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Aldomak: using renewable energy to beat running costs

Family-run confectioner Aldomak is actively embracing renewable energy due to cost-of-doing-business pressures. Managing Director Dario Riccomini explains how our support, and a shift to green technology, is helping to reduce his running costs by 30% per year. Read his story.

16 Mar 2022 | 7 minute read

Reducing energy costs

Aldomak was established in 1932 by Dario Riccomini’s relatives and it’s still a family affair. Over the past 90 years, the company’s made a name for itself in the confectionary industry as a maker and supplier of sweets such as macaroons and tablet.

The company is proud of its history and use of traditional cooking methods. Moving with the times, however, the team has recently introduced a wide range of future-proof energy and efficiency measures at its Glasgow site.

Harsh economic conditions and rising monthly business expenses have created the need to act quickly and decisively – Dario and his colleagues are rolling up their sleeves.

The most recent project? A new photovoltaic (PV) and battery system that will generate over 30% of the company’s power requirements, reducing electricity bills (which have risen to £10,000 per month) by a third.  

This project will enhance the resilience of the business, making utilities costs more affordable and safeguarding jobs, all while returning a profit. 

The renewable electricity generated (49,312 kilowatt hours per year) will reduce carbon emissions by approximately 30 tonnes over three years, using the latest UK Government carbon conversion factors.

Read the latest UK government carbon conversion factors (2022)opens in a new window

Dario Riccomini from Aldomak pouring a pot of tablet.

Adapting to rising running costs 

Here, Dario describes how these changes, and our expertise in helping businesses grow, are helping the team combat the trials of recent years.

“It’s not just energy prices that have increased, everything is up: packaging, raw materials, wages. The last few years have been a perfect storm – the weakness of the British pound, the energy crisis, interest rates rising, the lack of fertiliser (with its knock-on effect for all food producers). The squeeze on both manufacturers and consumers is very real and very painful.

“Responsible manufacturers are attempting to absorb as many costs as possible to mitigate rises for consumers. The food industry is always under intense pressure to keep prices low and maintain balance for consumers.

“A lot of our sustainability measures start with making the right choices – looking at raw materials, where they come from and from whom. We’re conscious of our suppliers’ environmental credentials, the frequency of deliveries to our site and how we use power. If we miss something, we investigate new trends and assess their credibility against existing operations.

Using green technology

“The largest draw of power, by far, is our hand-boiling process. As you might know from home cooking, it takes a long time to get mixes up to the high temperatures – now imagine the scale we’re using, and you can start quantifying costs.

“The solar PV system will dramatically reduce our need to source electricity from the grid. Once it’s installed and its performance is assessed, we’ll change the ways we operate to maximise our production during peaks of solar power generation. We want to minimise any electricity ‘leaking’ back to the grid to save money on the cost of doing business.

“Of course, we handmake a lot of our products. We think this puts us on a greener footing than some of our competitors, who mostly use machines to mass-produce products. Some things were better before people engineered the artisan out of them. At least we think so. 

"We’re conscious of our environmental impact and actively avoid higher energy consuming technologies (like cooling tunnels or blast chillers and freezers) and are against ultra-processing in our factory.

Dario Riccomini from Aldomak holding a tray of tablet.

“I’m pleased the tide is finally changing and we now know how to make a change. I hope this generation manages to correct the wrongs of previous eras while not making too many mistakes along the way.

“We believe that since there’s just one world, our burden on it should be minimal. It would be great to get to a place where all industry is in equilibrium with environmental needs. The biggest conundrum is whether consumers will accept higher prices for goods as this will be the price for true net zero results.

Accessing sustainability expertise 

“Our Scottish Enterprise account manager, Anne Macintyre, is a superb operator with a sharp mind, frank manner, and can-do attitude. Her expertise allows us to quickly develop or quash ideas on how we develop our goals.

“Sustainability is just one aspect of running Aldomak with which Anne and the team help us. Brexit and Covid were a perfect storm for us. Exporting has become unbelievably painful since Brexit, and international online sales are now almost impossible.

"The required documentation, the registration in various countries' proprietary systems, the additional fees that are sucked out of the country by agents, the currency challenges – you used to just raise an invoice and send the goods. Now, it’s hard to navigate without help from experts.

“Covid was also horrible in every sense. For months, food manufacturers were scrambling, trying to figure out how to operate and keep the nation fed, while keeping our staff safe and the virus out of the factory. We did it, but it was hard. Costly, too. 

“The upside was having to really look at the operation of the business, to see what was and wasn’t necessary. It made us test our disaster recovery plans and our resilience to challenges, such as continuing production if the whole team was off sick. Out of that came a renewed focus on efficiency, manufacturing and sustainability in our workforce, materials and energy.   

Read our business resilience guide 

Dario Riccomini from Aldomak cutting slabs of tablet.

Challenging the status quo  

“Through the ups and downs, we’ve had to be candid and challenge the status quo – we’ve never been averse to asking difficult questions of the Scottish Enterprise team.

“If you're struggling with the cost of doing business and energy supply, take a good look at the way you’re doing things.

"See if you can gain efficiencies anywhere. If not, cut costs, increase prices and drop customers that are unprofitable or unreasonable. Don’t work alone, speak to your network, share ideas and get feedback from likeminded people.

“We wish we’d made a lot of changes sooner, but it was always a question of funding rather than a lack of desire to improve. We often joke that we could win the lottery and still not reach our goal of being as efficient as possible. Efficiency in production will keep evolving, for sure.

Continuing a legacy of reinvention

“Aldomak has gone through many changes over the years – in the 1930s we started out making biscuits, then by the 60s it was ice cream condiments and from the 70s we specialised in confectionery, oats bars, and healthier choices.

Now, we’re heading off energy challenges and becoming more resilient and sustainable for it. Throughout its history, the company has been dynamic and unafraid of reinventing itself to meet new requirements.

“If they could see us now, I think the old Italian founders would first criticise us for no longer making their biscuits. But I think they would ultimately approve of how we’re continuing their legacy and growing with consciousness and compassion for the environment and the economy. And we’d agree, apart from the bit about the biscuits.”

Find out more about Aldomak on the company websiteopens in a new window

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