Unilever brand, Knorr, strides towards meeting bold sustainable sourcing commitments

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Unilever’s biggest food brand Knorr has announced great progress on its commitment to sustainably sourcing its agricultural ingredients and revealed the results of a new global consumer survey looking at shopping attitudes and purchase behaviour.

The study shows food sustainability is not only a business and environmental imperative, but a highly significant priority for consumers across the world, including developing markets. 

The research involved 5,500 consumers in Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Data show:

  • A very high proportion (88%) agrees it is important to treat farmland with respect and in a way that protects it for future generations
  • 85% feel it is important global organisations, including big business, share sustainable practices with the farmers they work with. Respondents in developing markets agreed even more strongly, with China (98%), Brazil (97%) and South Africa (96%) in agreement
  • 84% of respondents said they were concerned about where ingredients in their food came from
  • 75%, said they would be more likely to purchase a product if they knew it was made from sustainably sourced ingredients. They also believed their food would be of higher quality as a result

Critically, the survey revealed many purchase decision makers have little idea about how to identify the sustainability credentials of their food with only 36% of those surveyed saying they could accurately do so.

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, stressed that there is a need for change: “Food security is one of the defining issues of the 21st century. Agriculture uses up 70% of our water needs, but a third of the food we produce ends up as waste – this waste is worth $750bn, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. We should be morally outraged at a world so clearly out of balance.”

Polman added Unilever and large food brands, such as Knorr, have the size and influence to act. Unilever Foods category president Antoine de Saint-Affrique went on to map out Knorr’s bold sustainable sourcing commitments. “Given the importance of vegetables and herbs to Knorr products, the brand has made sustainable agriculture a strategic priority,” he said.

The Knorr commitment is to:

  • Sustainably source 100% of agricultural ingredients including vegetables, herbs, meat and spices by 2020
  • Help farmers adapt and improve their farming practices so that Knorr’s top 13 vegetables and herbs come from sustainable sources by 2015
  • Continue to invest €1m annually into the Knorr Sustainability Partnership Fund, a programme that supports farmers and growers on complex sustainable agriculture projects
  • Make available €10m for sustainable agriculture initiatives for suppliers and farmers by 2020
  • Continue to showcase farms that are most advanced in sustainable farming practices as ‘Knorr Landmark Farms’. These farms, in line with Unilever’s Sustainable Agriculture Code (SAC), must demonstrate best practice in several areas including water management, plant protection, plant nutrition, soil protection and biodiversity

de Saint-Affrique said: “We have set a high bar for ourselves.  Knorr has a role to play and already, we are seeing some great achievements.”

A sustainable promise through better labelling

Coinciding with the research results, Knorr announced a new initiative to facilitate informed consumer choice. The brand announcef the Knorr Sustainability Partnership Logo will be placed on product packaging to help consumers clearly identify products featuring sustainably sourced ingredients.

de Saint-Affrique said: “It is absolutely critical that sustainable products are clearly labelled and identifiable to the consumer.  Knorr wants to lead the charge.”

The new logo will serve as a visual icon for consumers, and with Knorr tracking well ahead of its own sustainability goals, more and more products will feature the logo, such as a range of 11 soups and Meal Makers launched in Europe that are made with 100% sustainably grown tomatoes.

de Saint-Affrique said, “Making a sustainable promise is about the provenance of our food, the supply chain and communities involved, and forms the story behind what is on our plates. We’re taking positive action from farm, to fork.”