PHOENIX — As snack and baked goods producers set their sights on more sustainable production, equipment and ingredient suppliers are determined to help.

Reading Bakery Systems (RBS), a category leader in the bakery and snack production equipment space, is one such supplier. Nico Roesler, North American pretzel and snack equipment sales manager for RBS, shared his company’s insights at SNX held March 27-29 in Phoenix, AZ, and detailed its initiatives on making snacking and baking better for the planet.


The company approaches sustainability through three pillars: planet, people and prosperity. The planet pillar focuses on the nitty gritty of emissions reductions, conservation of resources, waste reduction and energy efficiency within various facilities. The people pillar encompasses concepts such as safe and healthy working spaces, education and workforce diversity and empowerment. And finally, the prosperity pillar targets things such as sustainable and profitable growth, innovation, and lean manufacturing.

“We’re really focusing across these three pillars on things like reducing harmful emissions,” Roesler said. “We want to continue to innovate with intuitive controls that make the baking as simple as possible, and we want to help our customers improve product throughput while conserving resources and reducing waste.”

Their initiatives fall in line with the Paris Climate Accord, something that Roesler said RBS is striving to innovate in tandem with. Many governments and private companies are taking actionable steps towards meeting these outlined goals, and RBS is joining the charge.

“We’re seeing a big push coming from private companies in the food space and in science,” he said. “This is a global effort, and you have to look at how our energy is made.”


Much of the discussion around climate change prevention and reversal centers around how much and what kind of energy society consumes. Fossil fuels that create greenhouse gases have long been the dominant energy source, and now the world is seeing those harmful effects. RBS sees opportunities to play a part in making things better by using alternative energy sources such as hydrogen and electric.

“When we look at alternatives to replace these fossil fuels, hydrogen is a big one,” Roesler said. “We do think hydrogen could be used to replace natural gas or be used with natural gas. It does have a more rapid flame speed, so we think a blended version is best.”

Using what’s known as “green hydrogen” — hydrogen made from solar, nuclear or wind power — is the most ideal, but only about 5% of hydrogen in the world is considered green. All other forms of hydrogen come from sources like natural gasses, which takes away from the initial goal of reducing dependency on those types of energy sources. But, using sustainable hydrogen as a blend with natural gas can help reduce its environmental impact.

Electric heat can also be used to replace and supplement fossil fuels in both radiant and convection ovens, and the conversion of electric to heat is 1:1, making it an efficient alternative option.


“The infrastructure isn’t quite there to have purely green electric energy, but it is getting better,” Roesler said. “It has no greenhouse emissions, but you do have to consider things like cable size when it comes to being able to power big ovens and dryers. The cost is also substantially higher than natural gas right now, so we feel that initiatives like carbon credits will help those costs shift in the other direction.”

Some forward-thinking steps that RBS is discussing in addition to alternative energy sources are making lighter weight oven belts which use less heat, improving insulation to have less heat loss from the baking chambers and exhaust heat recovery systems to remove water vapor and return pre-heated air to the system for use. Using sensors and system monitoring software can also help bakeries keep a close eye on their process and adjust in real time.

“These are all things we are very close to, and we’re making great progress,” Roesler said. “We are also working with some [other programs] to do more research on alternative ways to heat and dry products. Anything is possible there, so it’s really promising, and we are really excited.”