Cleaner greener production at Tayto Ireland

Posted: 29 July 2005 | John Donnelly, Technical Director, Tayto Limited | No comments yet

Tayto, Ireland’s leading snack food company, participated in a scheme led by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the impact of manufacturing companies on the environment. Tayto improved environmental performance and reduced manufacturing costs as a result of success with a number of projects.

Tayto, Ireland’s leading snack food company, participated in a scheme led by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the impact of manufacturing companies on the environment. Tayto improved environmental performance and reduced manufacturing costs as a result of success with a number of projects.

Tayto, Ireland’s leading snack food company, participated in a scheme led by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the impact of manufacturing companies on the environment. Tayto improved environmental performance and reduced manufacturing costs as a result of success with a number of projects.

The three projects were:

  1. Up-cycling of a by-product from the crisp process
  2. Reduction of corrugated board usage
  3. Recovery of waste sunflower oil

Tayto is the market leader for snack foods in the Republic of Ireland with a 42 per cent share – more than twice that of the nearest competitor.

The company was founded by Joe ‘Spud’ Murphy in 1954 at Moore Lane in Dublin, Ireland. Tayto developed the first Cheese and Onion flavoured crisps and the company has been famous for them ever since. Each year Tayto uses 20,000 tonnes of Irish potatoes to produce more than 125 million bags of crisps. The company has diversified into a wide range of other baked and fried snack products including Chipsticks, Mighty Munch, Onion Rings, Waffles and Popcorn. In 2004the company has had great success with the launch of the award winning Honest™ brand of healthier crisps and snacks.

Cleaner Greener Production (CGP)

The Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sponsored a grant aided program to improve the environmental awareness and performance of Irish manufacturers. Tayto were encouraged to partake in this scheme to reduce the environmental impact of their manufacturing. A pre-condition of the scheme was that projects must exclude ‘end of pipe’ treatments.

Tayto undertook three projects that had the potential to reduce material losses and manufacturing costs, as well as having a beneficial environmental impact. These were:

  • To achieve a profitable outcome for the disposal of potato starch – a by-product of the crisp production process – through up-cycling
  • To quantify the amount of cooking oil emitted from the cooker exhaust system and find ways to recover or re-use it in the overall production process
  • To reduce the amount of corrugated cardboard used to package bags of crisps

The secondary aim of the overall project was to increase employee awareness of the environmental impact of the company’s various operations and activities. This was achieved thorough communication of the three projects and the establishment of Waste Reduction and Power Usage Minimisation teams.


Reduced usage of corrugated board

Cardboard packaging is used as the exterior packaging for single bags of crisps and multi-packed bags.

The CGP project team identified that if it were possible to achieve a reduction in the amount of air contained in each crisp box this would, in turn, lead to a reduction in the amount of cardboard packaging utilised. As a result, the level of environmental impact created by the company’s operations would be reduced and savings would also be made on the various costs associated with cardboard production and transport.

With this principle in mind, the project team set about developing a design for a new improved case. A particular feature of this case is that its manufacture would require 9.3 per cent less board than conventional cases. The design alteration necessitated the filling of the box with one layer of product containing 60 packs for optimum use of the space. Conventional cases are packed in seven layers of product, each containing eight packs. The theory is that the fewer the layers, the more dense the final pack would be with less cardboard requirement.

In order to carry through the requisite changes into actual packing methods, an existing automatic case-packing machine was substantially modified. A series of tests were then carried out on the machine to assess its performance. However, following extensive trials and equipment revisions, the modified equipment did not achieve adequate efficiency levels. The best performance could only achieve a failure rate of one in five cases. The difficulty arose in the accurate presentation of the bag into the case packing machine. The age of both the primary bagging machines and the case packers themselves did not lend themselves to the precision of more modern machines.

The project team decided instead to investigate the possibility of using robotic equipment to fill the 60-pack case. This proved highly successful for implementation of the ideal case. However, substantial capital investment in primary bag making machines and case packing was required. Following a manufacturing strategy revision, Tayto will move to packing with this new equipment in the latter part of 2005 and subsequently to the new case.

As an interim move an alternative box in a natural colour (Kraft) was selected because white cardboard has a greater negative impact on the environment (due to the extensive use of chemicals used in its manufacture). This also reduced cost by almost one per cent. Case fill was increased from a standard 56 units to 60 units. Moreover, the project team identified that there was potential to increase case fill to 64 units, which would create a 5.7 per cent reduction in board usage per case of crisps manufactured. The Tayto sales team has undertaken promotions offering 64 packs per case to determine whether this is a good option for the consumer.

Two further corrugated reduction methods are being finalised by Tayto as an addendum to the project:

  • The light-weighting of corrugated board by 20%
  • The use of gusseting to remove air from multi-packs – the aim being reducing case size or increasing case fill

Both schemes have high potential for success in 2006.

Oil recovery

Tayto crisps are cooked in pure sunflower oil. During the cooking process, moisture from the potato slices evaporates through the oil and is extracted through the cooker flue. Theoretical oil usage due to the uptake of sunflower oil into the crisps is less than the actual usage as asignificant amount of oil is lost during processing. Prior to Tayto’s involvement in this CGP project, it was believed that the variance was mainly lost in airborne oil emissions escaping through the flue.

Also prior to its involvement in this CGP project, Tayto’s process for dealing with the airborne emission of oil was through a combination of burning in a boiler and by passing it through a sodium hydroxide scrubber with collection for subsequent waste disposal. The CGP project team initially proposed changing this established practice by condensing the oil in the flue and returning it to the fryer to be re-used.

However, when a mass balance of all sunflower oil utilised was carried out (by measuring use in the process and losses from the process against purchases), the oil loss figures were tabulated and emissions to air did not explain all the losses. Subsequent investigation showed that losses to water during cooker cleaning were actually responsible for the majority of the variance in oil use.

At the same time that the mass balance was being completed a thorough analysis and evaluation of the condensed oil showed it to be high in Free Fatty Acids. This would promote accelerated oil rancidity which is not conducive to the original plan to re-use the condensed oil.

Thus, a change to the original plan was initiated. A proposal to collect all oil waste, which was in a mixture with water, from the scrubbers and cooker cleaning washings was approved. This involved the design and installation of a piped collection system to include oil: water separation. The resulting oil was now available for sale rather than dumping. An animal feed formulation company was identified as a suitable customer. Following trials supply commenced of all recovered oil.

Waste oil is no longer disposed of, either in foul sewers or landfill. Moreover, the company is now able to achieve a price of €144 per tonne for recovered oil plus a reduction in the cost of disposal.

By-product up-cycling

As part of the preparation of potato slices for frying, they are first washed in cold water to remove starch. This starch is then recovered from the water, using a centrifuge and, prior to the CGP project, is sold to an animal feed formulation company.

In recent years, the market value of starch has sharply declined due to lack of competition for end-use of the starch. The process of recovering the starch has become loss making and of increasingly marginal benefit versus dumping to land-fill.

The aim of this phase of the CGP work was to fully cost the starch recovery operation and to increase the price obtained by Tayto for starch sales. Use of the starch as a food ingredient was proposed as potato starch generated from whole potatoes is a costly ingredient for many food companies.

An analysis of the total cost of this operation showed that there was a loss of €12.20 for every tonne of starch produced. The CGPP project team set out to identify a number of potential end-users. Large food ingredient manufacturers were identified as the most suitable end-users. Meetings were held with a number of these companies to determine their level of interest and their requirements. A food ingredient partner was identified to work with throughout the project and they were very interested in the potential for reduced material costs.

Following trials, difficulties arose due to the microbiological instability of the starch and the presence of minute specks of potato peel. Trials on refrigeration proved successful in reducing the microbiological load of the starch and trials with colour sorting equipment reduced the number of brown pieces. However, the cost of refrigeration and investing in colour sorting proved excessive for the potential customer.

Tayto identified a feed formulation company as an interim alternative customer. Through agreed cost-effective methods of recycling packaging and transporting the starch, the cost of producing the starch was reduced. Therefore, though the selling price for the product was also reduced there was a positive net benefit (see table 2).

Tayto is continuing work to find an alternative use for the potato starch either as a food ingredient, or for chemical/pharmaceutical uses.

In summary, the following lessons were learnt from Tayto’s participation in the CGP projects:

  • Projects which yielded environmental benefits also reduced business costs
  • As a result of this, environmental projects have moved up the business priority list for future projects
  • Thorough evaluation of each of the processes, with full costing and mass balancing, was essential in making the right decisions
  • Flexibility with the initial plans enabled beneficial changes to be implemented
  • The grant aid available from the EPA helped focus decision makers’ minds on environmental issues and supported the necessary investment


Tayto have identified an ‘ideal’ case that would reduce board usage and protect the product. In addition, they have identified the equipment required to automatically pack this box. Following a revision of manufacturing strategy Tayto will move to using this new equipment in late 2005 with a change to the ideal case in 2006. In the interim savings are being made from a temporary solution. Continuation of the project has also identified two further areas of improvement in board usage with high potential benefits.

On a separate scheme, cooking oil previously being dumped as waste is now recovered for sale at €144 per tonne.

Following in depth analysis of the starch recovery process savings have been instituted. Cost improvements in the order of €14,653 per annum are now being achieved through recycling packaging materials and improved commercial terms.

In addition, increased environmental publicity leading to higher awareness among employees has been very beneficial in reducing the waste of materials and energy.

donnelly table 1

donnelly table 2