Organic impact with Organic Valley
One of the things I’ve been most excited about with the General Mills acquisition of Annie’s a year and a half ago is the promise of positive social and environmental impact stemming from this union, and the potential for far more organic impact than Annie’s ever could have accomplished on our own.
Shortly after the acquisition closed in late 2014, I took a road trip with some General Mills folks down to beautiful La Farge, Wisconsin, home to Organic Valley, America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers.
Organic Valley has been one of Annie’s most important and trusted organic suppliers for many years, and where we source a significant majority of our organic dairy requirements. We are drawn together by shared values and vision.
Organic Valley was founded as a cooperative in 1988 with the mission of using organic farming as the driver for a more vibrant and sustainable farm economy, one capable of keeping family farms alive and prospering while doing good for consumers and the earth in the process.
This vision fits well with Annie’s mission, which is to cultivate a healthier and happier world by spreading goodness though nourishing foods, honest words, and conduct that is considerate and forever kind to the planet.
At this first meeting, over an awesome sampling platter of tasty Organic Valley cheeses, we began a dialogue about our big vision: By working together in much bigger scale, could we use the power of General Mills (now with Annie’s) to drive more organic demand and more positive impact for the cooperative and its family–farmer members?
The conversation was guarded and a bit tentative at first as you might expect, but very quickly we aligned on shared values and vision for the growth of organic and the potential for positive impact.
A beautiful spark was lit that day, and has now grown into a big business impact opportunity for both of us.
Today, General Mills announced a strategic sourcing partnership with Organic Valley in the U.S that will help about 20 dairy farms add around 3,000 acres to organic dairy production over the next three years.
The program will directly drive more acres in the U.S. into the organic certification process and builds upon General Mills’ commitment to double the organic acreage from which it sources ingredients by 2019.
The strategic alignment with Organic Valley will give General Mills greater visibility into the farmers supporting the company’s Yogurt Operating Unit in the U.S., which includes brands like Yoplait, Annie’s, Liberté and Mountain High.
Earlier this year we introduced the Annie’s brand to the U.S. yogurt category with a new line of certified organic whole milk yogurt.
In addition, General Mills is transitioning its Liberté yogurt brand in the U.S. to USDA certified organic, which will roll out nationwide this summer.
The agreement will not only ensure a consistent supply chain to support our ambitious growth objectives for these brands, but will also make it much easier for dairy farmers to successfully manage through the transition to organic.
One of the biggest challenges to accelerating organic supply is enabling farmers to bridge the three-year period required to attain certified organic status under USDA rules.
There is tremendous opportunity for Annie’s – with the scale of General Mills – to increase the organic ingredient supply needed to support the rising consumer interest in organic foods.
I love the idea of the Annie’s and Liberté brands in the U.S. providing an economic engine to pull the impact train with a high quality supplier like Organic Valley.
I know that our consumers will appreciate this as well: knowing where the dairy in these products comes from, as well as how the cooperative members care for their animals and run their business with a strong focus on sustainability.
This is an important step forward for General Mills and a tangible example of how General Mills and Annie’s are driving our businesses to be better together.
When the Annie’s acquisition was announced, we asked our loyal fans to hear us when we said we’d continue to lead, but more importantly, we asked them to watch what we do. This is one step, there will be many more, toward delivering against that commitment.
Editor’s note: This post from John also appeared on LinkedIn.
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