Kellogg talks rice and wheat sourcing in Europe: ‘Farmers must be supported in the transition to more sustainable practices’

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

Kellogg is working with rice growers in Spain to encourage more sustainable farming practices. GettyImages/Nedrofly
Kellogg is working with rice growers in Spain to encourage more sustainable farming practices. GettyImages/Nedrofly

Related tags: Kellogg, Sustainability, Ingredients

Kellogg Company is collaborating with farmers in Spain, Italy, and the UK to encourage a transition towards more regenerative agricultural systems, says Dave Fitzgerald, Head of Responsible Sourcing at Kellogg Europe.

Consumers are expecting more from sustainable diets. According to a 2020 Eurobarometer study, 74% of European citizens expect sustainable diets to be healthy, 50% expect them to support the local economy, and 40% expect them to be produced in a way that minimises waste.

The same study also revealed which actors citizens expect to play a role in making our food system more sustainable. Findings indicated that 65% pointed to producers and farmers, 58% said food manufacturers, and in third position, 47% signalled they expect national governments to play a role.

Cereal and snacks business Kellogg Company believes it is ‘uniquely placed’ to connect consumers, farmers, and other stakeholders to develop sustainable food systems, according to Dave Fitzgerald, who heads up Responsible Sourcing at Kellogg Europe, “including more regenerative conventional systems and organic agriculture”.

What does ‘responsibly sourced’ mean?

The Coco Pops-to-Rice Krispies maker sources many of its key ingredients – including rice, wheat, and potatoes – from European farmers.

As consumers become increasingly interested in where their ingredients come from, as well as how ingredient sourcing can help local farmers, Kellogg has developed a strategy for sustainable agriculture and food that feeds into these insights and trends.

Kellogg addresses sustainable sourcing via its Kellogg’s Better Days platform, explained Fitzgerald at a recent European Food Forum (EFF) event. “Our goal is to promote more sustainable modes of production and consumption through mainly plant-based diets [that meet] the expectations of consumers, farmers, and other stakeholders.”

farmer Fotoeventis
Increasingly, consumers want to know where food ingredients come from. GettyImages/Fotoeventis

So what does responsibly sourced mean? For Kellogg, it means working with suppliers and growers to ensure the ingredients it buys are produced responsibly and sustainably, and that it can demonstrate this to consumers and stakeholders.

This could be through certification, such as organic certification, or through third-party standards, such as the SAI Platform’s Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA).

The company also invests in sustainable agricultural projects around the world. In Europe, Kellogg is currently focusing its projects on Spain, Italy, and the UK.

Kellogg’s Origins programme

Under Kellogg’s Better Days platform, the company has committed to supporting one million famers and workers to boost yields, improve livelihoods, and enhance the environment – including addressing climate change and biodiversity loss – by 2030.

The majority of its work in this area comes under Kellogg’s Origins programme. As it stands, the company is actively working on more than 40 projects around the world that focus on economic, environmental, and social outcomes.

“In Europe, we have longstanding projects with growers and supporting organisations,” ​Fitzgerald told delegates.

“We firmly believe farmers must be supported in the transition to more sustainable agricultural practices. We use a collaborative model, where we mutually agree the issues and opportunities most relevant for our farmers and for Kellogg’s.”

The Origins programme offers farmers support to trial new techniques and technologies, both on research plots and on-farm. It also offers training and knowledge transfer, which Fitzgerald said helps to build confidence and reduce financial risk for farmers.

“This innovative approach encourages farmer engagement and participation,” ​he explained. “We ask for their challenges, and we help them to find solutions.”

The responsible sourcing chief continued: “We believe these [partnerships] are mutually beneficial, since they help our farmers to adopt more sustainable farming techniques and improve yields, while helping Kellogg achieve its Better Days goals and address consumer expectations.”

Projects in Italy, Spain, and the UK

In Italy, Kellogg has been managing a multi-stakeholder partnership to identify opportunities where rice farmers can implement new, more sustainable agricultural methods to improve production. Since 2015, the programme has trained more than 60 farmers, and Kellogg say it is ‘tracking continuous improvement’ on crop yields and reductions in environmental impact.

In the UK, Kellogg has been working with wheat farmers since 2014. Specifically, the company has partnered with farmers in Northampton, England, where wheat is grown for Kellogg’s Special K cereals. Here, the company says it has identified ways to improve soil health, boost yields, and reduce the environmental impact of the farms.

wheat UK DannyRM
Kellogg has been working with wheat farmers in the UK since 2014. GettyImages/DannyRUM

“Over time, farmers have seen a 20% increase in worm presence, indicating biological activity and good soil health. Cover crops have also decreased nitrogen leeching by 40%.”

Kellogg is also working on two projects in Spain. In Valencia, the breakfast and snacks company observed that productivity for rice growers can be lower than in other rice producing regions in the country. This is partly due to the salinity of the soil, plant disease, and invasive pests.

Therefore, since 2013, Kellogg has been helping farmers improve their soil health and protect their crops through natural agronomic practices, like the use of bat houses to encourage bat pollination.

Regenerative practices in Delta del Ebro

A second project in Spain is similarly working with rice growers, who produce rice that can be used in Kellogg’s Choco Krispies. However, this project is centred in southern Catalonia’s Delta del Ebro. The project supports up to 50 farmers per year, including ‘a number of women farmers’, Fitzgerald explained.

This particular project focuses on supporting regenerative practices that enhance soil health and fertility. “Over the last seven years, the average yield of farmers participating in the Origins project was 50% higher than the regional average, which is linked to increased profitability,” ​he enthused.

Kellogg has also supported the use of soil testing and the implementation of sensors to optimise fertiliser use.

In 2020, the company supported the trialling of cover crops in rice fields to establish the ‘best options’ for rice growers in this particular region, Fitzgerald told delegates. “We’ve also tested a number of habitats to support birds and bats, for example, and planted field margins to encourage beneficial insects. This is part of an integrated pest management project to encourage natural pest predators, and ultimately, reduce chemical pesticide use.”

And since 2013, Kellogg has demonstrated greenhouse gas reductions of up to 45%, the sustainable sourcing lead continued, by using innovative water management techniques.

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