Josh Sosland

In recent days, two prominent consumer packaged food companies that produce wheat-based products — Campbell Soup Co. and General Mills, Inc. — announced initiatives suggesting deepening interest in how the grain they use is grown. The parent company of Pepperidge Farm, Campbell Soup announced plans in its annual corporate responsibility report to enroll 70,000 acres of wheat in a fertilizer optimization effort by the end of 2020. The parent company of Annie’s, General Mills announced an agreement with Gunsmoke Farms in South Dakota to convert 34,000 acres of farmland to certified organic acreage by 2020. General Mills said the wheat would be used in Annie’s 
pasta products.

While elements of the announcements are quite similar, the details of the initiatives are very different. Both are part of larger trends. The Campbell Soup effort largely mirrors Field to Market, an effort to help growers optimize resource utilization. Members of Field to Market already include numerous food companies, including PepsiCo, Inc.; Mars, Inc.; and Kellogg Co. The General Mills effort more closely resembles the growth of contract growing wheat millers (like General Mills).

Both efforts reflect intensifying consumer pressure for food companies to visibly demonstrate a concern about sustainability. For the milling industry, this trend represents a chance to help their customers while showcasing and enhancing the sustainability bona fides of production wheat.