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Production Employee Idea Cuts Food Waste on Bob’s Red Mill Line by 70%

Bob’s Red Mill has received a ProFood World Sustainability Excellence in Manufacturing Award for third place in the project category.

Bob’s Red Mill implemented a pilot on a grain production line to reduce food waste.
Bob’s Red Mill implemented a pilot on a grain production line to reduce food waste.
Bob's Red Mill

The Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment (PCFWC) calls on food businesses and government entities to work collaboratively toward a goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030. Bob’s Red Mill was the first food manufacturer to join the voluntary agreement, setting to work to reduce food waste in its own operations.

Prior to the Food Waste Reduction Challenge, TripleWin conducted three facility walkthroughs (Gemba walks), which are a proven continuous improvement tool within manufacturing, to view firsthand where food waste was occurring.Prior to the Food Waste Reduction Challenge, TripleWin conducted three facility walkthroughs (Gemba walks), which are a proven continuous improvement tool within manufacturing, to view firsthand where food waste was occurring.Bob's Red MillWith help from PCFWC and TripleWin Advisory, Bob’s Red Mill developed a multi-faceted employee engagement campaign to reduce food waste in the company’s whole grain milling and packaging facility in Milwaukie, Ore. Hosting a Food Waste Reduction Challenge, the manufacturer asked its employees for ideas on how to reduce food waste—from milling to packaging, to innovation, receiving, and quality.

“We started by asking, ‘Where is food wasted today that could be saved or prevented?’ We were impressed with the engagement from our employee owners, who submitted 176 creative, innovative food waste reduction ideas,” explains Julia Person, sustainability manager for Bob’s Red Mill. “We tested one reduction idea and implemented a change to a whole grain packaging line.”

The result: a more than 70% reduction in wasted food per pound of food packaged, on a single production line.


   Read the full story on this year's winners of ProFood World's Sustainability Excellence in Manufacturing Awards.

Following three months of the education campaign—incentivizing idea submissions, sharing a food waste educational video, and bolstering employee buy-in around reducing food waste—Bob’s Red Mill chose one employee suggestion to run as a five-week pilot.

The winning project idea, submitted by production employee Jennifer Blasko, focused on reducing grain spillover on a line producing granola products as well as pulse/whole grain products such as green lentils, split peas, and pearl couscous. It called for a method to better regulate grain flow, and implementation of the plan reduced food waste by more than 70%.

Food waste was collected in a dedicated tote, enabling the company to measure the improvement.Food waste was collected in a dedicated tote, enabling the company to measure the improvement.Bob's Red MillTo conduct the pilot on the production line, a baseline was first measured. The maintenance team then made an adjustment to the line to reduce grain spillover from a conveyor belt by maintaining a metal screening tool that controls grain flow more regularly. The post-implementation measurement period ran for three weeks, to show the amount of food waste produced after the fix.

The post-implementation food waste audit showed an average 71% reduction in food waste per pound and 78% reduction per case for each product produced on the line. For granola products, it was 15 lb of product saved per pallet produced, and for pulse/whole grain products, the change saved 110 lb of product per pallet produced.

With a relatively simple change needed—requiring just a few hours of maintenance time, with a total cost of about $500—the ROI was almost immediate, Person says.

“The pilot shows how one simple employee idea can translate into impactful environmental savings,” Person says. “Food waste savings translate to avoided carbon emissions as food is able to make it into the hands of customers, rather than being wasted.”

The PCFWC supported the pilot, and a key outcome of the project was to share results with other manufacturers—through both a published case study and a presentation at the PCFWC Manufacturer Summit.

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