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A lighter carbon footprint and lower costs for Quorn

Quorn Foods, the global market leader in meat-alternative foods, has found a way to reduce its impact on the planet and save more than £1m in the process, thanks to an innovative partnership with Sheffield Hallam University.

Why a Knowledge Transfer Partnership

Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) associate Louise Needham worked with food innovation expertise within the Sheffield Business School to carry out product carbon footprinting, which identified key areas of greenhouse gas emissions and thereby some of the steps that Quorn could take to address its environmental impact. This resulted in the brand being certified by the Carbon Trust as well as identifying significant cost reductions.

As a direct result of the KTP, Quorn has received certification of its first product carbon footprints by the Carbon Trust Certifications Company.

Published figures reveal that the carbon footprint of UK retail Quorn mince and chicken-style pieces could be at least five times less than beef and one and a half times less than chicken equivalents.

The company expects a cost reduction of more than £1m over the next few years.

Particular interest in the sustainability values of the brand has been shown in Scandinavian markets, where the issues covered by the KTP form part of the international agenda.

Best practice and sustainability for the growing international market

From its headquarters in North Yorkshire, Quorn Foods produces a wide range of ingredients and ready meals as an option for vegetarians as well as for the increasing group of people wanting to reduce their meat consumption.

Quorn is the UK's 35th biggest food brand, employing around 600 people and exporting to countries across Europe as well as to Australia and the USA. Since its formation in the 1980s, the company portfolio has evolved to include more than 250 separate products based on mycoprotein.

The two year partnership with Sheffield Hallam began in March 2011. KTP associate Louise Needham worked directly with Dr Wayne Martindale, one of our food experts, to look at the company's carbon footprint and wider sustainability issues.

The academic team carried out product carbon footprinting of bestselling Quorn product lines, working with the Carbon Trust to ensure the analysis fully met the British Standards Institute PAS 2050 (2008) standard for the assessment of life cycle greenhouse gas emissions. The Quorn Foods model also successfully achieved the requirements of the Code of Good Practice for Product Greenhouse Gas Emissions and certification requirements of the Carbon Trust's Footprint Expert.

The findings of the KTP project have been summarised in an academic journal The life cycle analysis of meat-alternative foods, which highlights Quorn as a best practice standard in the food industry

The carbon toolkit developed in the process has already been used to certify additional product footprints as well as providing insight into how the business can further reduce its environmental impact. Energy efficiency projects saved the company around £150,000 over the course of the KTP, and the head office site is aiming to reduce landfill waste to zero in the near future.

In a further development, Louise has now taken up the position of sustainability manager with Quorn Foods as part of the company's ongoing commitment to this work.

Some of the specific achievements of this KTP programme includes

  • Communication of the sustainability criteria of Quorn products through conference papers and events, including the Trends in Food Science Journal.
  • The accreditation of the production of mycoprotein with the BSI and Carbon Trust's Carbon Label.
  • New opportunities for the international growth of the company through the global recognition of the Carbon Label.
  • Company savings of 1m, well in excess of the expected £300,000.
  • The development of a competent and highly effective KTP associate with experience in the sustainability reporting of foods.

‘This complex work paid off. Quorn is the first meatalternative brand, and one of only a few food products in the world, to achieve this standard of Carbon Trust certification. The proven health benefits of Quorn, combined with its lower levels of embedded carbon compared with meat, suggests that by swapping Quorn for meat in meals, people can feel confident that it’s not only better for them, but also better for the planet.’
Louise Needham, KTP associate, Quorn Foods

'Quorn was originally developed as a sustainable alternative to meat and, as food security becomes more of an issue, the company was keen to take an even stronger stance on its planetary impact. The partnership fostered with Sheffield Hallam University will allow us to continue to build visibility into Quorn Foods’ environmental footprint and make its sustainability values part of how Quorn does business.’
Dr Wayne Martindale, research fellow, Sheffield Hallam University

'This partnership has brought together a successful business looking to increase its sustainability and security options and a leading University with a reputation for innovation in this area. Through working together, savings of more than 1m have been identified, making it a highly successful piece of work.'
Sarah Durkin, KTP manager, Sheffield Hallam University, Research and Innovation Office

Find out more about Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

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