A collaboration between leading food manufacturers and retailers aims to reduce the environmental impact of transporting food and groceries in the UK, claims scheme pioneer IGD.
The scheme is a direct response to spiraling energy costs as well as demands from consumers for a reduction in the number of food miles incurred in the distribution of products, according to IGD, a food and grocery think-tank.
Currently, 37 of the UK's biggest food and drink companies have signed up for the initiative, including Coca Cola, Coors, Northern Foods, Heinz and Asda.
"In a highly competitive industry, getting 37 companies working together in this way is very innovative and results so far are impressive," stated IGD President and CEO of Nestle UK, Alastair Sykes.
The Sustainable Distribution initiative will result in the removal of 800 trucks from UK roads this year, which will result in savings of about 23 million litres of diesel fuel per year, claims IGD.
Callton Young, director of sustainability and competitiveness for the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said that the industry has a particular role to play in ensuring sustainable distribution of goods.
"Shared transport is one of a number of activities that food and drink manufacturers and other companies across the supply chain can pursue to achieve fewer and friendlier food miles," stated Young.
"FDF is working with its members to achieve sustainable distribution in line with a commitment made in our Five-fold Environmental Ambition, which we launched in October last year," he added.
The transport scheme kicked off through a pilot project in early 2007, which saw Nestle and United Biscuits working together to create efficiency in their distribution network.
United Biscuits trucks now collect a load of Nestle products each day from Nestle's factories in York and Halifax and deliver it to Nestle's distribution centre in the Midlands, reducing empty truck runs.
IGD said that Tesco and Unilever have also explored the potential of transport collaboration, sharing vehicles between the Unilever Doncaster and the Tesco Goole distribution centres, helping to remove 500,000 road miles.
The partnerships followed the attendance by the companies at Efficient Consumer Response (ECR) workshops managed by the IGD, which aim to drive greater collaboration between retailers and suppliers to allow companies to discover transport sharing opportunities.
The IGD claims that the outputs of the initiative will be shared widely within the industry to encourage improvements from companies of all sizes.