Meet the finalists of the FMEA Collaboration and Partnership Award

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

Who will win our Collaboration and Partnership Award?
Who will win our Collaboration and Partnership Award?

Related tags Sustainability Innovation Business Food manufacture excellence awards

Three finalists have been chosen from a mass of entries for next year's Food Manufacture Excellence Awards - here's more about their collaborations ahead of the 2024 ceremony...

DIGI Europe & The Refill Coalition

The UK grocery industry places at least 56bn items of single-use plastic packaging on the market annually (a waste of precious resources and a major cause of pollution); only a fraction of which is recycled – and mostly downcycled. This volume is increasing annually and cannot be solved by approaches taken to date: lightweighting, alternative materials etc.

The Refill Coalition is a partnership led by GoUnpackaged, the UK’s leading refill experts. Formed in 2020, the coalition has partnered with leading UK retailers and global manufacturers to develop a solution for in-store and home delivery refill of bulk products.

Changing the mindset of shoppers is difficult, therefore the solution had to be seamless, attractive and reliable. During the design and development, each manufacturer has identified challenges and opportunities, helping to create the perfect solution.

The Refill Coalition has developed two standardised solutions, a 14l bulk b2b vessel that enabled the scaling of in-store refill (customers can bring their own packaging to refill) and a 3l mini bulk b2c vessel allowing for the scaling of pre-fill (reusable consumer containers pre-filled with goods).

Some retailers have already introduced refill areas but these run manually, they are inefficient, add significant costs into the supply chain, are individualistic in their approach and aren't zero waste/circular.

Key features of this solution included the design and material choice, with the vessels built with a lifecycle of 60-80 uses – and an ambition to extend this further. A flat base and wide aperture also enables easy filling and washing, with minor adaptions to automated filling lines. The vessels have also been created so they are optimised for roll cages and pallets and designed on open source principles.

Kingsmill Professional & Zest Food Partners

Kingsmill, owned by Allied Bakeries, launched in 1989 and today is a staple in 9.3m households.

The baked goods brand is available to consumers in supermarkets and convenience stores, and part of the long-term business strategy was to launch into foodservice. In November 2021, Allied Bakeries and Zest Food Partners were introduced and officially began working together in March 2022.

With no footprint, or network in the wholesale sector, Zest worked as an extension of the Allied Bakeries team to create the foodservice launch strategy. The first and biggest challenge to initially overcome was that Kingsmill bread was ambient, and for foodservice customers – so the range would need to be frozen.

Working with a third party that specialised in temperature-controlled storage and distribution for the food sector, Allied Bakeries planned to deliver ambient bread in baskets for them to blast freeze (quickly to lock in freshness and maintain quality) and to decant the products from baskets to boxes and label. The products would then be stored frozen, picked, packed and distributed to foodservice customers. It was also key that the new inner packaging was blue to comply with food safety regulations.

As a new process, it was important to run trials to ensure that the product quality was just as good once it had been frozen and that the products travelled well in boxes. Rigorous testing took place to ensure everyone was happy to launch and it was agreed to start with a small, core range of sliced bread and build up from there. Kingsmill has since launched a range of bloomers.

Another consideration was the brand name. Zest advised that a specific foodservice brand would be required to launch into the out-of-home sector, to differentiate between retail and ensure the pricing strategy remained dynamic for both sectors. As the Kingsmill brand is so strong, and linked to quality and trust, it was important to retain some association. Introducing: Kingsmill Professional!

To date, the Kingsmill Professional brand has been very successful, with almost 50 foodservice customers listing their products. The sales are strong and above target, growing consistently month on month and the teams are working hard to ensure high service levels are met.

There are strong plans to develop the brand and extend the range and given the success with just a small range of 8 products, Allied Bakeries are investing in a new depot in October to ensure they can deliver on the ambitious objectives.

Nestlé & First Milk

More than 70% of Nestlé’s total CO₂e emissions in the UK and Ireland are generated in its agricultural supply chain. 

Milk and dairy products account for nearly two thirds of its agricultural supply chain emissions, which is why it has worked with dairy co-operative First Milk to implement the ‘Milk Plan’. This is a long-term sustainability programme that addresses the triple challenge of reducing emissions, improving productivity and enhancing biodiversity in the food manufacturing supply chain.

The Milk Plan is rooted in the supply of local milk to its sites in Girvan and Dalston. Working with 85 dairy farmers in Cumbria and Scotland means that all the milk it uses at each of its site is sourced from farms within a 30-mile radius.

Its partnership with First Milk goes back 20 years, and many of its farmers have been with the company since the start. Nestlé provides annual funding to facilitate investments in farms, which in turn supports the communities that surround them through jobs and infrastructure.

Working closely with the Allerton Project (part of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust), together with First Milk, Nestlé  has developed a simple points-based mechanism which allows the farmers to choose their specific sustainable 'interventions'. These include tree planting (supported by the Woodland Trust), hedge planting (and fixing), fencing of waterways, rebuilding stone walls and focusing on feed from forage. Nestlé offers every farmer a ‘sustainability bonus’, which enables them to take measures that protect and enhance the natural assets on their land. 

To ensure it has captured robust data on the impact of the interventions and their various pros and cons, Nestlé and First Milk have completed a four-year partnership with Newcastle, Liverpool and Leeds Universities, whose researchers have spent time with the farmers on measurement and analysis.

The results are yet to be published but the companies report that the farmers are already seeing biodiversity perks. Based on current scientific knowledge, the work that’s planned and underway on Milk Plan farms will result in a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in five years. In addition, two of the farmers involved in the scheme have agreed to be pilot farms for 'Net Zero farms' where Nestlé and First Milk will explore renewable energy options.

The winners of this prize will be announced at the Food Manufacture Excellence Awards 2024 on Thursday 8 February at the London Hilton Bankside. You can buy tickets here.​​

Thank you to our headliner sponsor Menzies, alongside event sponsors Quor, HSBC, and CAS Recruitment.

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