Ag Education in the Consumer Packaged Goods Space

By Anne Dinges, Lead Agronomist and Soil Scientist

The journey from farm to fork is part of almost every packaged good a consumer purchases. Behind each product is an intricate web of farmers, food and beverage companies, and the retailers that sell each product to the end consumer. There’s a story behind every product – the question is what story is being told, who knows it and how does it affect behavior.

Although soil health is a trending topic in agriculture, experts have noted that consumers do not see a connection between soil health and the food they pick up at the grocery store. Diving in deeper, consumers also lack confidence in the farming community’s efforts to protect the environment while producing the food we consume. Soil health, at its core, is being largely misunderstood by the consumer space.

Climate change, a cause many consumers care about and are passionate about making change on, is something the agriculture sector has huge means to combat. Greenhouse gasses (GHG) are a major cause of climate change. Slowing the release of GHGs and storing GHGs such as carbon combats climate change. Soils are responsible for storing 2,500 gigatons of carbon, which is 3.1 times larger than the atmospheric pool (Ontl, 2012). This means protecting soil from carbon losses is of utmost importance. As players in the ag space, we all are responsible for educating how the food on the shelf is produced. Consumer Packaged Goods, CPG, companies in particular have the highest stake here.

How to share the agricultural impact with the consumer? CPG companies must reach the consumer at point of purchase, whether in store or online. Every dollar counts and, in order to remain viable in the space, CPG’s are always working to garner more consumer votes. With such high stakes, it is imperative for CPG companies to reduce their sustainability risk and communicate their commitment to regenerative agriculture throughout their supply chain with the consumer.

Data is invaluable to the process, especially when it can be traced all the way back to the farms supplying raw ingredients to the CPG companies. Gathered across various metrics, the data can be used in support of greenhouse gas scope 3 emissions reporting. It tells a powerful story of the positive environmental effect from current in-field soil health practices and it also sheds light on the challenges and opportunities in agriculture. When our team works in the field, we hear the goals of farmers and their desire to be good stewards of the land, but also understand the financial hurdles they face, such as equipment costs, and how that can hinder their immediate ability to implement practice changes. Weather can be unpredictable and volatile markets based solely on yield rather than on quality of soil health, biodiversity, or water quality present additional challenges.

When a food company digs in their heels and chooses to understand the farm story and collect real-life data that highlights the impact from on-farm practices, they have a chance to educate consumers. Many not close to the agriculture sector lack a deep understanding of the industry, so what better platform to educate consumers than through food. It’s essential to survival and something consumers shop for frequently and consume daily. By using powerful statistics and information along the supply chain, CPG companies can gain an edge and communicate their brand’s sustainability by sharing their honest, compelling story to consumers.

Gathering data all the way back to the farm using a third-party verified group brings tremendous value for CPG companies and the consumer. Sustainable Environmental Consultants’ EcoPractices® platform can help share that story through data collection, verification, and generation of validated information in partnership with the farmers integral to the supply chains.

 

References:

Ontl, T. A. & Schulte, L. A. (2012) Soil Carbon Storage. Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):35 https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/soil-carbon-storage-84223790/