Evaluating the environmental sustainability of cakes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Cakes are a favourite food across the globe and yet little is known about their environmental sustainability. To address this research gap, this paper evaluates the life cycle environmental impacts associated with the production and consumption of industrially-produced cakes. The following main product categories are considered: whole cakes, cake slices, pies, cupcakes and cheesecake. The results reveal that whole cakes have the lowest impacts for 13 out of 18 categories considered. Cheesecake is environmentally the least sustainable option, with all impacts but terrestrial ecotoxicity higher than any other cake type. Raw materials are the major contributors to the majority of impact categories (22%–98%), followed by packaging and manufacturing. Wheat flour, sugar, palm oil and milk-based ingredients are the main hotspots in the life cycle. A range of improvement opportunities is considered across the supply chain. For example, decreasing sugar content in cakes by 30% would lower the impacts by up to 3%–11% while reducing the amount of packaging and energy used in manufacturing would lower the impacts cumulatively by 9%–23%. Minimising waste would decrease water ecotoxicity by 6%–28%. Based on annual consumption in the UK, the cakes sector contributes 2% to the energy consumption and 1% to the GHG emissions of the whole food sector. The results of this work can assist the industry and government in benchmarking the sector and minimising its environmental impacts. The findings will also be of interest to consumers in identifying environmentally more sustainable cake alternatives.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalSustainable Production and Consumption
Early online date16 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Related information