Water technology: an increasingly prominent role in the food and beverage industry

By Leno Cavarra
Tuesday, 06 December, 2016

Water technology: an increasingly prominent role in the food and beverage industry

Leno Cavarra, Client Executive Manager, Veolia Water Technologies, Australia & New Zealand, looks at how existing water and wastewater challenges may hinder future growth in the F&B industry if they are not addressed.

Undeniably, the food and beverage (F&B) industry is a most dynamic and lucrative segment for manufacturers worldwide. Research by Frost & Sullivan suggests that by 2030, the global F&B industry is forecasted to reach US$20 to 25 trillion, due to rising disposable income in developing economies and demand for more food options like gluten- or fat-free products.

Processes in the F&B industry are very much water-intensive. As much as 70% of the world’s freshwater supplies are consumed by the industry, and if water supplies continue to dwindle, the F&B market will be left especially vulnerable due to its reliance on the resource as a direct ingredient. Competition for water resources is straining the environment and increasing water stress regions. Today, 700 million people in 43 countries are already living in water scarce regions, and it is expected that 1.8 billion people will be living in regions with absolute water scarcity by 2025.

With the combined threat of water scarcity and growing water demand, global businesses urgently need to implement better water management techniques. As large consumers of water resources, F&B manufacturers need to be more mindful and responsible of their water footprint by practising sustainable water management.

Due to the vast diversity of food and beverage products, processes and plants, the industry’s water and wastewater processing needs are highly specific. Additionally, F&B leaders are conscious of food safety and hygiene risks to their products and brand, so each technology must be carefully reviewed for its benefits and any negative impacts before implementation. As a result, adoption of new technologies can be a slow process.

In recent years, we have observed that companies in the F&B sector are beginning to invest in water and wastewater technologies. Five factors driving F&B leaders to do so include water scarcity and environmental protection, reputational risk, operational risk, demand growth in emerging markets and improved technology.

With years of developing and improving a myriad of water and wastewater technologies to cater to all industries, Veolia’s portfolio of 350 proprietary technologies has supported numerous manufacturers worldwide and has worked with various F&B industry giants, providing companies with innovations to improve the water efficiency of their processes and to ensure reliable sources of clean water for their operations.

From process water to wastewater, sludge and water recovery treatments, Veolia has developed specific solutions to provide the F&B industry with comprehensive water treatment solutions. Furthermore, Veolia has also supported F&B companies in recovering energy, using energy-efficient technologies like anaerobic digestion to achieve biogas. Additional opportunities for value-added resource recovery include bio-plastics production, microbial fuel cells and nutrients recovery for bio-products like fertiliser.

As regulatory issues, environmental sensitivity and long-term water supply concerns increase, manufacturers have begun to consider zero liquid discharge (ZLD) processes to reduce their water discharges. ZLD produces a high-quality distillate that can be recycled, minimising liquid waste. Capable of boosting water efficiency and minimising water footprint, the ZLD concept can be carried out through reverse osmosis, evaporation and crystallisation. Due to rising global water stress and mounting risks to the water-intensive F&B industry, ZLD is increasingly adopted by manufacturers to mitigate water risks.

F&B leaders can manage business sustainability through the use of decision-making tools like the Total Carbon Cost Analysis, which quantifies carbon emissions to optimise processes and reduce costs, and the Water Impact Index (WIIX), which quantifies water footprint by incorporating factors like resource stress and water quality.

With its full suite of proven F&B water treatment solutions, decision-making tools for sustainable management and reliable services, Veolia strives to help F&B leaders to mitigate their wastewater challenges, re-use water supplies, reduce production costs and conform to positive environmental practices.

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