Projects aim to cut carbon footprint and make savings for food manufacturers

Sheffield Hallam University’s new National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering is leading three Innovate UK partnerships to improve the efficiency of food production processes.

The new national centre will receive over  £2.25m for three Innovate UK programmes with Nestlé UK and Dext Heat Recovery.

The first project will look at the carbon footprint of the 40m long ovens used by Nestlé UK to manufacture KitKats to see how its waste heat recovery processes can be improved with a bid to save the company up to 15 per cent off its energy bills.

Baking technologies in food and drink manufacturing processes typically use gas-fired heaters, which produce large volumes of waste heat at 300 to 400 degrees Celsius. Only 40 per cent of energy used adds value to the final product with 60 per cent being discharged as hot air emissions.

Researchers at Sheffield Hallam and partners Spirax Sarco will work with Nestlé UK to develop a novel heat recovery solution that will recover the input energy in a roasting process, increase energy efficiency and reduce energy costs.

In a second project, engineers will work with Nestlé UK, First Milk and Foss to reduce raw milk supply chain wastage by three per cent across the UK supply chain.

The technology will deliver an estimated energy saving of 190,000GJ pa across the Nestlé UK group, and reduce process waste at its Dalston plant.

In a statement, lead researcher Dr Andrew Young said: “The UK milk industry produces 6,800 million litres of liquid milk per annum but up to 200 million litres of this creates waste in production processes because the levels of casein in the milk do not meet the needs of the end product.” 

A third project will see Hallam work with Dext Heat Recovery and Hull-based William Jackson Food Group, which produce Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire Puddings.

Researchers are said to have developed a successful product that recycles the wasted heat from industrial kitchens, enabling cost reduction of up to 60 per cent in energy costs for food service sites.

All three projects will appoint a post-graduate doctoral student to work alongside Sheffield Hallam academics within the centre.

Dr Martin Howarth, director of the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering, said: “We are delighted to receive these first commissions from the food industry which have the potential to achieve seven-figure savings, lower the carbon footprint of two major industry players and allow our students to tackle real scenarios.

“This is a significant achievement as the value of the funding for the centre is £600,000 and therefore marks a major milestone in our development.”