The sustainable sugar rush: how candy companies are saving energy

Blog Post | October 29, 2018 - 9:50 am
By Kate Doughty, Communications and Marketing Assistant

When you reach for that candy bar this Halloween, don’t just count calories—count kilowatt-hours. Big candy manufacturers use a lot of energy to feed our sugar addiction, especially this time of year. The average American consumes about 22 pounds of candy per year, which is the weight of roughly 2,200 Hershey’s kisses.

That’s a lot of candy. “[We’re] good at making chocolate…but we’re not an expert in producing power,” says Winston Chen, the renewable energy manager for Mars Incorporated.

Thanks to energy efficiency, Mars soon won’t need to use as much power. As concerns about energy consumption, water depletion, and climate change rise, your favorite candy companies are taking energy-saving steps to improve their business models and meet their sustainability goals.

These efforts are part of a broader corporate sustainability push. ACEEE encourages companies to use energy efficiency to meet their sustainability and profitability goals. (Read our recent issue brief and case studies on the topic.)

Although many corporations are making progress in sustainability, they still face challenges. The candy industry is confronting deforestation, trying to reduce water use, and working to improve labor practices, including eliminating child labor. While it is important, energy efficiency is only part of what makes a corporation both environmentally and socially responsible.

On the efficiency front, which is the scope of this blog post, the big candy companies are taking steps forward.

Mars

Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, Mars makes Snickers, Milky Way, M&M’s, and Twix. The world’s largest candy company, it employs more than 110,000 people at factories across the globe, including 50-plus factories in the United States. It cites energy efficiency as a key way to meet its sustainability goals while managing company growth.

Last year, Mars announced it will spend $1 billion to improve company sustainability and will devote one-third of that funding to water and energy efficiency. Its goal is to reduce its energy intensity (energy use per unit GDP) by about 2% annually and to improve its energy efficiency in direct operations by 10%, from 2015 levels, by 2020.

In the past three years, the company has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 10% through efficiency and renewable energy, which powers 100% of its US operations, according to Mars’ most recent sustainability report.

Mars’ upgrades range from large-scale changes such as improving manufacturing equipment to smaller adjustments like switching its factories to LED lighting—which is also great way to improve energy efficiency in your home.

Hershey

You know Hershey from Halloween favorites like Kit Kats, Reese’s, and, of course, Hershey’s Chocolate. But did you know about its sustainability efforts?

The Hershey Company has committed to reduce candy packaging, carbon emissions, and overall waste by 25% before the year 2025—and improvements in energy efficiency are a crucial part of meeting these goals.

“We use a fleet of electric cars in Hershey [Pennsylvania],” says the company’s 2017 Corporate Sustainability Report (CSR). Hershey has two cogeneration facilities in Monterrey, Mexico, that have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 17,938 tons—the annual emissions of about 3,500 cars—by converting natural gas to electricity.

To save energy, Hershey replaced chillers at three US manufacturing plants and upgraded refrigeration controls at another plant. It optimized the loading of its trucks to reduce vehicle miles traveled, according to the company’s 2016 CSR report.

Last but not least, Hershey invests in energy audits to ensure it is as efficient as possible. Try this at home—learn how an energy audit can save you energy and money here.

Lindt & Sprüngli (USA) Inc.

Lindt is best known for Lindor Truffles and Lindt chocolate bars. This February, in partnership with Eversource, Lindt launched a three-year strategy to save 3.5 million kilowatt hours per year—enough to power 500 US homes for a year—at its Stratham production facility in New Hampshire

“Over the next few years, we will complete a number of renovations and construction projects that will enhance the efficiency of our processes,” said Davide Nico, vice president of operations at Lindt Chocolate USA. These renovations include an energy-efficient central chiller plant, state-of-the-art ventilation, rooftop cooling units, and a wastewater heat recovery system. Like Mars, Lindt USA is also installing LED lights.

More broadly, Lindt aims to reduce both energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 2% annually, relying partly on energy efficiency, according to its 2017 sustainability report. Excluding Russell Stover, a 2014 acquisition, the company says it cut energy consumption per ton by 18% between 2008 and 2017. It used thermal insulation, energy recovery, and optimized transport routes. Globally, it says, one-third of its power now comes from renewable sources.

While candy companies’ efficiency efforts may not reduce the calories in your Halloween haul, they may lower the kilowatt-hours involved in making all those goodies. Happy munching!