Kashi Expands Portfolio to Support Organic Farmland

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23 Feb 2017 --- Kashi introduced Chewy Nut Butter Bars – the second line of products in its growing Certified Transitional portfolio – which joins Dark Cocoa Karma Shredded Wheat Biscuits, the company's best-performing cereal innovation in over five years. These deliciously chewy bars are made with real nut butters, whole grains and coconut oil, offering flavor packed, gluten-free nourishment in four tasty flavors: Almond Snickerdoodle, Chocolate Trail Mix, Salted Chocolate Chunk and Coconut Cashew Macaroon. 

“We're thrilled to announce this addition to our Certified Transitional portfolio,” said David Denholm, CEO at Kashi. “Chewy Nut Butter Bars represent another delicious way for consumers to join us on our mission to increase the amount of organic farmland in the US, one box at a time.”  

Nicole Nestojko, senior director of supply chain and sustainability at Kashi, spoke with FoodIngredientsFirst, she said: “Consumers can play a role in helping transition US farmland to organic one box at a time when they purchase Certified Transitional products.”

Each box of Kashi’s new Chewy Nut Butter Bars and Dark Cocoa Karma Shredded Wheat cereal feature Certified Transitional ingredients and represent a portion of US farmland on its way to USDA organic certification. “By purchasing Certified Transitional products - from any brand - consumers are letting farmers know they support them, one box at a time, by voting with their dollars,” explains Nestojko. “Indeed, our Dark Cocoa Karma cereal has become the best performing cereal innovation for Kashi in over 5 years. This helps build a new marketplace for farmers to sell these “organics in training” and gives them another incentive to make the switch to organic. Ultimately, this will help increase the amount of organic farmland in the US,” she adds. 

According to Nestojko, consumers are demanding more organic food: “Sales reached $39.7 billion in 2015 and continue to rise,” she confirms. Today, less than 1% of US farmland is organic, and there is a limited amount of American-grown organic ingredients. “For example, there are not enough organic almonds grown in the US to meet even Kashi’s needs,” Nestojko continues, “Transitioning fields from conventional farming methods to organic takes at least three years and is no small feat. During the three-year transition, farmers use organic practices but aren’t paid organic prices. Certified Transitional helps transition more farmland to organic, supporting healthier ecosystems and helping to increase the supply and availability of USDA organic products.”

Building Bridges to the Organic MarketClick to Enlarge
Despite double-digit growth in consumer demand for organic foods every year since the 1990s, organic acreage has not kept up – according to the USDA, less than one percent of US farmland is certified organic. While farmers increasingly seek to recognize the benefits of certification, converting fields from conventional farming methods to organic takes at least three years and is no small feat. During the three-year transition, farmers use organic practices but aren't paid organic prices.

Inspired to help farmers meet rising demand for organics, Kashi in 2016 partnered with leading organic certifier Quality Assurance International (QAI) to create Certified Transitional, a protocol which creates a new way for farmers to command slightly higher prices for their crops in transition during the three-year period – giving them the financial assurance needed to make the switch from conventional to organic. QAI led the development of the label, with support from agricultural suppliers, a global environmental NGO, organic experts, farmers, retailers, distributors and food brands. 

QAI owns and manages the Certified Transitional protocol, which is available for any crop and brand that sources agricultural ingredients, including food and beverage, dietary supplements, cosmetics, household cleaners and textile products.

Tracy Favre, Director of Certification Services, QAI, Inc told FoodIngredientsFirst: “The QAI Certified Transitional program is designed to recognize and incentivize farmers as they transition their land from conventional to organic growing methods.”

“The certification protocol is available to the public – any eligible farmer growing any crop is able to apply for certification under the protocol, and any company can apply the protocol in its supply chain to achieve certification,” she adds.

“Certified Transitional is a three-year compliance assessment program that progresses each year with additional compliance expectations. It is open to any organization throughout the supply chain looking to support the creation of more organic farmland.”

Favre also said: “The process starts with a self-assessment against the program requirements, followed by annual onsite verifications by QAI to identify any non-compliances and opportunities for improvement, and to resolve open issues.”

“In the third year of transition, the producer is eligible to apply for organic certification. Additionally, there’s an educational component to assure readiness to maintain compliance.”

QAI Certified Transitional was introduced one year ago so it is still early in the process to see the QAI Certified Transitional label on food products, although Kashi has now produced a number of products certified to this protocol. More and more farmers are considering this method of transitioning their farms to organic as it offers additional economic incentives toward organic certification.

Certified Transitional Farmland More Than Doubles
In 2016, Kashi purchased the first-ever crop of Certified Transitional ingredients – hard red winter wheat – sourced from 860 acres of transitional farmland for use in Dark Cocoa Karma Shredded Wheat Biscuits. After just one year, Kashi's Certified Transitional products now are sourced from over 3,474 acres – more than quadrupling from the previous year – on their way to transitioning from conventional to organic. Today's launch of Chewy Nut Butter Bars builds on this momentum by showcasing other transitional ingredients, including almonds, dates and sorghum. In total, there now are 10 farms supplying Certified Transitional ingredients located in California, Louisiana, Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming.

By purchasing Certified Transitional products such as Chewy Nut Butter Bars and Dark Cocoa Karma Shredded Wheat Biscuits, consumers can play a role in helping support farmers transition their land to organic, one box at a time. Each purchase contributes to a growing marketplace that recognizes the investment farmers make while transitioning to organic practices.  

“As a farmer, I think of the decision to switch to organic as an equation – with dozens of variables that must be considered – such as the projected price of organic products, consumer demand, changing environmental conditions, and more,” said Richard Gemperle, president at Edelweiss Nut Company, who supplied almonds for the new Chewy Nut Butter Bars. “For me, Certified Transitional changed the equation in favor of making the transition to organic, giving me a way to reap immediate economic benefits.”

Moving Toward More Organics 
“Kashi's first Certified Transitional product, Dark Cocoa Karma Shredded Wheat Biscuits, is our best-performing cereal innovation in over five years,” said CEO David Denholm. “The addition of Chewy Nut Butter Bars to our Certified Transitional portfolio builds on this progress and supports efforts to increase organic farmland in the U.S. As demand for organics continues to grow, we hope this success will encourage other brands to explore Certified Transitional sourcing.”   

Kashi, along with QAI, invites anyone interested – from farmers to consumers – to learn more about Certified Transitional and participate in the program.  

by Elizabeth Kenward

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