- Last month, Annie’s announced it was partnering with Montana farmers to produce limited-edition Organic Mac & Cheese and Organic Bunny Grahams made with certified organic ingredients using regenerative farming practices, according to a press release. The products will be available while supplies last.
- Regenerative agriculture is a holistic farming system that aims to build healthy soil, increase biodiversity and empower farming communities, the release said. It also offers a solution for reducing greenhouse gases becauseit pulls carbon from the air and stores it in the soil.
- Shauna Sadowski, senior sustainability manager at Annie’s, told Food Navigator that the company is working to advance regenerative practices by supporting the conversion of thousands of acres of conventional farmland used for its products to certified organic.
Environmental stewardship has been part of Annie’s DNA since its beginning in 1989, but the company is taking its organic footprint one step further with regenerative agriculture. The initial limited-edition offerings are meant to serve as a catalyst for a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship between the company and local farmers. With the backing of corporate parent General Mills, there is no reason to doubt that objective.
This effort is the latest in a long line of big food companies’ sustainability initiatives, from Tyson and Cargill to Nestle and PepsiCo. What used to come across as forward thinking has since become a necessity as the industry sprints to find new methods of food production amid a growing population and increasingly scarce resources.
Annie’s move has an even broader appeal as it aims to help individual farmers through direct investments. The company on the whole should benefit as well as it looks to scale regeneratively farmed ingredients across its business.
By using regenerative agriculture for its signature products, Annie’s is essentially educating its biggest audience about the practice. That learning curve could be pretty steep, since regenerative agriculture does not carry a certification label to signify the practice. This education piece should point out that while regenerative and organic are not the same thing, they share many principles, including soil health, biological nutrient cycling and animal welfare. Also, regenerative practices help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon.
All of these principles should resonate soundly with Annie’s current and new customers. Nielsen research found that a company’s commitment to sustainability can sway product purchases for 45% of consumers.
Cost could be a factor in bringing this idea to scale. However, while environmentally responsible practices tend to be more expensive, consumers are likely to pay more. Also according to Nielsen, 66% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable brands. That number jumps to 73% for millennials and 72% for Generation Z, so the trend is not going away.
Though Annie’s initial efforts are focused on just two products and two farms, the company notes that this is the beginning. Having a company of this size jump into the regenerative agriculture space should help build more demand and turn those baby steps into big strides.