Cereals and grains such as wheat, corn and rice are used in many of our foods and beverages, such as our breakfast cereals and frozen pizza. Cereals is a new addition to our key raw materials list and we are still identifying the challenges. Even so, we have already started addressing factors like soil management that will bring wide benefits to farmers.
37.3% of our total cereal purchased in 2017 was responsibly sourced
41.4% of our total cereal purchased in 2017 was traceable to its source
Sourcing cereals and grains responsibly
We source cereals and grains from many countries around the world. Our aim is to ensure that they are sourced from suppliers where the operations, as well as the farms that supply them, comply with local laws and regulations, as well as with the Nestlé Responsible Sourcing Guideline (RSG).
Supply chain challenges and solutions
As cereals and grains were added to our list of priority ingredients last year, we are still in the process of undertaking our initial assessments to get a better understanding of the challenges on the ground.
The largest challenge we have encountered so far is getting visibility of the supply chain. Many suppliers are traders and sometimes only buy from other traders. This means they may have no visibility of their supply chain. Other challenges identified include environmental, social and economic aspects, such as soil erosion, water quality degradation, loss of biodiversity and an ageing farming population, with a lack of interest from younger generations to go into farming. We are taking the same approach as with other raw materials, but also investigating alternative options such as continual improvement programmes.
Supporting sustainable agriculture in France
Our French breakfast cereals factories use whole wheat, all of which is sourced locally.
With whole wheat as the number one ingredient in a large majority of our product portfolio, Nestlé Cereals France engaged in the Préférence programme in 2015. The programme’s objectives are to support more sustainable wheat production, starting with traceability back to the farm, and put the farmer back at the heart of the production.
To achieve these objectives, Nestlé France has developed the Préférence Charter, in collaboration with internal and external agriculture experts as well as our suppliers. Farmers who are willing to engage in the continuous improvement of their field practices can join the programme, and the implementation of recommended practices is evaluated regularly, both internally and externally. The Charter includes 60 recommended practices, such as ground plant cover, conservation tillage and increased number of crops on the farm, as well as agroforestry.
For the first year of the programme (2016 harvest), Nestlé France Cereals worked with 14 farmers. For the 2017 harvest, 30 farmers took part. In partnership with our suppliers, the objective is to involve new farmers, in order to increase the supply of wheat from Préférence farms to our breakfast cereals factories in France. By 2020, the programme aims to cover 50% of the whole wheat requirements for the production of Nestlé breakfast cereals sold in France.
Find out more details on our website
Nestlé Purina supporting ecosystem improvements
In the USA, Nestlé Purina has expanded its support of an ecosystem improvement project related to its agricultural supply chain – specifically, a The Nature Conservancy (TNC) project in the Wabash River watershed in Indiana, where a percentage of its corn is sourced. Farmers strive to minimise nutrient loss from their fields by implementing best management practices such as installing buffer strips along waterways to prevent run-off and practising conservation tillage to keep topsoil and nutrients on the farm. Even so, some nutrients and sediments are still lost into the waterways and rivers, where they can cause problems downstream – like the the oxygen-depleted Dead Zone where the Mississippi River reaches the Gulf of Mexico. As seasonal flow varies, the Wabash River Basin provides 1% of the water volume that the Mississippi River supplies to the Gulf, but a disproportionate 11% of the nutrients.
The project originally installed wetlands and woodlands at key junctures of the Wabash to slow the water flow and allow the sediment and nutrients to settle, allowing cleaner water to flow downstream. Nestlé Purina will continue to support this project for another five years and provide catalysing seed funding to install a ‘super gauge’ at the confluence of the Wabash and Ohio Rivers to track and measure system-wide quality trends. The Nature Conservancy, a non-profit conservation organisation, leads the project and area farmers contribute farmland, while Nestlé Purina provides the funding and helps to gain more attention for the effort to attract additional partners. The project will reduce soil sediment, phosphorus and nitrogen from the river each year to improve water quality. It will also have an impact on carbon sequestration in the new woodlands, biodiversity in the wetlands, and other ecosystem services.
Find out more by watching the TNC video
Protecting vital habitat
Nestlé’s Purina PetCare Company is sponsoring the USA Rice/Ducks Unlimited Rice Stewardship Partnership. Through a USD 2 million commitment over four years, Nestlé Purina’s contribution will help keep rice fields in a healthy condition, preserve wetlands and create habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.
This commitment is part of Purina’s long-term sustainability strategy to add value to the agricultural supply chain and ensure food for people and high-quality ingredients for pets are available well into the future.
In addition to rice being a critical dietary staple upon which billions depend, working rice fields are also a vital habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. Winter-flooded rice fields provide an average of 35% of the food available to dabbling ducks, like mallards, pintails and teal, in key wintering areas like the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Alluvial Valley and California’s Central Valley.
NestléPurina’s contribution will help fund strategies to protect working rice fields, including conservation planning, irrigation efficiencies, nutrient management and education of decision-makers on water, agriculture, and wildlife and fisheries connections. The project will also help to improve air quality, conserve energy and support the rice producer’s bottom line. Great strides have been made to date, with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program providing a solid foundation.
Purina’s contribution will also support the next generation of rice farmers. Currently, fewer than 10% of rice farm operators are under the age of 35.
With cereals being a new addition (in 2016) to our core raw materials, the process of assessing our cereal and grain suppliers is in its early stages. In 2017, we mainly continued to map our supply chains.