Ep. 187: Braden Cadenelli – Bringing sustainable practices to the food industry

Adam Larson speaks with Braden Cadenelli about the challenges of bringing sustainable practices to the food industry. As a professional baker and pastry chef, Braden runs six state-of-the-art test kitchens for Puratos, which develops innovative ingredients and solutions for bakers, pattissiers and chocolatiers around the world. To meet the company’s aggressive sustainability goals, Braden works closely with the finance team to invest in solutions that deliver value to customers while eliminating waste to landfills.

I'm Adam Larson and
welcome to Count Me In,

the podcast that explores the world of
business from the management accountants

perspective. Coming up,

I speak with Braden Cadenelli about the
realities of implementing sustainability

practices in the food industry.

Braden is a professional baker in pastry
chef who runs six state-of-the-art test

kitchens for Puratos,

a company which makes ingredients
and products for bakers patissies,

and chocolatiers around the world.

This podcast helped me understand how
sustainability practices must be baked

into the financial planning and budgeting
process at companies in order to drive

long term value.

And Braden is finding that management
accountants are excited to work with him

on his sustainability issues,
especially when he brings the treats.

Let's listen in now.

Braden, thank you so much for
coming on the podcast today.

We really appreciate you coming on
and sharing your expertise with us.

And as we jump in to get started we know
that many businesses are dealing with

the reality that adopting sustainable
business practices is really what's needed

to be successful in the future and
also is what's needed for our planet.

Can you share a bit about your story,

about how you came to see that this is
a need and how you started the process

with your company?

Of course, Adam, thank you so much having
me on today. I really appreciate it.

And I'm excited to get to share and
talk about a subject that I'm very

passionate about,

and that is sustainability
and specifically
sustainability within the food

industry. There's really for our
specific company where I work.

We're Puratos, we're a
bakery ingredient company.

There's really two specific
factors that have led us to our

sustainability initiatives.

The first one is that we are a
family-owned company and the second

generation of those families is starting
to move into leadership roles within

the company.

And sustainability is a very
important topic to younger people.

Not to say it wasn't on the radar
of the generations before not to say

it wasn't important.

It's even more important to the
leaders who are coming up now,

not only through our company,
but in other companies as well.

The second is consumer demand.

We work in the food industry.

There's a large demand over
the past 10 to 15 years to

clean up food.

And a lot of people say they want to
have food labels where they can pronounce

everything on that label.

If you're going to put that focus on
cleaning up your food label and caring so

much about the food you are
creating as a food manufacturer,

you have to care about
how you're creating it.

You have to care about
every step of the system

that gets you to that
final finished product.

And what that means is nowadays you
have to have a sustainable system

if for no other reason so that you
can continue to be a successful

business in the marketplace.

I can see how that would
be super important,

especially if you're
listening to your customers.

Has it been difficult

to start that path as
especially with, you know,

you're listening to your customers,

but you also have to worry
about your bottom line.

So there's so many different
things that you have to weigh.

What has that process been
like? Especially, you know,

obviously this is a podcast
for accountants, you know,

what's this been look like as
you're looking at your bottom line,

working with your finance team, trying
to see what is the best way to do this?

Well specifically in my role. So to
fill the listeners in a little bit,

I manage a network of test kitchens
within the United States and we have six

test kitchens.

That means I also have a little bit of
a reach into some of our other practical

physical facilities.

When I work directly with our
finance team in this aspect,

it's all about long term planning.

It is all about targeting the solutions
that are going to work for our kitchens,

and then making sure that we have the
financial capital to be able to implement

those solutions. So it's really,

I have monthly meetings
with the finance team,

making sure that I am telling them what
it is that I'm going to be looking into

purchasing why I need to
make these purchases and
building out a proper budget.

A lot of my job around sustainability
is actually around budgeting

and making sure that I'm doing the
research and I'm talking to the right

industry people and finding the right
solutions and then finding ways to plan

for them.

That's great.

So you have a really good relationship
with your finance team then,

because obviously if you didn't,

you wouldn't be able to
work on this project at all.

Exactly. No, I'm very lucky. I mean,

sometimes I have to bribe them with a
cake or a cookie or a brownie if I really,

you know, annoy them,

if I forget to submit a report on time
or if I forget to put a project through

in power steering the right way.
Generally speaking though. Yeah.

We have a great relationship.
It's really, for me,

very interesting to get,

to see that side of the business
and get to play a role in

planning out these long term projects
and what the finances for those mean.

So as you've become a
partner with that team,

are there other teams that you've had to
kind of become a bridge with to kind of

make this project a success?


That's a great question because you
cannot accomplish anything in any kind of

business. It doesn't matter
food industry or not.

You cannot accomplish anything without
learning how to partner with and work

with other departments and other
people. I heard a great saying once,

and it was said to catch people's
attention and it was all business

is personal. And a lot of people,

especially if you grew up watching
eighties movies, you go, well,

what about all those movies where they
just said, oh, it's nothing personal.

It's just business.

All business though is personal because
you're conducting business with other

people. So what I've had
to do is I've had to,

A.) Get buy in from my own department,

because when we're talking
about sustainability,

we're talking about changing people's
daily activities because we are changing

or removing resources that
they are used to having.

So I need to find solutions
that they'll buy into.

And so that they see the
long term vision of this.

I then have to sell the finance team
on why we need to budget for this.

For example,

let's say we need to remove
one use disposable item,

but we need the CapEx to purchase
a reusable item in its place,

reusable that involves a
capital expenditure, right.

Something that I'm gonna use once and
throw away. That's more OPEX. I control.

I'm lucky I control OPEX
for my department. I only
have a small say in CapEx,


The other people that I really have to
have buy in from is our engineering team.

They're the ones who are
out there helping me,

scour the industry and look for solutions.

And then helping me
implement the solutions.

Because if we're talking again
from a financial perspective,

it's not only the
solution. If I'm replacing,

let's say a piece of technology,

let's say a piece of bakery equipment
that is very heavy in a certain type of

utility usage.

I need the tradespeople to
take out the old machine.

They need to install the new machine.

There's an entire part of that
process that isn't necessarily

seen by everybody,

but I need to worry about it and I
need to get buy in and make sure that

everybody is well aware. The finance
folks know the full scope of the project.

The engineers understand the
budget they have to work in.

And my team and the research and
development department know the vision and

understand why this is the
direction that we have to go in.

So that's quite an undertaking. And I
think you've kind of described, you know,

what it looks like to make
a kitchen sustainable,

to what a test kitchen sustainable.

Are there other things that you've had
to like kind of work through? Like,

are there some examples of
what it looks like, you know,

as you've gone through that change
management process with the team members

saying, okay,

you can no longer use this one single-use
project you have to use now use this,

but then that, oh wait. But Braden,
this is adding this to my, you know,

to my task. What do I do now? You know?

So how can maybe give
some examples on that?

Of course. Yeah. So in
the bakery industry,

and this is one that is really applicable
to every aspect of the industry,

whether you are the corner baker
or whether you are creating

a consumer packaged good,

that goes out on a retail shelf at
let's say a grocery store. And that is,

I just used the word package, packaging.

Everybody uses some kind of packaging
and that packaging has a purpose, right?

It has a function, A.), look nice,
of course we want it to look nice.

It also has a protective function or
practical function of allowing you to pick

up an item and move it with
you. And a specific example,

everybody in the industry,

they low and they love their little
gold boards that they put their little

pastries or their cakes on. They
love 'em they're everywhere.

Go into a bakery and guess
see gold boards everywhere.

I came in one day and I said, well,
everybody, we're going zero landfill.

Guess where these gold boards go? The
landfill, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.

We have a winner. They go in the
landfill, guess what? We're gonna do,

everybody we're gonna not use gold boards.

Once we find a solution that
works, ding, ding, ding, ding. Yes,

we have a winner.

So that was a very concrete example
where we very quickly had to

identify a solution that
was not sustainable,

that was accepted throughout
the entire industry,

and then work to find a solution
that would meet our needs,

still meet our customer
expectations while being able to

be a sustainable solution
that in the long run.

And if we wanna talk from a financial
standpoint, actually save us money.

And that we hit on it earlier is something
that we have found from going through

this process is that if we manage it well,

we can actually have cost savings

in the kitchens being more
sustainable. In this specific example,

we went to mainly reusable boards

and we found a local
vendor who could make them.

And then when they need to be disposed
of which is really once they break,

because they're washable, they're
reusable. Once they break,

they can still be put through
an up cycling process.

Now, when we're going and bringing
something externally to our building,

we found solutions through
compostable materials.

And that's another key factor.

Sometimes you actually have to find
multiple solutions to replace the same

conventional product in a
sustainable environment,

in a kitchen environment, really
until the industry catches up.

And that's actually an area
where we struggle sometimes
is that certain aspects,

certain areas of the industry
are behind are sometimes

kind of aggressive goals.

So what do you do in that case?

If the industry you find
that the industry's behind,

do you wait until they catch up or
do you just say, Hey, we're ahead.

And we hope that they recognize
that we're the leaders.

There's a few different paths we can take.

We will try to find a
creative solution to the


which generally means we
simply stop using a certain


And we may even stop that process
entirely and look for a new process

that will, at the end of
the day, get us, you know,

the same result or at
least get us to our goal.

That's one way we can do it. Another way,

if we find that we are a little
bit ahead of the industry,

is that we can go and
we can try to challenge

certain players in the industry and
say, look, here's the need we've seen.

And this works because where I work again,

we're a larger company and we can
say, look, we've identified this need.

Can you help us get to where we
need to be? That's a second way.

A third way is really
about managing output.

And whenever we talk about a kitchen
system, basically, as in most systems,

you have input, you have output.

We want to have either less
input because that's sustainable.

Just buy less stuff. I had a person in
a meeting, raise their hand and say,

well, why don't we just try to buy less
stuff? And I went, you win the meeting,

everybody, there's your
directive buy less stuff, right?

But we have to manage those inputs
and we have to manage those outputs.

So if we find that there
isn't necessarily a new input

that is sustainable,

we will work with consultants
who are experts in sustainable


And we will try to find a way to get
that material through our system.

And then out in a way
that is better than it

was before, which right now
I said the word earlier,

a lot of times it means upcycling.
And that's an entire other issue.

How people feel about that and
that practice. And there's many,

many different areas of that practice.

We have found though that when
we find the right local partners

and we find companies that are
doing it in a responsible way

because of the volume that we can create,

that can be a positive
net impact for us in

a way of mainly the goal there
is to have less items go into the


So I'm sure that the things
that you've been talking about,

our friends in the manufacturing industry,

people who work in factories or run
factories can really relate to some of the

stuff you've been talking about.

Have you seen the same
effect that they've been,

we've been hearing from them about some
of the supply chain issues and those

types of things. I know that food
items may not be on that list,

but the things to make
the food items with,

I'm sure you've been running
into that same issue.

Yes. Oh, food items. Every,
every item is on that list.

And that's actually been for
us in at least the kitchen

area of the food industry
in some ways positive.

It goes back to what I was saying
earlier about replacing disposables with

reusables, especially about
a year and a half ago,

there was a huge spike in
the price of disposable

metal pans.

And there was a price increase
because the supply dropped.

So getting the pans became much
more difficult. The prices shot up.

We made the decision at that
point to stop buying them.

That's it, we're done.

We're going to budget in the
money to replace them with

reusable, washable pans,
just the way it was done, 50,

60 years ago.

And I can tell you from going in and
out of a lot of large scale factories,

they have been, they've never
stopped using reusable pans.

They have lines where the
items are deposited in the pan.

It goes through it's baked.
Then they have a CIP system,

which means clean in place.

Everything runs through
this dish washing system.

It's just one continuous line.

And then it goes back and it just
gets baked again. So it's, again,

if you have the right kind of water
reclamation in that point in water

recycling, it actually can
be a very sustainable system.

That's, that's great to hear.

So we've kind of covered the
gamut right now and if we look at,

as we kind of wrap up the conversation
as if you can like look in a crystal

ball, what do you think the industry's
gonna look like as we go five,

10 years out and the
sustainability kind of continues?

Do you think it's gonna be the,

the thing that everybody's
doing or is it just a fad?

Cause sometimes these better practices
for the environment don't really last so

what do you think it's gonna happen?

I truly 100% feel that it is not a fad,

that this is how we will
operate in the future.

And it will only become a more
important way that we operate

and that all of the
manufacturers of consumables

are going to shift to a
more sustainable model.

We've already seen it in packaging,

in making packaging either 100%
recyclable through your standard

recycling networks or
making it compostable.

There are concerns there, which
is why it is sometimes slow going,

cuz you have to remember
food is compostable.

So if now your packaging
is also compostable,

this can become an issue in
terms of the shelf life of your

entire system. Especially if
that system is in any way,

shape or form brought
into contact with water,

it can kick the process off, which can
be an issue at the end of the day though,

this is the future.

The food industry realizes
that everyone that I talk to,

all the customers that I work with,

they realize that and
they are taking steps in

that direction.

I would be floored if this

ended up just being in five or 10 years
of fad, because I go to the trade shows.

I see what companies are working on.

I see some of this behind the scenes
work and what's coming down the pipeline

and it's only going to become
more top of mind and more

important because there really
is that connection between not

only better food for you,
but a better food industry,

you truly at the end of the day are not
going to have one without the other.

And if consumers are demanding
one, then the other has to follow.

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Creators and Guests

Adam Larson
Adam Larson
Producer and co-host of the Count Me In podcast
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