Sustainability and environmental impact drives many of today’s purchasing decisions. In an effort to help bakery customers satisfy growing consumer demand for eco-friendly products, Cargill introduced EcoFlour™ sustainability solutions, a customizable ingredient program that utilizes precision agriculture to use fertilizer more efficiently to reduce energy inputs and improve yields. Food Manufacturingspoke with Kyle Marinkovich, marketing manager for EcoFlour, about the program.

Q: What motivated you to develop the EcoFlour program? 

A: Our customers are faced with growing demand from consumers and other stakeholders for more sustainable products. In fact, a recent NMI study revealed that more than 50 percent of consumers prefer to purchase products that are manufactured sustainably. Whether it be reducing carbon in their supply chains or developing new products that satisfy demands of eco-conscious consumers, Horizon Milling can design a customized program that helps meet a customer’s unique needs with our new EcoFlour sustainability solutions.

Q: Why do you think sustainability has become such a concern for consumers over the last few years?

A: Environmental, social and economic concerns motivate consumers to get more involved. Every day consumers are bombarded with news and images that tie to sustainability issues—rising global temperatures, air pollution, negative effects of various chemicals on the environment, concerns over water and other natural resources, animal welfare, the list goes on and on. Sustainability has penetrated the consciousness and purchasing behavior of consumers, and  the industry needs to respond with creative, useful, sustainable products that consumers can afford.

Q: Sustainability is playing a growing role in consumers’ buying decisions. How can the EcoFlour program improve sustainability in the baking industry?

A: EcoFlour can help bakery customers meet their strategic sustainability goals in any of four key areas:

  • Helping them to develop new products to reach the growing audience of green consumers
  • Make improvements in reducing their carbon footprint
  • Sourcing responsibly to protect and grow their brands
  • Support sustainability initiatives with their customers

 Q: What technology is being used in the EcoFlour program?

A: EcoFlour utilizes a technology called precision agriculture which combines satellite imagery and soil samples to identify the best use of fertilizer on the farmer’s field. The farmer then uses this information to apply nutrients to the crop only where they are needed. Studies have shown that precision agriculture uses less fertilizer than conventional practices, less energy, and reduces emissions while increasing the amount of wheat grown on the land.

Q: What other steps is Cargill taking to improve sustainability?

A: With regards to corporate responsibility, Cargill collaborates with organizations around the world to improve nutrition and health, provide access to education, encourage responsible stewardship of natural resources, foster sustainable economic development and promote responsible business practices in its supply chains.

Following are some of the things Cargill is doing to improve sustainability. These items were recently highlighted in the company’s report on its global corporate responsibility actions, entitled Growing Together:

  • Conducting the first large-scale field trial involving the vaccination of cattle to explore this method for reducing E. coli O157:H7 bacteria
  • Co-founding in West Africa the UTZ Certified cocoa program to help produce cocoa more effectively and responsibly, and improve the incomes and livelihoods of the farmers who grow it
  • Transforming Cargill's knowledge about improving energy efficiency at its own locations into a business called Cargill Process Optimizers, which helps customers significantly improve their yields, energy efficiency and water efficiency
  • Training more than 2.4 million Chinese farmers on animal nutrition, sanitation, genetics and farm management, and starting a water-saving irrigation improvement plan to help Chinese farmers conserve water and increase crop yields
  • Combating hunger through a companywide "Nourishing People Challenge," launched on World Food Day, through which Cargill businesses and employees contributed more than $9.5 million for emergency hunger relief and long-term food security in 2009 and 2010

Interview By Lindsey Coblentz, Associate Editor