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Alara Wholefoods, sustainable packaging and processing, Knowledge Transfer Partnership

Alara Wholefoods Ltd is a producer of specialist muesli, including organic, fairtrade and gluten-free products.

They supply mostly own-label muesli for customers, with a small own-brand range. They wanted to explore ways to reduce environmental impact and promote sustainability but didn't have the internal capacity to do so. As a solution they formed a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with LSBU to develop packaging and processes that reduced waste, energy consumption and environmental impact, and to help seek environmental accreditation.

Encouraging collaboration

KTPs are programmes that encourage collaboration between universities and businesses in the UK.  KTPs involve three parties: a university, a recent graduate and a company – including small, medium and large companies, charities, not-for-profit organisations and the public sector.

Part-funded by the government, KTPs provide unique benefits to all three parties; the university as a whole, the student associate and the business. LSBU apply their knowledge and expertise to important problems facing businesses, identifying new research themes and undergraduate and post graduate projects. The results are often published in high quality journals and conference papers. Recent LSBU graduates are able to enhance their employability and skills and get the opportunity to earn a full salary. The company gets the qualities of an outstanding graduate partially paid for and the expertise and technical support of the university – who work in close connection with all parties. Read more about KTPs.

Ambitious objectives

In order to achieve these ambitious objectives, project associate Joanna Southernwood helped introduce energy saving and waste reduction techniques around the factory. This ranged from changing incandescent bulbs to low energy ones, training the staff in new recycling systems, monitoring energy outputs and researching biodegradable packaging options.

Joanna also helped to convert an area of wasteland into a permaculture garden which is now used to produce food for the staff canteen. There are additional environmental benefits as waste food can be used as compost and Alara's carbon output is further reduced due to the carbon storing capabilities of the plants growing there.

Green Business of the Year Award

As a result of the project Alara has become carbon-neutral with zero waste and is believed to be the first UK food manufacturing site to achieve this.

Their total energy use was reduced by 10% and lighting energy by 50% which has helped to lower costs as well as reduce environmental impact. The changes in packaging and waste recovery means Alara recycles or re-uses 100% of its waste, improving packaging suppliers and negotiating enhanced contracts with waste removal companies.

Sales of £300,000 in new business have been achieved so far as a result of these initiatives.

We're hoping to set an example to other companies, demonstrating that you can be an environmentally aware company and still make money. One does not exclude the other.

Joanna Southernwood, Project Associate

Alara is being widely recognised for its effort, winning several awards including the Fast Growth Green Business of the Year Award and has been invited to re-apply for the Queens Award to Industry Sustainability Award next year.

Managing Director of Alara Wholefoods, Alex Smith is now more than aware of the benefits KTPs can bring, Saying: "for businesses embarking on a KTP project, the benefits are exponential."

Read more about Alara Wholefoods on their website.

 
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