How a Yorkshire food company is pioneering green initiatives

Simon Howarth Total Foodservice Solutions managing director

Simon Howarth Total Foodservice Solutions managing director - Credit: Archant

Few of us think about how our food is delivered around the country but it is something of a green science, as David Marsh reports

High flying Total Foodservice Solutions managing director Simon Howarth

High flying Total Foodservice Solutions managing director Simon Howarth - Credit: Archant

In the race to introduce innovative business practices that are both environmentally-friendly and cost-effective, one Yorkshire-based family firm is showing many of its rivals a green pair of heels.

In recent years Total Foodservice Solutions, which has depots in Huddersfield and across the Pennines in Clitheroe, has ensured that a whole host of recycling and energy-saving initiatives are at the heart of its business. The measures range from the simple reuse of cardboard boxes through to the introduction of expensive and advanced technology.

The company supplies frozen, chilled and ambient foods to restaurants, cafes, delis, schools, colleges, hospitals and leisure centres across the country and its commitment to green policies can be seen in the aero-dynamic shape of its newest delivery vehicles which boast ‘slip-stream body design’. The modern design, coupled with energy-efficient engines and automatic gear boxes, helps to cut fuel consumption by 20 per cent.

Vehicle tracking technology is used to make sure the most fuel-efficient routes are used when making deliveries, while all the company’s drivers are trained to Safe and Fuel Efficient Driving (SAFED) guidelines, which were developed at Huddersfield University.

Rainwater is also collected from the roofs of the firm’s warehouses and is used to flush toilets and wash delivery vehicles. Simon Howarth, Total Foodservice Solutions managing director, said: ‘The system at Clitheroe has a 40,000 litre tank and cost £30,000 to put in but we think the investment is worth it. We are using a natural resource responsibly.’

A similarly large sum was spent installing solar panels at the firm’s Huddersfield premises and the payback period on the investment is seven years. The company takes the view that the promise of sustainable power and the environmental benefit makes the investment commercially viable. Simon said: ‘We try to be aware of the technologies that are available and then implement them if we can afford to and there is a genuine payback.’

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In 1995 the company pioneered the use of electronic expansion valves at its huge warehouse refrigeration units. The valves ensure the units operate in the most energy efficient way.

Energy-efficient LED lighting has been fitted in offices, warehouses and cold stores, while auto sensors turn off the lights when rooms are left empty. LED lights produce less heat which means the refrigeration units don’t have to work as hard, so saving energy.

Company car users are encouraged to opt for eco-efficient cars and the majority now have Toyota Hybrid vehicles. Simon himself has gone to the next level and has the company’s first electronic vehicle.

Customers and visitors to Total Foodservice Solutions who have EV cars are offered the use of recharging facilities while they are on site.

To encourage its customers to go green, the firm stocks a range of environmentally-friendly cleaning and washroom products.

The company can trace its roots back to 1881 when George Henry Howarth started his fruit and potato merchant business. It developed into a chain of green grocery shops and in the 1970s, a freezer centre and produce warehouse was opened.

Following a merger in 2002 with Lawson Ltd of Clitheroe, the firm began trading under the name of Total Foodservice Solutions. Simon said: ‘The environmental policies we pursue are good for the future of the business. They bring us important savings and are good for the environment so it really is a win-win.’