OMAHA — ConAgra Foods’ internal awards program that drives and rewards imaginative approaches to sustainability again hit the mark, delivering more than $70 million in savings over the past year — the largest single-year savings the company has experienced since the Sustainable Development Awards program was launched in 1992.

The Award of Excellence went to ConAgra Foods’ snack facility in Waterloo, Iowa. The facility previously landfilled packaged pudding produced during flavor changeovers, but a new initiative identified a market for a blended pudding stock-keeping unit. As a result, the project eliminated more than 1,000 tons of packaged food waste, ConAgra said.

ConAgra Foods’ Lamb Weston Meijer potato facility in Bergen op Zoom, The Netherlands, was recognized for sustainable business innovation thanks to a new technology to fundamentally change how potatoes are preheated in preparation for cutting. According to ConAgra, the new technology reduced water use by 18.5 million gallons, increased frozen recovery by 1%, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 900 tonnes.

In total, the 82 entries in the program eliminated waste by 58,700 tons; optimized and improved packaging, while using 15 million lbs less material; conserved more than 97 million gallons of water; and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 11,500 tonnes.

“It's exciting because ConAgra Foods’ program continues to evolve year over year,” said Gail Tavill, vice-president of packaging and sustainable productivity at ConAgra Foods. “We’re driving engagement across all levels of employees at multiple locations, while challenging teams to collaborate in new ways. One example is our focus on reducing the amount of waste generated across our operations. Getting the most out of natural resources while continuing to look for new ways to operate more sustainably is a team effort that can have a positive impact on the environment and our bottom line.”