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Providing Food In An Environmentally & Resource-Saving Manner

Tue, 10/04/2011 - 4:00am
Friedbert Klefenz, President of Bosch Packaging Technology Division

Original Speech From the Save Food Congress, May 17, 2011

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak to you at this congress. When the organizers approached us some months ago, weKlefenz enthusiastically accepted the invitation. This may surprise those who do not know our industry all that well. At first glance, there is little to link a supplier of packaging machines to the global food crisis. But I would like to build bridges for you.

Often people overlook the fact that the diversity of available food products requires adequate packaging technology. Without it, many foodstuffs would perish much more quickly and could not be stored and shipped over long distances. Without packaging, most everyday food like dairy products, vegetables and fruit would not be available in the quantities and quality we are accustomed to. In regions of high humidity, even a simple ingredient like salt needs adequate packaging to remain usable.

As a leading supplier of packaging machines, Bosch Packaging Technology has a very close and natural relationship with food. We are also part of the Bosch Group, which provides us with even more reasons to support the "Save Food" idea. Our company, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, has always embraced values like social responsibility, international understanding and, not least, fairness. These values go back to Robert Bosch, our company founder, and are still very much alive in the company's day-to-day business.

Robert Bosch always saw himself as a "socially aware businessman." At the start of the last century, fellow entrepreneurs referred to him as "Red Bosch" when he introduced an 8-hour working day and paid above average wages to his workers. His response was, "I do not pay decent wages because I am a rich man -- I am a rich man because I pay decent wages."

Robert Bosch's commitment is also reflected in the way our company is structured today; 92% of the share capital is held by Robert Bosch Stiftung, a charitable foundation, which receives part of the profits and uses them to fund social projects.

Robert Bosch stipulated that his company's products should be "beneficial for the people." The words we use today are "Invented for Life." For Bosch, this is much more than just an advertising slogan -- it is our guiding principle, providing us with direction in our day-to-day work.

We are convinced that to improve life on our planet, we need more technology, not less. This is why our company philosophy is centered on fundamental questions like: "How will the next generation of products contribute to using fewer resources and protecting the environment?"

As an example of how we answer such questions, Bosch's thermotechnology unit has developed the "Energy-plus House." It is a building which generates more energy than it uses. Furthermore, for several years, Bosch has also been engaged in wind power and photovoltaics and has contributed to the development and expansion of renewable energies. In the past year alone, our company has achieved a turnover of 1.5 billion euros in this field.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Bosch Packaging Technology has remained true to the values of its founder. We are convinced that more packaging technology will not only improve nutritional standards for many millions of people, but will also make food production more affordable. At the same time, improved packaging technology can conserve many resources and protect the environment.

A contradiction? No. Let me give you an example.

To this day, in emerging countries like India, more than three-quarters of harvested goods are lost on their way from the field to the consumer because the products are not adequately packaged to protect them from climatic conditions or pests. This means that transportation and storage is impossible without causing damage to the products.

If ways could be found to eliminate such losses, the lives of millions of people would improve considerably. These losses are also a terrible waste of resources. The production of one kilogram of corn requires 450 liters of water. The figures for soya and rice are 2,300 liters and 3,000 liters respectively. And, for one kilogram of beef no less than 4,500 liters of water are needed in total.

Today, agriculture accounts for more than two-thirds of global fresh water consumption. This demand is set to rise by 30 percent over the next 20 years. And, by 2050, it is expected to double. However, it seems very inefficient to use such quantities of water when, in poorer regions, not even a quarter of the harvest reaches the consumer. This is a state of affairs that becomes even worse when one considers that, in many regions, water is already a very precious resource.

There is a clear need for action.

For this reason, over three years ago, Bosch Packaging Technology began to take some measures against this waste of food and resources. In India, we used truck-mounted packaging machines, which had been specially adapted to local conditions, in order to demonstrate the benefits of packaged food to farmers, as well as to the authorities.

The farmers soon realized that it made sense to package their harvest. Each year, an additional 100 machines come into operation. Their use could be even more widespread if there was a more appropriate distribution network for the transport of goods over longer distances. A widespread distribution of packaging machines is the goal in order to prevent on-site perishing of goods. Additionally, it is important to build distribution networks.

Our experience in India shows that, if we want to bring about a sustainable improvement of the situation in these countries, we all have to act together -- from UN organizations to regional governments, agricultural, packaging and food industries as well as local traders. Only if we succeed in creating such a chain will we be able to put an end to this massive loss of food. This is why we believe that the "Save Food" initiative is an important and appropriate step.

A thriving agricultural sector is the key to positive economic development, especially in the poorer regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America where above average population increases are expected in the coming years. This is confirmed by a World Development Reports study conducted in 2008. It concludes that, in these countries, a mere one percent increase in the gross national product will result in a six percent rise in the income of the poorest sector of the population. However, the impact of one percent growth in the industrial or service sectors would not even reach that part of the population.

We have to bear in mind that our own use of available resources is also often careless and, in part, even wasteful. We have a habit of buying much more than we can actually consume. The remainder is simply thrown away. In industrialized countries, this food waste amounts to around 300 kilograms per capita. To put this figure in perspective, German citizens consume just under 90 kilograms of meat and 190 kilograms of fruit and vegetables every year. Portion packaging can help here, but will only be successful if consumers adjust their buying habits to their actual needs.

Energy expenditure for industrial food processing is also often still too high. At Bosch Packaging Technology, we want to make a contribution to reducing food production costs, as well as the amount of waste, and we can achieve this through energy efficiency and using less packaging material.

One example is aseptic food packaging. Using this technology means that there is no longer a need to heat goods to high temperatures inside the packaging. In turn, much less packaging material is needed and energy use for food packaging is reduced by up to 70 percent compared to traditional systems. In addition, this gentle way of processing preserves a significantly higher amount of nutrients.

Importantly, food packaged in this way does not require a cold chain which normally would have to be maintained, at high energy cost, on the way from processing to transportation and the retail outlet. This type of packaging also benefits consumers who do not have access to refrigeration or a supermarket with cooling shelves.

A further solution developed by Bosch is ultrasonic sealing technology which uses less energy for the sealing of packages. Unlike heat sealing, the "cold" ultrasonic sealing method does not require pre-heated sealing jaws. Manufacturers are also free to use thinner and therefore much cheaper film material. Moreover, ultrasonic sealing produces narrower sealing joints, requiring less packaging material and thereby reducing manufacturing costs as well as waste. This is another contribution by Bosch to the "Save Food" campaign.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The "Save Food" initiative reminds us that we must persevere with our efforts to combat world hunger. In many areas, there is enough food but it does not reach the consumer. Especially in countries like ours, the initiative should also serve as a warning that we must not be wasteful with food and resources at the expense of the rest of the world. We do have all the necessary means and therefore also have a responsibility to search for improved solutions. It has to be our goal to ensure that food, in sufficient quantities, safely reaches as many people as possible. In addition, we must continue our efforts to reduce the harmful impact of discarded packaging on the environment.

Our intention is to take a step towards this goal every day, and all 4,500 men and women employed by Bosch Packaging Technology want to play their part. I sincerely hope that, at the time of the next Interpack, we will have delivered concrete results.

With "Save Food" we have made a start. Let’s continue on this path together.

Thank you very much.

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