over 80 percent of international cargo shipments are by way of maritime shipping. Inconceivably huge ships carry nearly 8 billion tons of goods between continents every year, according to the International Chamber of Shipping. The environmental impact of cargo ships is enormous, with the industry responsible for about one billion tons of greenhouse emissions annually – that’s comparable to the environmental impact of Germany. But believe it or not, shipping is still better than air freight, which is responsible for an environmental impact more than 40x greater than that of shipping by sea.

Regardless of what stage your business is in – small batch or wholesale, local or international – there are many ways you can cut your carbon footprint. Both your customers, the environment, and your bottom line will thank you!