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Food companies are ‘concerned about sustainable supply’: ISEAL

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 14-Jun-2012

Demand for certified spices is on the rise

Demand for certified spices is on the rise

Food companies’ demand for sustainably sourced ingredients is increasing rapidly – but supply of certified ingredients is not keeping up, according to ISEAL, the global association for sustainability standards.

ISEAL is an association that works with governments and businesses to increase efficiency of sustainability standards, with members that include the Forest Stewardship Council, Fairtrade International, the Marine Stewardship Council, Rainforest Alliance, and UTZ Certified, among others.

Speaking with FoodNavigator-USA, director of communications for ISEAL Lara Koritzke said that these organizations urgently need to scale up their certification schemes to meet increasing demand from food manufacturers, as the concept of truly sustainable supply chains has moved toward the mainstream.

“The demand outstrips the supply of certified products that our members have to offer,” she said.

While the sustainability of certain ingredients like palm oil, cocoa, bananas, soy, and coffee has been in the limelight for a number of years – and supply of these certified products is beginning to reach food companies in larger amounts – other ingredients are just beginning to emerge as important candidates for certification.

“One of the threats for our members is that they need to scale up,” she said. “…In 20 years if we don’t scale up and provide more sustainable standards, other tools will emerge that may not be so credible.”

Certifying whole products

Koritzke said that food companies looking to certify whole foods, rather than individual ingredients, are driving the growth of ethical labeling schemes in the industry and bringing more certified ingredients to market.

She pinpointed nuts and spices as ingredients of particular interest, as more companies want to be able to say their products are 100% certified.

“Food companies are getting really savvy,” she said. “Gone are the days when we had our organic and Fair Trade lines. Companies more and more want 100% certified products and 100% certified product lines.”

Concern about sustainable supply

Drivers of sustainability and ethical standards have changed dramatically too. Koritzke said that while consumers have been very active in the Fair Trade movement, this is an exception among ethical standards; companies themselves are insisting on sustainability.

“I would say the sustainable sourcing element is not because of consumer advocacy…It may have been 20 years ago. Now if you talk to the big companies like Kraft, Nestlé, or Unilever, they have to do it either because they are concerned about having a sustainable supply in the future or because they just know it’s the right thing to do. It’s really engrained in business now.”

Koritzke is not alone in her view that companies are concerned about securing sustainable supply for the future.

President of Bluehorse Associates Sara Pax recently told this publication that companies should be concerned about their environmental impact – but this has more to do with ensuring profitability than saving the planet.

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