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Looking at the bigger picture

The FOOD Challenge Awards’ two new categories – Pet Food and Sustainable Manufacturing – will reward those creating significant innovations in these food and beverage sectors.

A company that knows the importance of innovation when it comes to sustainability is Pitango – NZ’s winner of the Health & Wellness Award in 2008, and the world’s first carbon neutral fresh meal manufacturer, with CarboNZero certification.

The CarboNZero programme is managed by Landcare Research NZ, encouraging and supporting individuals and organisations to minimise their impact on climate change by providing them with tools to measure, manage and mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions.

To participate in the programme Pitango follows three key steps – measuring emissions associated with their daily operations; managing and reducing their emissions output by implementing a plan of sustainable business practices; and mitigating total emissions output by purchasing carbon credits from accredited NZ renewable energy projects.

With sustainability now recognised in its own category, Pitango’s chosen path seems increasingly timely. “For us it was very natural to go from organic to carbon neutral,” explained Pitango’s co-founder, Yasmin Shenhav.

“Doing this meant not just creating healthy and organic products, while looking at the smaller picture, but looking into the bigger picture and seeing what we can actually contribute worldwide, and hopefully aiding to other manufacturers wanting to do similar things.

“To become carbon neutral we had to go through a very intensive and costly exercise with Landcare Research to create a programme that was right for us. We’d like this to be a starting point for many others to do something that’s not only good for the business model, and not only good as a culinary model, but something that is beyond that,” said Shenhav.

“When we put the carbon neutral logo on our products, one of the aims we had was to help the consumers who want to contribute to fixing problems in the world. Obviously they can just grow some tomatoes at home in the garden, but with Pitango they’re buying a product knowing that they’re actively supporting a bigger cause.”

Shenhav’s essential advice to those looking at becoming involved in sustainable manufacturing is to look for a good partner.

“There’s a lot of people who make many claims and you have to look really carefully at who you work with. For us it was really important to take on a very credible company so we could know that whatever we do, this is someone that we can truly trust. Landcare Research gave us a lot of support.

“It’s really important to do the research rather than just saying ‘I want to put something on my product to make it more marketable’. It takes time and it takes a lot of money, and there’s a long and involved process that you have to be patient with. But I do believe that this is definitely the way to go.

“It’s something that manufacturers have to look into very carefully before going forward. Once you do that though you’ll definitely obtain a lot of benefits,” concluded Shenhav.

Lena Zak is the editor of FOOD Magazine.

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