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Food manufacturers need energy policy: Wyke Farms

By Michael Stones contact

- Last updated on GMT

Energy savings benefit both the bottom line and the brand story, said Richard Clothier, boss of Wyke Farms
Energy savings benefit both the bottom line and the brand story, said Richard Clothier, boss of Wyke Farms

Related tags: Energy conservation

Food manufacturers need an energy plan to make cost savings and to boost the branding of their products, says Richard Clothier, md of cheese producer Wyke Farms.

Making energy savings and turning waste into fuel and opportunity has made key contributions to Britain’s leading independent cheese maker, Clothier told the Food Manufacture Group’s webinar – Energy savings opportunity scheme: switching on to savings​ – yesterday (September 18).

“True sustainability makes good business sense and firms that don’t have an energy policy will be disadvantaged,” ​said Clothier. “It adds to the story and brand values – it’s helped us to become one of the first food brands to be 100% self-sufficient in green energy.

Wyke Farms’ green energy policy had enabled the business to engage more deeply with both customers and suppliers and saved more than £100,000 a year. “It’s made our business more diverse – both financially and also interest-wise. So we are now a lower cost business we are fitter for the future because of this,” ​said Clothier.

Energy policy ‘the hard way’

The business evolved its energy policy “the hard way”,​ through a relentless search for savings. Corner stones in the business’s energy plan were its anaerobic digestion plan, which is used to digest all the farm’s organic waste, plus supplies from neighbouring farms.

The farm also has two 500 kilowatt combined heat and power plants, providing electricity and heat for the cheese making process. Solar panels on farm roofs provide the energy needed to chill the milk as it comes off the cows. Plus, a water plant recovers up to 90% of factory water for reuse.

“One of the things I was always keen to do with our green initiative was to find a way to convey what we are doing to shoppers, so that it could enhance our cheese brand,”​ said Clothier.

Wyke Farm’s website​ details green targets, such as saving energy through investment and changes in working practice, maximising the use of organic nitrogen on the land (compared with the purchase of inorganic bagged nitrogen) and minimising packaging waste.

Other measures include fitting variable speed compressors in the factory, heat exchangers to produce hot water from compressors and fitting LED (light-emitting diode) lighting in factories.

But Clothier remains wary of the EU’s Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), which required firms with more than 250 employees to complete mandatory energy audits by December 2015.

‘Always a bit suspicious’

“As manufacturers, we are always a bit suspicious of any new initiative,”​ he said. “We would not want it to add cost implications and administration. In manufacturing, we all get enough bureaucracy without adding another couple of layers.”

Wyke Farms operates on 607ha with 1,000 milking cows and processes 300M litres of milk a year. The firm accounts for about 5% of the UK cheddar market and exports to 160 countries worldwide.

The webinar included contributions from Martin Adams, ESOS team leader, from the government’s Energy Efficiency Deployment Office, Stephen Reeson, the Food and Drink Federation’s head of climate change and energy policy and Jes Rutter, md JRP Solutions.

Rutter told delegates: “ESOS is a real opportunity for businesses to carry out energy audits and therefore make cost savings.”

If you missed the online seminar – sponsored by energy consultant JRP Solutions – you can listen to the broadcast here​ at any time, any number of times.

Watch out next week for more coverage from the energy webinar – including video interviews with speakers.

Related topics: Dairy, Dairy-based ingredients

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