A Sustainable Reality Worth Spreading

Over the past decade, “sustainability” has devolved into a catchall term, thrown into the marketing jargon mix for the sake of relevance.

This article was originally run on Industrial Distribution's sister site, Food Manufacturing.

From coast to coast, few sights are more ubiquitous than that of a US Foods truck on a delivery run. As one of the country’s most innovative food companies and distributors, US Foods offers more than 350,000 national, private label and signature brand items to more than 250,000 customers. Of course, one of the reasons US Foods has become a high-ranking nationwide foodservice distributor is the quality of its products — and, behind it all, there’s also the company’s understanding of what it means to be sustainable.

Over the past decade, “sustainability” has devolved into a catchall term, thrown into the marketing jargon mix for the sake of relevance. Companies that didn’t jump on the sustainability buzzword bandwagon, but rather developed tangible responses to their customers’ demands for eco-friendly alternatives, are now role models for responsible business practices. For example, in 2006, Wal-Mart released a packaging scorecard to assist in its commitment of reducing packaging across its global supply chain by 5 percent by 2013 — helping Wal-Mart become a major driver for changes to packaging in multiple market segments.

“Sustainability is about ensuring that our company, products, services and partnerships make a credible, honest and robust contribution towards creating a sustainable economy,” said Sylvia Wulf, Senior Vice President, Center of the Plate, US Foods.

Across industries, the supply chain — once a behind-the-scenes-only part of manufacturing — has become integral to the growth of a successful sustainability program. For US Foods, this translates not just into partnering with distributors that have enacted sustainable practices, but also into creating collaborations that extend the reach of those practices.

Great Working Relationships Can Be Contagious

When House of Raeford, the country’s eighth-largest poultry producer and a US Foods supplier, began working with Chuck Kersnick and Bob Misita of Georgia-Pacific’s Doraville plant using GP’s Packaging Systems Optimization (PSO®) program, it had a goal in mind: to quantify its sustainability efforts. Launched in 2002, Georgia-Pacific's PSO program consists of a rigorous five-step process, in which a team of packaging experts and engineers analyze a company's entire packaging supply chain from package design and shelf impact to line productivity, material handling and distribution. In the end, a detailed report is delivered outlining areas in which improved cost-savings, profitability and sustainability can be achieved.

For House of Raeford, the end result was eliminating more than 3,900 thirty-cubic-yard dumpsters of non-recyclable boxes from the waste stream. Through the use of Georgia-Pacific’s Greenshield® wax replacement packaging, House of Raeford was able to offer its customers — like US Foods and its customers — a recyclable alternative to the wax-curtain coated boxes traditionally seen in controlled vacuum-packed poultry applications. End-users saw no cost increase and benefited significantly from reduced waste disposal expenditures — all while preventing tons of non-recyclable wax boxes from ever reaching the landfill

“It’s always been our intent to find sustainable packaging solutions for the benefit of our customers and to help them find the most cost-effective opportunities,” said Rodney Garrison, House of Raeford’s packaging manager

As a company with an outspoken commitment to sustainability, US Foods saw untapped potential presented by House of Raeford in their current packaging and knew there was value in extending the Greenshield® wax replacement packaging line into the Patuxent Farms® private label brand. Established in 1994, the Patuxent Farms® label delivers a broad range of proteins, including both minimally processed and value-added chicken, turkey, pork, beef, lamb and veal.

The label’s commitment to value and quality extended all the way to its packaging following the switch to Greenshield® boxes in the fourth quarter of 2010.

House of Raeford expanded its use of Greenshield® boxes, generating $690,421 in sustainability value dollars, greenhouse gas reduction (calculated to be 24,329 tons of CO2), and total energy savings (approximately 3.351 million BTUs).
The relationship between US Foods, House of Raeford and Georgia-Pacific underscores how collaboration in innovation can produce tangible and sustainable results across the supply chain.

The Packaging Systems Optimization (PSO®) program was developed at Georgia-Pacific’s Innovation Institute®, a creative, collaborative environment where Georgia-Pacific and customers identify opportunities to reduce supply chain costs, increase shelf velocity and measure sustainability factors. The Innovation Institute simulates retail and packaging environments, allowing customers to experience sustainable innovation and novel package design solutions in action. Designed to facilitate break-through thinking and next-generation packaging solutions, the Innovation Institute helps customers realize the full value of their packaging investment. For more information on Georgia-Pacific’s Innovation Institute visit www.gpinnovates.com.

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