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The circle of snacks: Chip waste to biogas is viable, says Naturally Homegrown Foods

Defective potato chips are converted into biogas to fuel the fryers - a closed loop plan that makes commercial sense, Naturally Homegrown Foods says
Defective potato chips are converted into biogas to fuel the fryers - a closed loop plan that makes commercial sense, Naturally Homegrown Foods says

Potato chip waste converted into biogas to fuel production is a viable, eco-friendly waste reduction plan that other snack makers should consider, says the president of Naturally Homegrown Foods.

The Canadian premium potato chip company that makes Hardbite potato chips has initiated a waste reduction plan that uses chip, potato and oil waste to make biogas that then fuels the fryers at the production plant. Naturally Homegrown Foods has managed to establish the program because its owner, Pete Schouten, also owns Fraser Valley Biogas.

While the biogas was not exclusive to the snack maker and waste sources were pooled from elsewhere to make the fuel, Kirk Homenick, president of the company, said it was a partnership that cut waste and ensured a clean, sustainable energy supply. 

“Programs like this are going to be almost a necessity because this is really tapping a renewable source of energy and as natural resources become more and more scarce, it’s just going to become a natural transition,” he told BakeryandSnacks.com.

“Being able to use your organic waste from the plant is a very, very viable option with regards to reducing the footprint on the environment.”

Previously the company’s potato chip and oil waste was sent to landfill, but now any undercooked or overcooked chips and old oil can be sent to convert into fuel. A fertilizer is also produced as a bi-product of the bio gas process which is used at a local potato farm – also owned by Shouten – that supplies to Naturally Homegrown Foods.

While the snack company has not saved money yet with the program, Homenick said it anticipated savings in the future and a return on investment within one or two years.

The impossible triple bottom line?

The president said that the initiative was commercially viable, particularly in the long-term, which was not always easy to ensure.

As with all green initiatives, manufacturers are constantly seeking the triple bottom line, he explained. “You’re trying to achieve three initiatives at once – a lower impact on the environment, creating an internal structure within your own organization that helps employees feel the company is doing the right thing, but then as important, if not more because otherwise you’re not in business, is that it does have to make sense economically.”

Entrepreneurs sometimes fall short with green initiatives because of a lack of time dedicated to making it commercially viable, he said.

The president said that waste reduction initiatives like its biogas program were a wave of the future. “We’re all looking for ways to be sustainable in our businesses and business practices and looking for ways to do business more efficiently at the same time. This program is certainly a step in the evolution of really unique sustainable practice within the snack food sector.”

Communicating it to consumers

Homenick said the initiative should appeal to the company’s consumer base that was fairly educated on environmental issues and concerns and efforts would be made to communicate the message clearly.

Naturally Homegrown Foods will invest in social media and in-store promotions and eventually communicate the message on-pack, he said. “Of course packaging is something that’s always present and is a tool for helping in this category, because it’s quite impulse-driven.”

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