Sara Lee steps up sustainable coffee sourcing

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Coffee

Sara Lee is to double the amount of sustainable coffee used in its
brands to 20,000 tonnes, a move the company says
will make it the market leader in the category.

Yesterday's announcement comes as a growing number of coffee processors aim to step up sustainability in sourcing product, amidst growing consumer concern over how ethically and environmentally friendly their goods are sourced. Sara Lee spokesperson Ernesto Duran told BeverageDaily.com that the sustainability drive would account for five per cent of the company's total coffee procurement worldwide. He added that the increase would ensure the company could meet increasing demand for products certified as sustainable in markets like Denmark and the Netherlands. He estimates that 25 per cent to 30 per cent of Sara Lee coffee sold in the two markets is from sustainable sources. Duran claims that North European markets in particular posted strong demand for the group's sustainable coffee brands, though the US and Brazil posted much smaller market shares for the category due to the size of their respective markets. The company produces a number of leading coffee brands including Douwe Egberts, Merrild, Maison du Café and Marcilla. Sara Lee's increased focus on acquiring sustainable coffee is vital in safeguarding supply both for its own operations and the entire industry, according to Frank van Oers, chief executive officer of the company's tea and coffee division. "As a major global coffee roaster, Sara Lee can boost sustainability as a competitive way of producing coffee that supports the environment as well as the socioeconomic conditions of local communities,"​ he stated. "Sara Lee's sustainable coffee volume will continue to move in parallel with the growth of the supply market." ​ Through the UTZ global coffee certification programme, the company claims it has made an eight-fold increase in sustainable coffee procurement since 2004, when it purchased 2,500 tonnes. According to UTZ, the certification ensures that strict social and environmental criteria are being met by coffee farms and cooperatives that use it. The scheme also provides growers with knowledge of improved agricultural techniques and the global market to ensure they got a better price for their coffee. UTZ is used by a number of food and beverage groups, including retailers like Wal-Mart and Albert Hein, and represents the growing importance of companies trying to protect future coffee supply, whilemeeting demand for sustainable products. Sara Lee has not been the only processor keen to increase its focus on sustainable coffee production. Nestle, the world's leading producer of soluble coffee products, announced in February that it would be investing funds into sustainable coffee production in Vietnam to protect the quality and competitiveness of its brands.

Related topics: Tea and Coffee, Markets

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