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CPG companies focus on sustainable food

3 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

(Photo: Janet Forgrieve)

Somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 people flooded the streets of Manhattan on Sunday for the People’s Climate March, the biggest and most diverse group ever to come together to push for action on climate change and, not surprisingly, many of the marchers were focused on issues surrounding sustainable food.

The event brought out activists with a wide variety of core causes, from anti-fracking and renewable energy interests to labor unions to animal welfare groups to student organizations to religious groups, all of them raising their signs and their voices for a common goal. Vegan groups and organic proponents were among the throngs, making the connections between climate and sustainable food.

It’s a message that consumer packaged food brands including Mars, General Mills and Nestle are increasingly taking to heart.  The consumers staples industry sector has doubled its investments in activities aimed at reducing carbon emissions since 2012, according to a 2013 climate change report from the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Candy maker Mars pledged four years ago to transition its factories to 100% renewable energy by 2040, a pledge it renewed Monday, joined by 11 other companies that made vows to phase out fossil fuels in their operations. Additionally, some two dozen companies joined Nestle, Kellogg’s, Hershey’s and General Mills, which have already made pledges to help stop global deforestation by committing not to buy palm oil, soy and beef from areas where forests have been illegally destroyed, USA Today reported.

Food companies have been working on making their operations more energy efficient, and in recent years they’ve started exploring new ways to cut carbon emissions throughout their supply chains, according to a recent report from the Grocery Manufacturers Association. The paper highlights sustainability success stories among consumer packaged goods companies, including General Mills which last year committed to sustainably source the 10 major raw ingredients that go into its products by 2020.

Earlier this month, General Mills said it would pay $820 million to acquire Berkeley, Calif.-based organic and natural food brand Annie’s, adding it to an already significant brand portfolio that includes Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen and LÄRABAR. It’s become much more common in recent years for big conventional CPG companies to snap up popular players in the natural and organic space, according to Euromonitor International.

The GMA report also highlighted companies that have made progress in cutting packaging waste, including Hershey which is more than halfway to its goal of cutting 25 million pounds of packaging from its products between 2009 and 2016. Additionally, the report points out that, as of April 2013, CPG companies were diverting 94.6% of their food waste from landfills to other uses including animal feed, land application and composting.

Just as Sunday’s marchers came together in a common cause, rival food companies are finding ways to work together to promote more sustainable supply chains.

Mars and Nestle have both made strides in sustainability, and they’re among the growing number of the world’s rival chocolate companies that are coming together to help the West African farmers who supply three-quarters of the world’s cocoa find ways to sustainably boost production, as The Guardian reported last week.

“The demand for cocoa is soaring, with some estimates that global demand for cocoa will outweigh supply by one million tons by 2020. Sustainability is also of growing interest to consumers,” Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate’s Taco Terheijden told the paper.


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