The Regional Food Group for Yorkshire and Humber (RFG) is promoting collaboration between processors in the region as its Flow project begins to bear fruit.
Data on 65 firms is being analysed by RFG, supported by Lincoln and Sheffield Hallam Universities, after digital mapping pinpointing companies' locations relative to each other.
"Most companies would not have the time to look at data in any great detail, but with the Flow project we have been able to take an analytical viewpoint," said Dr Wayne Martindale, research fellow in food innovation at Sheffield Hallam.
"We can think about what RFG companies can do together to rationalise operations - ultimately resulting in less fuel use and less spending of money on distribution.
"For example, we can say with absolute certainty that at least seven dairy members will be delivering to Leeds, Hull, Bradford and Sheffield every week," said Martindale. "We can slice the total distance they travel in half by getting firms to collaborate without compromising competitive uniqueness."
One of the most striking findings of the project was that companies do not account for the full cost of their logistics operations.
"On average, 60 companies thought it would be 3.7% of total business costs, whereas distribution companies would say 20-30%," said Martindale.
Collaborative use of vehicle space was one way to save cash, he said. Many RFG members were still in the early stages of growth, so the volume of their orders could see-saw wildly from week to week. As a result journeys could be made using only a fraction of pallet space, which would mean companies would be "haemorrhaging money", said Martindale.
However, one of the challenges getting in the way of collaboration was the exclusive agreements that suppliers had with individual retailers, he said.