Environmental sustainability issues in the food-energy-water nexus: breakfast cereals and snacks

Harish Jeswani, Richard Burkinshaw, Adisa Azapagic

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Understanding environmental impacts of complete food supply chains is important for the food industry to help devise strategies for reducing the impacts of current and future products. Breakfast cereals are one of the most important foods consumed in many countries, but their environmental impacts are currently unknown. Therefore, this study explores the environmental sustainability issues in the food–energy–water nexus by considering breakfast cereals manufactured by one of the world’s largest producers, Kellogg Europe. A life cycle assessment has been carried out for these purposes with the aim of helping the Company to integrate environmental sustainability considerations into the design of their products and packaging. The results indicate that the average global warming potential (GWP) of Kellogg’s breakfast cereals is 2.64 kg CO22 eq. per kg of product. The main GWP hotspots are the ingredients (48%) and energy used in the manufacturing process (23%); packaging and transport contribute 15% each. Rice is the single largest contributor to the GWP of the ingredients (38%). The manufacturing stage is the main contributor of primary energy demand (34%), while the ingredients are responsible for more than 90% of the water footprint. The ingredients are also the main contributors to most other environmental impacts, including land use (97%), depletion of elements (61%), eutrophication (71%), human toxicity (54%) and photochemical smog (50%). The impacts from packaging are high for freshwater and marine toxicity. The contribution of transport is significant for depletion of elements and fossil resources (23%), acidification (32%), ozone depletion (28%) and photochemical smog (24%). Improvement opportunities explored in the paper include better agricultural practices, recipe modifications, improved energy efficiency of manufacturing processes and use of alternative packaging. Impacts from consumption are also discussed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)17-28
    Number of pages11
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


    • Breakfast cereals; Global warming potential; Water footprint; Energy consumption; Life cycle assessment; Food–energy–water nexus


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