Ron Cotterman will be speaking on 'taking action to tackle food waste challenges' as part of Foodpro's educational program on 17 July.
The vice president of sustainability for Sealed Air spoke to Food & Drink Business about his journey so far.
1. Can you tell us about your career so far in food processing and manufacturing?
I have devoted over 20 years to developing new technology for the food processing industry, with a primary focus on how to bring together food science, materials chemistry and processing technology to extend the freshness of food.
This has led to innovations in packaging materials that retain freshness, improve safety and provide consumer convenience.
Additionally, the industry’s focus on sustainability has enabled new insights into how food can be efficiently distributed post-harvest to maximise benefit to society while minimising waste and environmental impact.
By partnering with other companies across the food value chain, we have been able to demonstrate how technology can enable new solutions that meet performance, cost and sustainability requirements.
2. What does your average day look like?
On a given day, my role is to engage and advance projects that bring long-term sustainability benefit.
For example, we are working to develop and implement systems within our manufacturing operations to track performance and share best practices across our 100+ facilities.
For new products, we are working to balance the need to minimize packaging while maximising the protection of the food as it moves from processing to consumption.
We have also developed key insights into food security and resource conservation for the food supply chain, with a key focus on preventing food waste and the associated resources necessary to produce and distribute food.
3. What are you most excited about sharing at foodpro?
At Sealed Air, we have just completed a two-year study of consumer perceptions and behaviours related to packaging and food waste.
This study is one of the most comprehensive of its kind, and spans 11 countries and four continents.
From the results of this study, we are able to offer fresh insights into how to educate consumers on reducing waste while addressing their needs for safe, nutritious, fresh food.
4. In your opinion, what's the most exciting technology or change happening in the industry?
Because of the international focus on sustainable development goals, and the need to address food waste in particular, a number of leading food companies are coming together to collaborate and innovate.
For example, the introduction of new packaging formats that enable both the supply chain and consumers to extend food freshness, as well as portioning food to meet consumption needs, is having a dramatic impact on retaining the value of food.
One of these formats is the use of vacuum packages that replace store overwrap or lidded trays for fresh meat. We are seeing a doubling of the time that the food is fresh and a dramatic decrease in the amount of food that goes to waste before it can be consumed.
5. What role do you think Foodpro plays in the industry?
Foodpro plays a pivotal role in the food supply chain by convening key stakeholders with a shared desire to advance how to protect and expand food value.
This forum allows processors, converters and retailers to discuss best management practices for the industry, identify innovative approaches to packaging food, and create programs to introduce new products to consumers. It truly is a valuable means to advancing the sustainability of the food industry.
6. What’s the one point or idea you want every visitor to your seminar to take home?
The amount of food that is wasted has profound environmental impacts.
By understanding the causes of food waste, members of the food supply chain can work together to introduce new ways of combating food waste through consumer education and technology innovation.
You can find the full list of Foodpro seminars here.