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Anyone can contribute to the sustainability movement, and the food industry is taking a leadership role. Retailers in particular are implementing energy-saving programs, using better building materials and even working to make their distribution systems more efficient.

Retailers seem to be enjoying the biggest boost from their green efforts, primarily because they’re more exposed to consumers. It makes sense that a store with skylights and solar panels is going to get more notice than, say… a beer distributor making deliveries in vehicles powered by compressed natural gas.

Huh?

We didn’t know it either, but there is such a operator! Manhattan Beer Distributors announced this week that 10% of its fleet of 300 delivery trucks is now completely retrofitted to operate on compressed natural gas, otherwise known as CNG.

“Combined emissions reduction from Manhattan Beer's 30 CNG delivery trucks is estimated, over 10 years of operation, to lower vehicle pollution in New York by 227 tons, eliminate the need for 700 oil changes, displace an estimated 601,423 gallons of diesel fuel and decreased engine noise by 90%," said Mike McCarthy, the distributor’s senior vice president of operations.

Actually, Manhattan Beer was at it long before green living became chic. The company received its first round of emissions funding in 2002, when 15 trucks were retrofitted, and a CNG refueling station was built in the South Bronx. The non-gasoline trucks enjoy the same performance and fuel economy as their diesel counterparts, according to McCarthy.

Of course, the financial incentive was a big factor in switching over, too. Manhattan Brewing received grants from the state of New York totaling more than $1 million. But the follow-though still required a dedication to the cause. The trucks needed to be taken out of service while they were retrofitted, and facilities had to be planned, bid out and built. It’s not just about taking the money.

And look what happens: Peak Organic, a Maine-based brewer of craft beers, played up the CNG angle this week in announcing their new distribution agreement covering the New York metro area with Manhattan Beer.

See the benefits here? This is a marketer's dream! An organic products company becomes affiliated with an environmentally progressive distributor, who brings a high-margin item to retailers, with a consumer message that resonates. We’ll drink to that.

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