The road to a robust food system

Jaideep Gokhale, vice-president of Sustainability for Asia Pacific at Tetra Pak

Food waste, food loss, undernourishment and world hunger are issues that plague the food systems. How can manufacturers take on the enormous task of fortifying existing structures?

By Agatha Wong

The global food system has come under scrutiny in recent years, with Asia Pacific as a particular focal point given that 25% of food waste and loss comes from South and South East Asia; while industrialised Asia contributes to 28% of global food waste1. Furthermore, nearly half a billion of the world’s undernourished peoples can be found in the region, with an estimated 969 million experiencing food security and hunger2. There is, thus, a call for a more robust food system that can enable a more sustainable means of food production and availability.

Tetra Pak has been leading the way on creating sustainable food systems which minimise waste and loss. The global company has been active across different countries, collaborating with smallholder and larger firms to formulate innovative solutions.

“Our approach to preventing food loss and waste across the value chain comes from the efficiency of our processing and packaging equipment. Tetra Pak works with customers and partners to reduce food waste and loss by innovating processing technologies to upcycle production waste,” explained Jaideep Gokhale, vice-president of Sustainability for Asia Pacific at Tetra Pak.

Thus far, the company has developed a process for smallholder farmers in Indonesia to not only maintain the flavour of coconut water but also transform other parts of the fruit into high-value coconut cream, oil and milk. This enables previously unwanted materials (be it by-products or waste into premium products which can be sold at higher prices, increasing both income and sustainability.

Meanwhile, in Taiwan, Tetra Pak has worked with I-Mei, one of the country’s largest food firms, to innovate a whole soybean milk processing solution that solves the waste of okara forms to be converted into a high-value ingredient, creating a circular solution through upcycling production waste.

To further their goals of a reducing food waste, Tetra Pak has laid out four key areas: packaging designed for efficient transportation and storage; advanced packaging and processing technologies; protecting nutritious content and taste of products without preservatives and refrigeration; and turning food loss into high-value ingredients.

Evolving innovations

The company also introduced a new collaborative innovation model with leading raw material suppliers. The traditional operating model of a linear supply chain has changed, Gokhale said, and a new partnership ecosystem model is emerging where the entire industry works in close collaboration. This brings together not only producers and suppliers, but also research institutions, universities and start-ups to find solutions.

Gokhale, elaborated: “Our ambition is to minimise food loss and food waste across the value chain, by supporting farmers in developing markets, working with our customers to optimise their operations, developing high-performance food processing solutions and creating food packaging solutions that help consumers to reduce food waste.”

Besides working on the manufacturing side of things, Tetra Pak has also developed processing solutions to reduce food waste. According to Gokhale, advancing processing technologies through integrating and optimising customers’ operations allows the maximisation of raw material and reduces food loss during production. Tetra Pak’s aforementioned collaboration with I-Mei is a noted example. Another would be Tetra Pak’s new UHT 2.0 heating portfolio, which combined with Tetra Pak® E3/Speed Hyper, possesses sustainability benefits such as cutting GHG emissions and water usage while reducing operational costs by up to 30%.

Moreover, the company is currently working on creating cartons that can function as full-scale data carriers and digital tools, which will allow producers to have end-to-end traceability as retailers gain supply chain insights and consumers have access to production and processing information.

“This is all part of our plan to increase transparency as part of actioning more sustainable practices. Internally, we also utilise technology and smart solutions to limit waste across our processes, no matter which form it takes,” said Gokhale. The digitisation of processes can enable plant managers greater visibility of operation lines, allowing them to make more informed decisions. Moreover, they will be able to identify inefficient lines, providing an opportunity to enact preventive measures that avoid excessive waste.

Gokhale, commented: “We can only make progress and create significant impact through continue partnerships. We look forward to continuing our work with customers, governments, partners, and NGOs to reduce food loss and waste along the food value chain.”

Continuous commitment

Tetra Pak’s holistic models are exemplary of its goal toward a more robust food system. Through taking a value-chain approach, the company addresses the intersectional nature of the environmental, social and economical challenges facing the world. Following the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Tetra Pak has been a signatory for the UN Global Compact and its ten principles since 2004. Our Strategy 2030, which will guide the company for the decade ahead, has “Lead the sustainability transformation” as one of its central pillars. The pillar comprises two goals: “Lead with low carbon circular economy solutions” and “Enhance sustainability across the value chain”.

Gokhale, concluded: “We are committed to help shape the future with secure and sustainable food systems. Our packaging protects food, helping make safe, nutritious, and flavoursome products available to more of the world’s rapidly growing population. Our solutions help to prevent food loss and waste across the value chain. And our partnerships develop and sustain programmes that are helping to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture and production.”

This article was first published in the December 2021/January 2022 issue of Food & Beverage Asia.