Eco Efficiency

Eco‐efficiency describes the combined environmental and economic performance of a product. It enables more efficient production processes and the creation of better products and services while reducing resource use, waste and pollution along the entire value chain.

Two major studies illustrate the eco‐efficiency of canned food. One analyses the environmental impact and economic costs of preparing a meal with different packaging systems. The other illustrates the energy efficiency of supplying food in cans from harvest to the end consumer. Together, they demonstrate that canned food stands out as one of the best performing packaging solutions offering consumers a good product that they can trust, while also offering society the optimum solution in terms of sustainability.


Eco‐efficiency and nutritional aspects of different product‐packaging systems: an integrated approach towards sustainability (TNO study)

A study undertaken in 2005 by food research institute TNO looked at the sustainability of the packaging system from a holistic perspective. It measured the global impact of both the packaging and the product at each stage of their lifecycle. The Dutch market was taken as the basis for the study. Carrots were chosen as the example as they are available in a wide range of processing and packaging combinations.

Seven food packaging/processing combinations were compared amongst which fresh, bunched carrots, frozen and canned. Each step of the product lifecycle was considered separately (from farm to plate, and including recycling).

In a situation of an open economy (including imports and exports), canned carrots are, amongst the alternative packaging systems analysed, the best performing product in terms of eco‐efficiency, considering the combined environmental impact and cost.

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Energy consumption across the food supply chain Collection systems (Study conducted by Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) in California

The study comparatively assessed the energy consumption of fresh, frozen and canned food delivery systems, quantifying the energy requirements at each stage from farm to plate. Two delivery formats – bulk and portion servings were compared across a series of packaging/processing combinations including bulk refrigerated product (e.g. green beans, broccoli, asparagus) in coated cardboard; frozen products in different packaging formats; canned ready meals and canned products. The various stages included growing/harvesting, food processing, production of sales & transport packaging, transporting from field to end consumer, storing for wholesale and retail distribution, as well as home storage and preparing the food in kitchens.

Taking the full process – from farm to fork – into account, the study clearly reveals that canned foods offer the most energy effective method for product delivery. The most energy intensive methods, frozen bagged and boxed product, require over 100% more energy to bring the food from farm to table than the less energy intensive bulk and canned meals.

Why is this? Firstly, in terms of food processing, the energy inputs for canning are significantly less than those reported for frozen goods. Secondly, due to its compact and stackable container designs it enables more food to be transported in limited volume with less transport packaging. Thirdly, being stored at ambient temperature, canned food is totally independent of refrigeration.