New research finds that steam infusion reduces energy consumption for food producers by 17%

New research spearheaded by the National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM), University of Lincoln, has found that the steam infusion technique can contribute to net zero aims. Indeed, it can reduce energy consumption by 17% per batch compared to basic direct steam heating by saving 278 hours of production time, cutting 9 tonnes (10 US tons) of greenhouse gas emissions per kettle production line each year.

The research, led by NCFM’s Dr Wayne Martindale and OAL’s development chef Christopher Brooks has been reported in a peer-reviewed paper, “Transformational Steam Infusion Processing for Resilient and Sustainable Food Manufacturing Businesses”. Published in Volume 10, Issue 8 of Foods, the team also found that steam infusion can improve the quality of a wide variety of end products, meeting consumer demand for great tasting food and beverages with added green credentials.

According to the UN Food & Agriculture Organisation, the global food and beverage industry accounts for one third of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), and the recent release of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, has underscored the requirement for food manufacturers to accelerate their plans to reduce carbon emissions.

With many manufacturers signed up to net zero commitments, or at least reporting on efforts to reduce their environmental impact, steam infusion can support businesses’ plans to incrementally cut emissions throughout their facilities. What’s more, the technology enables alignment to UN Sustainable Development Goals, specifically SDG9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure) and SDG12 (Responsible Production and Consumption).

By realising a reduction of 17% in energy consumption when using steam infusion, and achieving a similar decrease in GHG emissions, food and beverage manufacturers can make meaningful headway on the journey towards the worldwide net zero ambitions. Not only that, by building carbon reductions into food and beverage manufacture through steam infusion cooking, in addition to schemes that off-set emissions with green utilities and land-based carbon sequestration, manufacturers can make an immediate difference in the fight against climate change.

“This is a world first in terms of looking into the sustainability benefits of technologies like steam infusion,” explains Dr Wayne Martindale, Associate Professor, Enterprise & Food Insights and Sustainability at the University of Lincoln’s NCFM and lead author of this research. “The most energy intensive parts of food manufacturing facilities are often heating operations so it’s really exciting to see how steam infusion can help to reduce the impact of the industry.

“In this report, we connect a manufacturing innovation to consumer experience and improved product quality with greater sustainability credentials – a win for manufacturers and consumers alike,” he says.

Steam infusion is a simple, disruptive cooking process that helps food manufacturers overcome many of the challenges they face every day when producing food and beverage products, from soups to sauces and dairy desserts, including burn-on contamination, variable product consistency and slow cooking times.

Dr Wayne Martindale and OAL’s sales director Jake Norman will be speaking at the Lincoln leg of the Zero Carbon Tour leading to COP26 in Glasgow, discussing how technologies such as steam infusion can help the food industry to reduce its impact on the environment.

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