Food ingredient suppliers that don’t have concrete examples of carbon disclosure projects won’t get through the door of major food and drink manufacturers in three to five years’ time.
That’s the view of malt producer Muntons’ manufacturing and sustainability director Dr Nigel Davies, who says major brewers and cereal manufacturers will no longer be fobbed off with vague sustainability commitments.
“Ten years ago you could get away with saying you’ve got a green agenda and no-one would ask about it. Now they want to know whether it is verified, externally looked at, what projects you have taken on and what benefits they brought,” he said.
While manufacturers “like to be able to tell the story” of working with suppliers who have carbon reduction measures in place, Davies said they are also starting to ask more specific questions about the carbon and environmental impact of individual ingredients.
‘Won’t get through the door’
“They are becoming more stringent and want to see precise carbon reduction policies. Without them, ingredient suppliers won’t get through the door in three to five years’ time.”
With that in mind his firm has developed the theme of practical ‘sustainability’ to demonstrate how making small changes to recipes can reduce a product’s carbon footprint while also saving cash.
“If you say something is a 75% saving in terms of carbon, that doesn’t mean much to people. It doesn’t mean much to me either,” he said.
He said he had “looked at the big hits” – in Muntons’ case farming methods and the use of fertiliser – and got to the situation where its sourcing contracts ensured all of its malt was procured from low-carbon sources.
Each individual ingredient
“From our point of view, we can now tell a manufacturer the exact carbon impact of each individual ingredient we supply.
“Now this might give us a commercial advantage, but I’m happy to be open about this and I’ve always said I’ll tell anyone how we get to that figure.”
Davies devised a nine-step model for calculating carbon reduction in order to help “manufacturers tell a low-carbon story and have examples of the practical things we have done”.
He said he hoped his stance would go some way to “demystifying" the sustainability agenda, which he believes can too often be needlessly complex and woolly in part, because it is a highly political issue.
“I was at an event recently where one of the speakers said sustainability shouldn’t be dumbed down. I completely disagree with that. If you don’t dumb it down people can’t engage. I prefer to try and demystify it and talk about it in way people understand.”