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Tomato Sauces
Supply Chain Environmental Management


When you next grab a bottle of tomato sauce from the fridge consider that only half of the tomatoes grown for it actually made it into the bottle! The tomato is processed into paste, formulated, bottled, warehoused and distributed to retailers and over this path losses in product, energy and packaging made it worth a second look by HEINZ makers of BIG RED (tm) tomato sauces.

With the help of the supply chain from growers to retailers many opportunities for waste and energy savings were discovered and savings totaling about $60,000 per annum were identified without spending any money on new technology. Moving from glass to PET bottles can save 90% of the packaging weight as well as improve breakage levels and energy costs. Consumers beware, because the major proportion of energy used in the life cycle of tomato sauce is in your refrigerator!


The production of tomato ketchup (or sauce) is a messy business. From the farm to the bottle on the household table it has to go through a variety of treatments and much red is spilt along the way. While, tomato ketchup comes in a variety of brand names, the focus of this program has been the tomato ketchup sold under the brand HEINZ BIG RED (tm) in Australian supermarkets.

Tomato sauces are made by Heinz-Watties at their tomato paste manufacturing plant Girgarre, north-central Victoria. Tomato growers from the vicinity supply the Girgarre plant with tomatoes in season where they are cleaned, cooked and made into paste and packed into 1,000 litre bladders stored in wooden boxes. The paste can be stored for years in this condition. The ketchup is formulated in 1600 litre batches and PET, glass bottles and other supply packaging for the sauces are supplied to the Girgarre site from Visy and ACI Plastics.

The bottled ketchup is warehoused initially at Girgarre and the transported to Heinz - Watties Dandenong warehouse before being distributed to retail networks such as Safeway supermarkets.

Supply Chain Environmental Program:

In 2001, The Commonwealth Department of Environment and Heritage engaged Dr John Cumming, of Infotech Research, to undertake a supply chain partnership program to develop environmental management systems (EMS) for supply chains in the food industry. As part of the project, Dr Cumming enlisted the support of select organisations involved in the production and retailing of Tomato Ketchup. These organisations included:

Working together, the supply chain quickly uncovered a number of striking issues related to the environmental performance of a bottle of tomato ketchup across the whole supply chain. Of particular interest to the supply chain team were the opportunities to reduce the amount of raw material and packaging waste produced and to minimise high water and energy use across the chain.

Environmental Issues:

For the supply chain team, the key environmental issues were:

  1. The high loss of tomatoes at the growers and early stage processing. Across the supply chain as a whole, the loss of product represents a total loss of 56.6% of tomatoes grown.
  2. The high volume of water needed to produce the tomato sauce (11.5 litres of water per litre of product)
  3. The high level of packaging wastes through the life cycle of tomato sauces (0.57 kg per litre of sauce - if only glass bottles are used this increases to 0.91 kg per litre of sauce - if PET bottles only are used this reduces to 0.24 kg per litre of sauce)
  4. Up to 90% of the entire energy consumption associated with the tomato sauce over its life cycle can be attributed to consumer fuel use and refrigeration.

Significant amounts of tomato waste are produced at the growing and early processing stages (Figure 1.) Of the tomatoes grown by local growers for tomato paste 49% is lost as unharvested fruit or in such a poor condition and poor colour (green) that it fails to meet the quality criteria for the paste. As these tomatoes are specially grown for paste production there are no other markets available to the growers.

Tomato based waste continues to be produced along the supply chain although losses are not as great as that for the growers. At the paste production stage, almost 10% of the total tomato paste produced is discarded due to failure to meet quality standards. These ongoing losses are costly to Heinz - Watties as well as presenting a difficult disposal problem as the paste requires a method of biological treatment before being sent to landfill.

Tomato based waste losses of 2% continue at each stage of the supply chain subsequent to paste manufacture. While these may not be considered excessive, the cost to the organisations concerned can be significant.

Figure 1. Tomato losses through the life cycle of tomato sauce

Figure 1. Tomato losses through the life cycle of tomato sauce


For every 1600 litre batch of sauce formulated, 18, 406 litres of water are used. This equates to 11.5 litres of water used for every 1 litre bottle of ketchup produced (Figure 2.)

Fig2. Water used per 1600 Litre batch of tomato sauce

Fig2. Water used per 1600 Litre batch of tomato sauce

Most of the water consumed is in growing, paste manufacture and bottling. The small amount of water used by consumers is in cleaning containers prior to kerbside recycling.

Although growers are responsible for using most of the water in the supply chain, they have already affected very large water savings by using improved drip tap irrigation techniques over spray and flood irrigation practices previously used. These improvements have trimmed water consumption by growers to approximately one third of previous levels. This was achieved by work of the irrigation companies in conjunction with growers.

Heinz is also cooperating with local farmers to utilise waste water treated to a suitable quality for irrigation purposes. Heinz is also investigating opportunities to reuse treated waste water back in the factory to reduce overall water intake.


Tomato sauce packaging represents a smaller, but still higher volume and cost waste along the supply chain. (Figure 3.). The tomato ketchup is bottled in glass (50%) and PET plastic (50%) bottles in a range of sizes. The bottles are then packed in cardboard cartons on pallets and wrapped in shrink wrap before being transported from the processing plant to the warehouse. Most of the packaging waste is produced at the formulation, retail and consumption stages of the supply chain.

Fig 3. Types and volumes of packaging wastes through the life cycle.

Fig 3. Types and volumes of packaging wastes through the life cycle.

Growers contribution to the total packaging waste produced is relatively minor and is primarily in the form of polypropylene drip tape and agricultural chemical containers. Growers face particular problems in disposing of these containers with as these require special treatment and cannot be directly tipped to land fill.

Approximately 50% of all packaging wastes are recycled. At the warehousing and retail stages of the supply chain recycling is high, particularly with cardboard wastes.

Although significant amounts of bottling wastes occur at the formulation stage, the recycling of such wastes at the processing plant is low. Bottling waste generally occur at the formulation stage when the recently bottled ketchup fails to meet Heinz-Watties quality criteria, often due to product spoilage. The poor quality ketchup cannot be sent to compost because of the packaging and although the PET or glass bottles are not damaged, a cleaning procedure is required before PET or glass can be recycled. Rather than cleaning the bottles and extracting the ketchup for composting, the bottled waste product is generally sent to land fill.

Bottled waste does occur through damage to the bottles although losses varied between glass and PET bottled ketchup. Losses in storage and transfer of glass bottled ketchup were approximately double of the PET bottled product. Retailers prefer the PET plastic bottle because they do not break causing problems with safe disposal of broken containers.

Most of the glass and PET plastic bottled waste occurs at the consumption stage and opportunities for recycling of this waste is depended on the provision of recycling systems and infrastructure by local government authorities.


Energy usage is high in processing the tomatoes, compared to energy used in growing, transporting and warehousing. However energy consumption but can be up to ten times higher over the full life cycle if the tomato sauce is refrigerated during consumption.

Each litre of tomato sauce took 3.5 Mjoule of energy to be placed on the retail shelves which corresponds to an equivalent greenhouse gas emission of 0.57 kg.

Fig 5. Carbon Dioxide Equivalent emissions for tomato sauce production per 1600 Litre sauce batch

Fig 5. Carbon Dioxide Equivalent emissions for tomato sauce production per 1600 Litre sauce batch

While the major energy source is natural gas, it is the electrical energy used in processing that has the majority share of the greenhouse impact as shown in the chart above.

If consumers were to heed the manufacturers advice to refrigerate their bottle of tomato ketchup then their contribution to, then their contribution to energy usage and greenhouse emission of the supply chain would be far more than the entire production process.

Most household refrigerator takes on average 500 kWHr of electrical energy per year with an average bottle of sauce kept in the refrigerator for 2 months. Analysis by John Cumming of Infotech indicated that consumer refrigeration energy is approximately 14 MJoule per litre of tomato sauce consumed with a greenhouse equivalent of 5.4 kg of CO2 per litre.

Cleaner Production Initiatives:

Following an assessment of the major environmental impacts, the supply chain members have developed a series of targets and plans for waste reduction. These involve cooperation between the members to tackle sources of waste.


Tomato wastes Packaging wastes Other Initiatives

Advantages of the Process:

With the implementation of these initiatives, total saving across the supply chain are expected to be of $60,000 p.a. plus. These targets will be achieved without any need of new equipment, or technology. It is simply a matter of communication between the supply chain partners and organization of improvement activities.

The cost benefit relates to the cost of organization of the supply chain, the EMS and participants time balanced against the cost savings relating to improved efficiencies through the supply chain. With the supply chain project costing about $60,000 in the first year, a simple payback (Return on Investment) is in the order of one year.

It should be noted that if tomato sauces are produced to ensure consumers that refrigeration is not necessary the cost savings in terms of the whole life cycle are at least two orders of magnitude greater than that mentioned above.


The driving force for the supply chain EMS development was in this case external with support from Environment Australia. Heinz and large corporate partners were also motivated through their involvement in the National Packaging Covenant. Heinz saw the program as complementing their efforts in developing an EMS at their processing plant.

This supply chain program enabled Heinz - Watties to expand its improvement activities beyond the factory gates and to involve the growers and partner organizations in developing more efficient and less wasteful processes along the whole supply chain.


The barriers against the development of such initiatives are considerable. The most critical factor in the supply chain program was "partnerships based on trust" between each of the members. This contrasts against the competitive way business is currently conducted and the negotiation of the "best price" for goods and services provided across the supply chain. Therefore it is important to get strong coupling between the members in the members in the supply chain and establish a cooperative culture.

The issue of distribution of cost savings between the members who participate in the improvements is difficult to determine as improved efficiencies leads to less product/raw material being purchased. In some ways inefficiencies of supply chains are fostered by the businesses concerned as it increases their sales volumes.

The actual working of the EMS committee, resources devoted to the program and its communication elements required significant driving by the coordinator. Other supply chains are driven by the large organizations at the consumption end of the supply chain. This is not very satisfactory as these organizations tend to use the supply chain to serve their own ambitions rather than for the good of the whole supply chain and the environment.

End Notes:

Despite the barriers to supply chain cooperation on environmental management, this will continue to progress as the corporate community recognizes its collective responsibility for the environmental outcomes of its products. The concern is that this will be dominated by the large corporates who will squeeze smaller companies, creating a business stratification into the drivers and the driven.

he essential elements of the program and common data for supply chain is available to all at


Heinz- Watties Australasia Ltd
Lester Gilmore
National Compliance Manager
Tel: (03) 58 570 506

Infotech Research Pty Ltd
John Cumming
Tel: (03) 986 77 446
Date of implementation: May 2001
Date of further initiatives: Ongoing.
Case study prepared: August 2002 by 
Date last modified: August 2002.