Distributor US Foods (www.usfoods.com) offers more than 350,000 national, private label and signature brand items to more than 250,000 customers. Over the past decade, “sustainability” has become a popular term among those customers, but most have tried to steer away from using it as marketing jargon and instead develop tangible responses to consumer demands for eco-friendly alternatives.
For example, in 2006, Walmart released a packaging scorecard to assist in its commitment to reduce packaging across its global supply chain by 5 percent by 2013—helping Walmart become a major driver for changes to packaging in multiple market segments.
Across industries, supply chain management has become integral to the growth of a successful sustainability program. For US Foods, this translates not only into partnering with distributors that have enacted sustainable practices, but also into creating collaborations that extend the reach of those practices.
For example, House of Raeford (www.houseofraeford.com), the country’s eighth-largest poultry producer and a US Foods supplier, began working with Chuck Kersnick and Bob Misita of Georgia-Pacific’s (www.gp.com) Doraville plant on a sustainable packaging solution. Its goal was to quantify its sustainability efforts. They used Georgia-Pacific's Packaging Systems Optimization (PSO) program (www.gpinnovates.com), 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 outlines opportunities for improving cost-savings and profitability—as well as sustainability. For House of Raeford, that included eliminating more than 3,900 thirty-cubic yard dumpsters of non-recyclable waxed boxes from the waste stream by converting to wax replacement packaging. This enabled House of Raeford to offer 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 from reduced waste disposal expenditures — all while preventing tons of non-recyclable wax boxes from 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,” says Rodney Garrison, House of Raeford’s packaging manager.
US Foods saw other such opportunities for wax replacement packaging in its supply chain, including Patuxent Farms private label brands of chicken, turkey, pork, beef, lamb and veal. The label made the switch in the fourth quarter of 2010.
House of Raeford expanded its use of the “Greenshield” boxes, generating $690,421 worth of savings, as well as greenhouse gas reduction (calculated to be 24,329 tons of CO2), and total energy savings of 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 a supply chain.