- Applegate Farms, a natural and organic meat company which is part of Hormel Foods, announced it is launching a line of pork sausages under The New Food Collective label. The company said the new line is sourcing pork from small farms that use regenerative agricultural practices designed to improve soil, water retention and biodiversity.
- The sausages are also made from pork certified by the American Grassfed Association (AGA). The standard requires hogs to have maximum access to the outdoors, allowing them to forage and roam in woods and pasture. It also requires farmers to develop a pasture-management plan to support biological diversity, natural resources and soil fertility, the company said.
- The line will offer sweet Italian pork sausage with fennel, sea salt and pepper; hot Italian pork sausage with fennel seeds, chili flakes and cayenne; ginger-scallion pork sausage; and breakfast sausage featuring salty, sweet and spicy notes. They will debut at select Whole Foods outlets in the Chicago area, the company said.
Applegate Farms is tapping into a number of popular trends with these new sausage products. Besides the intriguing flavor combinations and the grassfed certification, Applegate is hoping that emphasizing its contribution to more sustainable agricultural practices will bring in consumers. Today's shoppers care more about sustainable business practices, so Applegate's new launch could pay off.
"We’re making a big bet on regenerative agriculture as one of the paths to show the world that raising animals and eating meat doesn’t have to be problem. Animals can and do play a vital role in a healthy food system," John Ghingo, company president, said in a release.
Applegate said meat products sold under The New Food Collective brand will be from animals never given antibiotics and fed only supplemental non-GMO grain certified by the American Grassfed Association. The products will also contain no artificial ingredients, preservatives or added colors, meeting consumer demand for clean label ingredients.
These standards aren't new to Applegate, which markets its other meat products as meeting stringent animal-welfare practices not typical in the industry.
There is heavy competition in the regenerative agriculture market, so Applegate will likely need to distinguish these new products while delivering on taste and price. Other brands that use regenerative agriculture include White Oak Pastures, Epic Provisions, Organic Valley and General Mills' Annie's brand. While most of these aren't direct competitors for Applegate's sausages, it's likely that more will be coming soon.
Shifting to regenerative agriculture is an astute operational approach. Consumers increasingly tend to support companies and brands taking active positions on holistic and sustainable agriculture, animal welfare and clean labels. According to recent Nielsen data, nearly half of U.S. consumers may switch their purchasing decisions based on environmental standards. Consequently, Applegate is in a good position to market its new products as meeting more than usual sustainability requirements, along with the AGA certification, which the company said is a first for pork products.
Still, consumers need to value products made through regenerative agricultural processes or they will be less likely to pay more for them — rendering the business model less sustainable.