Pioneering sustainability with red beetroot

FEATURED SPEAKER Fi Europe 2017 Conference
As consumers are increasingly focused on sustainability, the food industry has to find ways to carry on with doing business as usual, while taking care of its stakeholders and the planet at the same time. We caught up with Rob Evans, R&D Director for Diana Food, prior to his presentation at the Fi Europe 2017 Conference to find out more about how Diana Food sustainably sources its red beetroot.

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What does sustainability mean to Diana Food? Can you give us a definition of it?
‘Sustainability has always been a core value in the business development of Diana Food and it is deeply rooted in the company. We are engaged as a key player, in the crossroads between the worlds of agriculture, the agro-food industry and consumption. Born from utilizing the value of by-products, we were pioneers in the creation of an economic model that is based on sustainable principles. We have kept this mindset in our everyday work. We focus on preserving resources while offering trusted ingredients to our consumers. We minimize our environmental impact and are committed to future generations.’

How do you think the industry as a whole is taking the issue of sustainability? Is there more that can be done?
‘It's a hard task for the industry to step back and consider how one can keep the business going, while taking care of its stakeholders and the planet at the same time. There has to be a change in mindset to operate internally, to make sense of the actions undertaken, and of the multiple benefits of them.’
‘For a couple of years we have been witnessing a major shift in consumers’ behaviours and beliefs: they want healthy products from sustainable ingredients. The demand is there and every player needs to understand, design and act towards this objective using a holistic approach to which all resources of the company are committed.’

Can you briefly describe Diana Food’s work around sustainable sourcing of red beetroot?
‘Our beet root has a history that goes back a long way. We have been using our expertise in agronomy and our strong scientific know-how already for over 35 years to select beetroot varieties that best answer our customers’ needs. Our agronomic knowledge and experience enables us to select the best varieties for the expected benefit, whether it is colour or health. Our agronomists work alongside our farmers in the field to maximize the natural properties of beetroot and to help them implement good practices at various steps of the process. Our proximity with the producers is also a geographic one. The longest path from the field to the factory takes at most three to four hours. Growing regionally lowers transport costs and also keeps CO2 emissions at a minimum, reducing our environmental impact.’

What are the commercial benefits of implementing a sustainable sourcing strategy?
‘Thinking and acting sustainably at every step of our production process creates added value for our clients. For us, it all starts in the field and we have been able to differentiate ourselves by ensuring full traceability of our products from seed to fork, as well as by guaranteeing food safety and ethical practices in the way we process our products.’

Do you have plans to ensure sustainable supply of any of your other ingredients?
‘Of course! Our sustainability sourcing program is in a continuous improvement. We created a specific tool, which allows us to differentiate our range of products, according to sustainable criteria. Today, Diana Green is a long-term program with an ambitious 3-year plan. By 2020 we plan to increase our sustainable references by 10. Many of our raw materials are integrated, such as onion, banana, acerola -- and we have also dedicated time to establish an animal welfare policy, for our meat factories in Europe and the US.’

What has driven Diana Food’s desire for sustainable sourcing of its raw ingredients?
‘Nature is in our DNA and we have a long-standing commitment to it. Maintaining strong relationships with our producers means ensuring a good relationship with the environment. As we need good ingredients to make good products, knowing how to select, preserve and guarantee the best of nature is a must. That is our driving force.’

What are your predictions for sustainability within the food industry for the next 3-5 years?
‘As the world is moving fast, I am pretty sure that the industries that don’t commit to sustainability will end up at a disadvantage. Today sustainability is a differentiation factor, but there will be a shift tomorrow, and it will turn into a basic, integrated, and expected requirement for everyone.’

Be sure to catch Rob Evans’ presentation ‘Achieving sustainability throughout the supply chain: a case study with red beetroot’ at the Fi Europe 2017 Conference during the Master Class: Sustainability on Thursday, 30th November 2017 11:00–14:00.