How product diversification influences Life Cycle Analysis

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The Chair has collaborated in a new paper published in STOTEN by the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Cantabria

The paper, titled When product diversification influences life cycle impact assessment: A case study of canned anchovy, approaches how product diversification in the Cantabrian anchovy production incfluences its LCA.


Food production is one of the major contributors to environmental impacts due to its high consumption of both energy and natural resources. For example, anchovy production (one of the most important industries in Cantabria) generates a large amount of effluents (mainly water and oils), fish residues and packaging wastes. In addition, the Cantabrian canning industry is now facing new challenges related to market globalization which entail worldwide competitiveness and demand. This has resulted in the development of new marketing strategies and product diversification. 

A wide variety of new products have been developed combining the main variables of the manufacturing process:


  • Fish origin: in addition to Cantabrian anchovies, canning plants were forced to import fresh and salted anchovies from other countries (in this case Chile, Peru or Argentina) due to the depleted stock level in the Cantabria Sea.
  • Type of oil: depending on the consumers' preferences, the anchovies may be preserved in sunflower oil, olive oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • Packaging: the primary packaging is available in aluminum cans, tinplate or glass jars.

Materials are the same for all of them (anchovies, salt, brine, oil and the packaging), but the combination of aforementioned main variablesgenerates new products with different environmental impacts.



Marketing strategies of the Cantabrian anchovy industry focus on achieving a good position in more sustainable markets. This requires the measurement of their environmental performance using Product Category Rules (PCRs) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). These labels usually apply to a range of similar products. This way similar products from the same company can be included in the same EPD if the differences between the mandatory impact indicators are lower than 10%. This requires determining the environmental impacts under a life cycle approach of each variable and its influence on the life cycle of canned anchovies.

Moreover, the authors also consider fuel consumption and the transport of the anchovies from Peru and Argentina. This way, the entire life cycle, from cradle to grave, of the anchovy is considered.

There have been no previous LCA studies on European anchovies other than the ones published by the authors, Laso et al., 2016a and Laso et al., 2016b, where LCA was applied in the environmental performance of the production and canning of anchovies.


This work shows that there are several differences between the environmental impacts of the different canned anchovy products. Conclusions for each studied variable are:

Fish origin: The manufacture of Argentinian, Chilean and Peruvian anchovy generate approximately 10% more fish residues and present higher Global Warming Potential than Cantabrian anchovy due to the emission of greenhouse gases from the use of fuel for transportation.

Type of oil: The use of sunflower oil consumed more energy than olive oil and extra virgin olive oil and presented the highest value in all environmental categories due to the relatively low yield per hectare and the use of pesticides and herbicides.

Packaging: It represents the highest environmental impact in the canned anchovy life cycle, although recycling of packaging materials decreases this impact. The use of aluminum presented the greatest impact in almost all categories. Plastic could improve the environmental profile of canned anchovy. However, it could result in the non-acceptance of the product by consumers because they may be considered as lower quality products.

This paper can be downloaded directly from the Science of the Total Environment website.
                                                               Link to full paper







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