Cutting packaging and waste
Hormel gets greener
Reducing packaging waste has become an important initiative for food companies that are embracing environment-friendly and sustainable production practices. One company that has achieved success in this area is Austin, Minn.-based Hormel Food Corp.
The company announced its second set of environmental goals after exceeding its first set of five-year goals in 2011. By 2011, the company reduced packaging by 21.8 million lbs., and its recycling rate increased to 46 percent in 2011, compared to 41 percent in 2010.
“The last five years have been rewarding, as we achieved significant reductions on several key sustainability metrics; challenging, as we reported data that had not previously been calculated; and enlightening, as the process provided an opportunity for us to take a fresh look at long established policies and procedures,” said Jeffrey Ettinger, chairman of the board, president and CEO of Hormel.
The company’s new goals for managing packaging and solid waste, in addition to water, air and energy went into effect at the beginning of fiscal 2012.
By 2020, Hormel will work to:
- Reduce product packaging by 25 million lbs.
- Reduce 10 percent of water
- Reduce 10 percent of solid waste sent to landfill
- Reduce 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions
- Reduce 10 percent of non-renewable energy use.
Single label system
Universal approach isn’t without challenges
The increasing number of front-of-pack labeling systems for foods and beverages has led some to wonder if one universal system might be better. The First Amendment might keep that from happening, however, said Sarah Roller, a Washington-based partner for Kelley Drye, during a presentation at this year’s Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in Las Vegas. From a First Amendment standpoint, it might be argued one system bans the speech of other labeling systems, such as Guiding Stars or NuVal, she said.
An Institute of Medicine report released last October said federal agencies should develop a new nutrition rating system with symbols to display on the front of food and beverage packaging. The system should replace any other symbols being used on the front of packaging, the report added.
Front-of-pack labeling systems fall into three categories, said Annette Maggi, president of Annette Maggi & Associates Inc. in the Minneapolis area said Maggi, who worked for NuVal for three years.
First, a factual system involves facts, such as low in fat or high in fiber. Second, a seal-of-approval system has baseline criteria that a product must meet to carry a front-of-pack symbol. The “Great For You” symbol from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bentonville, Ark., is one example. Finally, a nutrient density system involves mathematical equations to determine a score or ranking for a product’s health rating. Guiding Stars and NuVal are examples.
Proving how effective front-of-pack labels are is difficult because retail chains often do not share sales data, Maggi said.
The American Heart Association has examined which consumers may notice its Heart-Check on the front of packaging, said Dennis Milne, director of business relations in Nutrition and Obesity Strategies Development at the Dallas-based association.
The AHA divided consumers into four categories: pro-actives, who are diligent in healthy eating and look at labels; struggling dieters, who may be 10 to 15 lbs. overweight but look at labels; the overweight who do not check labels; and the lucky, who are not concerned about nutrition, but they do not have to be because of their high metabolism. The pro-actives and the struggling dieters are most likely to look for the Heart-Check, Milne said.
Consumers do not enter retail stores with the strategy of looking for the Heart-Check, he said. If they see the symbol, however, it may be a “tipping point.” It may cause the consumer to choose the product with a Heart-Check over a similar product without one, Milne said.
Legislators weigh in on GMO labeling
Debate over labeling bioengineered foods and food ingredients was revived in June when Debra Brown, California’s secretary of state, certified that enough valid signatures were gathered to place an initiative on the state’s Nov. 6 general election ballot. If passed it would require special labeling of bioengineered foods and food ingredients. Just days later, the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates adopted a statement on bioengineered foods and food ingredients supporting pre-market testing of such foods but opposing special product labeling.
The measure would require labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if they are made from plants and animals with genetic material changed in specified ways, according to Brown. It would prohibit labeling or advertising such foods as “natural.” It would exempt foods that are: certified organic; unintentionally produced with bioengineered material; made from animals fed or injected with bioengineered material but not bioengineered themselves; processed with or containing only small amounts of bioengineered ingredients; administered for treatment of medical conditions; sold for immediate consumption such as in a restaurant; or alcoholic beverages.
Supporting the measure is the Committee for the Right to Know. “We’re thrilled that Californians will have the opportunity this November to vote for the right to know what’s in our food,” said Stacy Malkan, a spokesperson for the committee.
Opposing the measure is the Coalition Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition. Spokesperson Kathy Fairbanks pointed to the AMA statement on bioengineered foods, saying, “The AMA’s rejection of mandatory labeling is consistent with the overwhelming majority of respected medical doctors, scientists and health experts that have concluded that foods made with the benefits of modern biotechnology are safe, and that labeling these foods is unnecessary.”