VAIL, COLO. – Sustainability will continue to be at the forefront of consumer concerns, but can also benefit producers, said a panel on sustainable sourcing adding value to the food supply chain at the 37th International Symposium on Sweeteners held August 1 in Vail.
Alissa Marturano, global director of sustainable sourcing for Mars Wrigley, said it was important from a brand perspective to have data to back up sustainability claims.
“Consumers care,” Ms. Marturano said, noting that around 85% of consumers globally have considered sustainability and ethics in their purchasing decisions.
“The consumer is the boss,” she said, adding that Mars had changed ingredient sourcing considerations to make sustainability just as important as quality and service. Expectations for sustainability and transparency are global and cross-category, she said. “It’s a consumer expectation.”
Panelists highlighted the benefits to producers of sustainable farming practices, including reducing fuel and fertilizer expenses, among other input costs, while maintaining or even increasing yields due to the positive impact on the environment. They noted that many farmers, including sugar beet and sugar cane growers, had been practicing sustainable agriculture for decades before sustainability even became a trend. Patrick Frischhertz, a farmer from Plaquemine, Louisiana, said sustainability in agriculture is a form of self-preservation.
Rebecca Larson, PhD, vice president of government affairs and chief scientist of Western Sugar Cooperative, said there are “many opportunities” for farmers related to sustainability, allowing them to reduce input costs without reducing the productivity. The effort can be led by farmers, she said.