Candy Industry recognizes Mars Chocolate North America as its first “Green” Manufacturer of the Year recipient, an acknowledgement of the company's ongoing and earnest commitment to sustainability.
By Bernie Pacyniak
As Kermit the Frog declared back in the last millennium, “It’s not easy being green.” Fast forward to the 21st century, however, and it’s hard not to find manufacturing companies embracing the green cloak of sustainability.
Still, there’s a major difference between “green washing” and truly going “green.”
Despite the exhortations of some U.S. presidential candidates that the planet doesn’t really need any help, Candy Industry - together with most of the world - recognizes the importance of implementing and encouraging sustainability best practices in the confectionery industry.
As a result, the publishing team elected to establish an annual Green Manufacturer of the Year award to recognize those companies making a concerted effort in spearheading energy conservation, recycling, management/employee involvement and ongoing sustainability initiatives.
In reviewing the various large and small U.S. confectionery companies suitable to receive this honor, it quickly became apparent to the Candy Industry selection team that Mars Chocolate North America truly embraced “green manufacturing” as a key subset of its ongoing sustainability commitment.
From its 18-acre solar garden that supplies up to 20% of the company’s Hackettstown, N.J. –based plant electrical needs to the recently LEED Gold Certified headquarters office building, also in Hackettstown, Mars Chocolate North America (MCNA) has embarked on a journey that transforms sustainability from a buzz word to an inherent element of corporate life and the company’s revered Five Principles.
Be it committing to equitable sourcing practices, such as the Rain Forest Alliance certification initiative, or the long-term cocoa sustainability project in the Ivory Coast and Indonesia (See Candy Industry’s September 2011 issue), Mars Chocolate North America sees sustainability not only as a good business practice, but part and parcel of being a good corporate, community and global citizen.
In acknowledging Mars Chocolate North America’s efforts to embed sustainability throughout all aspects of confectionery manufacturing, from sourcing of ingredients to manufacturing, from infrastructure improvements to ratcheting up plant efficiencies, Candy Industry’s first Green Manufacturer of the Year Award recipient provides a glimpse of what confectionery manufacturing will look like in the near future. By all measures, it has set the standard for the rest of the industry.
But as Zelda Gray, v.p. of personnel and organization for Mars Chocolate North America, points out, sustainability, albeit not labeled as such back then, has been an inherent part of the corporate culture since she started working for the company more than 23 years ago.
“When I first joined the company, a retired Mars associate gave me a tour of the company’s canning facility in Marlborough [UK} when he pointed to the cooling towers on site,” she says. “He was extremely proud to explain that all water taken from the river was replenished back with good water, perhaps even better than what the company drew out of the river.”
Thus, when sustainability as an environmental concept first began to emerge following the 1972 United Nations Conference in Sweden - eventually evolving into a formal statement of principals in 1987 as envisioned by the World Commission on Environment and Development- Mars Inc. saw the implications as well as the applications of this movement in its core Five Principles: Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency and Freedom.
As Mike Wittman, v.p. of supply, notes, sustainability as a part of a corporate mission already had its raison d’etre in the company’s mutuality and responsibility principles.
In focusing on “achieving a mutual benefit of all parties involved” with the company’s confectionery business, it’s clear that such interdependency requires making business decisions with social, environmental and economic issues in consideration at the very beginning.
For Mars, these decisions aren’t short-term solutions either. As Wittman emphasizes, the company is looking at five-year as well as 50-year repercussions. The problem, of course, is that much of the technology the company would like to implement doesn’t exist.
“It’s a dilemma,” he says. “We’re aggressively researching the latest technologies and emerging capabilities, looking for a balance with efficiency and renewable resources.”
As it stands, seven of Mars Chocolate North America’s nine manufacturing facilities are 95% land-fill free [A 95% land-fill free rating means that only 5% of all waste is not recycled, sold off, reused or converted into energy], with the remaining two to meet that criteria this year. Several of the plants hit 98-99% land-fill free totals. Considering that the youngest plant in the network is 35 years old, that accomplishment looms even larger.
In Hackettstown, the company’s efforts to sustainability and green manufacturing are impressive. First, virtually all waste generated by the 200,000-sq.-ft facility winds up being reused, recycled or redistributed, asserts Brian Suwalski, plant director.
Any confectionery waste that’s not possible of being reworked back into processing is sold as animal feed, typically to hog farmers as “pig food.”
Packaging that’s slated for waste or surplus is also recycled. Useable printed packaging is shipped to Terracycle, which takes the material and produces a range of tote bags, pencil boxes and other consumer goods, a form of recycling known as “upcycling.”
The plant’s waste water treatment plant not only cleans the water before returning it back to the city’s sewage system, it also feeds the sludge through an anaerobic digester and then a sludge press to create sludge cakes, which can be used as agricultural fertilizer.
The facility also captures its heat exhaust as part of an energy cogeneration system, which then produces heat and steam for use throughout the plant.
Nearly two years ago, Mars Chocolate North America unveiled the largest solar garden in the food industry in New Jersey, more than 28,000 ground-mounted solar panels sitting on 18 acres of adjacent land. The solar garden, which was built by PSEG Solar, a subsidiary of PSEG, the state’s largest utility company, will deliver 2 megawatts of power during peak hours and supply about 20% of the plant’s electrical needs.
As a result, it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1,000 metric tons, or the equivalent of removing 190 vehicles off the road each year.
But sustainability isn’t just about reductions; it also encompasses gains, be they in output (processing or agricultural), in quality (manufacturing and sourcing), in outlook (human productivity, attitude and involvement) or in the marketplace (share, recruitment, sales).
As Suwalski explains, several major projects within the plant this year were geared toward saving energy, increasing output and improving quality and safety.
One of the major capital investments that’s nearing completion is the upgrading of the company’s rework station, which allows the facility to reuse misshapen and/or rejected M&M’S and feed them back into production. Even though less than 2% of all output goes to rework, the economic and sustainability savings are significant.
The company is also finishing the installation of a new peanut roaster, which will improve efficiencies and safety.
Another major investment project targeted for the coming year and a half is replacement of the nine cooling tunnels chilling the M&M’S that come off M&M’S center forming. The question that’s being debated here, however, is what kind of technology to use -one that lasts 15 or 50 years - in order to take advantage of future technology breakthroughs in energy efficiency. There are, however, certain immediate benefits, regardless of the short- or long-term options.
“Every piece of equipment we purchase, we anticipate between a 10-20% energy savings,” Wittman adds.
Nonetheless, every investment debate constantly involves infrastructure, efficiency improvements and sustainability.
As Suwalski adds, “Sustainability is an ‘and’ in the discussion, not an “or.”
It’s also an “and” in the company’s general operations, be it administrative or sourcing.
That’s evident in the company’s renovation of its headquarters facility, which adjoins the Hackettstown manufacturing facility.
Determined to make the renovation reflect collaborative, environmental and “magical” elements, Mars Chocolate North America made the commitment to at least attain LEED Silver Certification in the process.
After extensive internal surveys of what was important to employees (dubbed associates by the company) - access to natural light proved critical - Gray assembled a cross-functional team to ensure all needs were addressed.
Once the design was finalized in 2008, 600 employees were moved out of the building to tackle the phased renovation project. During the process, 75% of all construction waste was recycled. Much of the furniture and carpeting was donated to churches and schools, adds Gray.
In 2009, employees began to return to a rejuvenated and totally green office building. During the construction period, it became clear that many employees didn’t need to be in the building anymore.
“Anyone who travelled more than 50% of the time for their job was told that they wouldn’t have a desk in the building,” explains Gray. “Seventy percent of our associates [employees] now have the ability to telecommute.”
Aside from being able to tout a progressive human resources policy, the move delivered several sustainability benefits.
“Our open office environment increased our density per square foot over traditional office spaces,” says Wittman. “The energy costs per person dropped, and there are fewer cars on the road, all of which delivers a significant impact to the planet.”
In addition to improving the density-per-sq.-ft. ratio in the headquarters building, Mars Chocolate North America also saw that the office renovation would create a happier habitat.
The building now features skylights as well as large windows, which dramatically increased access to natural light. Water-conserving fixtures reduce water usage by 30%, an upgraded Building Energy Management Systems trims energy use by 15%, and building materials used in the renovation featured 20% recycled materials.
There are also special car pooling parking spots near the office, bike racks and walking paths as part of the overall LEED Gold certification program.
“32 points were required for Gold certification,” Gray says. “We actually hit 34 points.”
As it stands, Mars Chocolate North America’s corporate headquarters is the first private sector commercial interiors project to receive the LEED Gold designation in New Jersey and the first for Mars.
But perhaps more importantly, it won’t be the last facility Mars Chocolate North America looks to certify LEED Gold.
The new Topeka, Kan. facility, which is scheduled to go on-stream in 2013, is targeted to be Mars’ first LEED Gold certified manufacturing facility.
“We’ve made a public commitment that all electricity in the plant would be sustainable,” Wittman says. We are considering wind as well as solar energy as part of our on-site energy generation strategy. And we are evaluating geothermal energy use.”
Mars Chocolate North America’s - and Mars, Inc. in general - commitment to sustainability goes well beyond green manufacturing. Sourcing, particularly in the confectionery industry as it applies to cocoa beans, sugar and other key ingredients, plays a critical role.
Recent milestones include Mars’ long-term, multimillion-dollar program aimed at affecting 250,000 cocoa farmers in Africa and Asia. The three-pronged “farmer first” initiative looks to improve productivity through technology transfer and educational initiatives coordinated through Cocoa Development Centers and Village Cocoa Centers.
Another major effort that Mars has publicly committed to involves certifying all cocoa beans sourced. By 2020, the company looks to have its entire cocoa supply certified. Last year, certified cocoa accounted for 5% of the total.
Obviously, hitting that number will prove to be a formidable goal. But, as seen with all of the company’s sustainability efforts, setting targets high doesn’t deter anyone at Mars Chocolate North America from reaching them.
Back in 2009, Mars Chocolate North America declared it will source 100% Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) by 2015. Less than two years later, use of oil certified by RSPO has reached 20%, says Nick Hastilow, v.p., commercial.
“We’re currently leading a U.S. peanut sustainability initiative by providing funding support for a Peanut Resources and Efficiency Measures Report,” he continues. “We are also chairing the American Peanut Council’s Sustainability Working Group. This year, the U.S. peanut industry experienced the worst quality crop in 30 years. Our goal is to ensure that farmers and shellers have a sufficient supply of quality peanuts from which we can buy.“ Hastilow believes the report will help both farmers and Mars reach those goals.
The company is also in the middle of refreshing a global sustainability packaging strategy, one that will set a global standard in how the company addresses infrastructure, he says.
For Mars Chocolate North America, being green is a “continuous improvement effort,” says Wittman. “For example, our long-term goal  is for all the energy we consume to be renewable energy. We’re looking at infrastructure, emerging technologies, and community opportunities, including partnerships with utility companies. Sustainability is part of what we believe and what we do on a daily basis. It’s the way we work.”
It certainly makes being green easier.
At a Glance
Mars Chocolate North America
Headquarters: Hackettstown, N.J.
Sales: $4 billion
Products: Chocolate bars, ice cream, moulded chocolates, panned chocolates,
chewy candies, chocolate wafers, extruded items, granola and savory snacks
Brands: 3 MUSKETEERS, AMERICAN HERITAGE Chocolate
COMBOS, DOVE Chocolate, DOVE Chocolate Discoveries, GOODNESS KNOWS, KUDOS, M&M’S, MARATHON, MILKY WAY, MUNCH, MY M&M’S, PURE DARK, SNICKERS, TWIX, DOVE Ice Cream, SNICKERS Ice Cream.
Plants: 9 (North America) Albany, Ga.; Chicago; Burr Ridge, Ill.; Cleveland, Tenn; Elizabethtown, Pa.; Hackettstown, N.J.; Waco, Texas; Henderson, Nev.; and Newmarket, Ontario, Canada
Green manufacturing notables
Nuts about solar
Hughson, Calif.-based Grower Direct Nut Co. offers hulling and shelling services to other California growers. The family-owned company - established by Ron Martella as a walnut farming operation in 1965 - today processes more than 40 million lbs. of walnuts. It markets a complete line of sized, diced and other manufactured walnuts for wholesale and ingredient buyers worldwide.
Oh yes, it also sells electricity to its local utility.
The Martella family always has believed in sustainable agriculture. Based in “sunny” California, it made sense for the Martellas to be a leader in adopting solar power.
In 2008, Grower Direct partnered with the SunPower Corp. of San Jose to design a solar energy collection and distribution system that was both environmentally friendly and cost-efficient. As a result, a high efficiency, photovoltaic array, which includes 1,400 solar panels, was built covering 35,000 sq. ft.
On a sunny summer day, an inverter generates about 520,000 kw of energy, which provides an average of 800 megawatt hours of clean, renewable energy. That’s enough to provide the plant with 90% of its electrical needs each year.
Excess electricity generated by the system goes onto the power grid earning Grower Direct a credit from the local electricity provider. A rebate program offered by the district and a federal tax credit made the investment in the $3.5 million system economically feasible.
The Martellas expect a payback in less than eight years.
Waste not, want not
Maintaining a 35-acre campus that encompasses a corporate headquarters, manufacturing, warehousing and a public tour center in Fairfield, Calif., demands plenty of water
Water usage takes on a more significant impact when one factors in maintaining 5.5 acres of green space featuring turf, trees and shrubs, all of which were designed to enhance the experience of the more than half a million visitors that tour Jelly Belly’s facility each year.
In partnering with HydroPoint Data Systems, Inc. and ValleyCrest Landscape Maintenance, the Jelly Belly Candy Co. expects to reduce outdoor water use by 29%.
How? One element in the plan involves replacing out-dated irrigation clocks with “smart” irrigation controllers to deliver significant cost savings.
“We actively look for ways to improve cost efficiencies in our manufacturing and site expenses,” explains Jeff Brown, v.p. - operations & distribution for Jelly Belly Candy Co. “An inviting look to our campus is important since we host a half million members of the public each year to our tours. An irrigation solution with minimal capital investment and disruption that would yield significant water savings in our landscaped areas was intriguing.”
HydroPoint’s WeatherTRAK Smart Water Management solutions provide grounds crews with 24/7 visibility and remote control access to irrigation schedules and water use. Daily evapotranspiration (ET) data is transmitted to the WeatherTRAK controllers, updating the automated watering schedules as local weather conditions change. Plants receive precise amounts of water only when they need it.
The technology eliminates over-watering as well as costly water run-off, hardscape repairs and liabilities. The system automates irrigation to run after business hours so Mr. Jelly Belly and the 30-foot inflatable Jelly Belly mascots can greet visitors without interference from overspray or excess water in the popular grassy picnic areas surrounding the visitor center.
With the company’s 18-acre solar garden in Hackettstown, N.J., acting as a backdrop, Zelda Gray, v.p. - personnel & organization, flanked by Mike Wittman, v.p. - supply, proudly holds Candy Industry’s Green Manufacturer of the Year award.
The Hackettstown, N.J. facility is one of two in the company’s network that focus on producing M&M’S. Here, after engrossing and coating, the candies head toward imprinting and then scaling before being bagged.
A complete renovation of the Mars Chocolate North America’s headquarters building, which features skylights, open spaces, reduced water/energy use and recycling bins, enabled the company to apply for and receive LEED Gold Certification for the site.