Tackling Sustainability And Food Security - Business Media MAGS

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Tackling Sustainability And Food Security

Sustainability and food security are a major focus for South Africa’s food producers, writes Trevor Crighton.

Locally and continentally, consumer brands are finding more ways to develop sustainable production, processing and distribution processes to combat food waste and minimise their impact on climate change.

Unathi Mhlatyana, managing director: McCain Foods, says that for each of the company’s four sustainability strategy pillars there is a set of measurable commitments, which are country-specific. “McCain SA has identified a ‘big bet’ under each of the pillars: for Smart and Sustainable Farming, we focus on regenerative agriculture practices; for Resource-Efficient Operations, we are installing solar arrays in Delmas and Springs to exit usage of coal by 2030; for Good Food, we pursue clean labelling, making sure none of our products contain ‘red label’ ingredients; and for Thriving Communities, we have established a host of malnutrition and multistakeholder partnerships to improve the livelihoods of communities around our plants,” he says.

The company’s Delmas plant produces frozen potato and sweet potato products such as fries and wedges. Its Springs plant produces frozen vegetable products such as peas, sweetcorn, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, mixed veg and vegetable stir-fries. “With one in four chips worldwide being a McCain chip, potatoes will always be a key focus for the business,” says Mhlatyana. “However, South Africa is one of only two countries globally where we manufacture vegetables as well, and vegetables are a big contributor to McCain South Africa’s retail business”.

Educating communities 

Food security is also a topic of concern for Mondelēz International – one it’s tackling through partnerships and community programmes.

“Our Health in Action programme teaches people from a young age what it means to have a healthy diet and how important it is to grow their own fruit and vegetables. We believe that if taught from a young age, the learning will stay with them and have a ripple effect through their families and broader communities,” says Navisha Bechan-Sewkuran, Mondelēz international corporate and government affairs lead: sub-Saharan Africa.

Mondelēz has been working with INMED Partnerships for Children in Brazil and South Africa for seven years, teaching good nutrition to young children. “We’ve established a three-stage programme to focus on nutrition education, giving them access to healthy food and promoting active play,” says Bechan-Sewkuran. “We looked at the schools we worked with and established food gardens on land to which they have access and taught them proper farming methods, supporting the environment and giving them access to fresh food. The project grew into the development of two commercial aquaponics operations. All the crops produced at these facilities are passed on to the schools and organisations in need in the areas in which we operate.”

Globally, Mondelēz’s Cocoa Life programme focuses on cocoa sustainability. It addresses the challenges facing cocoa farmers, including climate change, gender inequality, poverty and child labour. The programme is investing $400-million by 2022 to empower at least 200 000 cocoa farmers and reach one million community members in its six key cocoa-growing regions.

Greater consumer awareness 

Mhlatyana says the younger generation is becoming far more aware and demanding when it comes to sustainability, though there is no indication that consumers are willing to pay more for products produced ethically and sustainably. Bechan-Sewkuran says that Mondelēz’s customers want to know more about how the product they’re buying has been sourced and if it’s been produced in an ethical manner. “It’s no longer just about seeing the Cocoa Life logo on a chocolate bar – some products have QR codes that customers can scan to learn more about farming and production practices”.

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