Today’s bakery consumers are increasingly conscious about the products they buy. They want baked foods that are better for them, sustainably sourced and have a transparent ingredient list and supply chain. 

While bakers are meeting this demand with more transparent and sustainable products, some may be unsure what exactly these words mean, noted Tai Ullmann, global sustainability lead for edible oils, Cargill. 

At the International Bakery Exposition (IBIE) in Las Vegas, Ms. Ullmann, along with Tom Vierhile, vice president of strategic insights, North America, Innova Market Insights, will unpack these buzz words in their education session, Making a Sustainable Cookie: Meeting Consumers’ Demands for Greater Ingredient Supply Transparency.

The session, held Monday, Sept. 19 at 11 a.m., will examine how bakers and suppliers can create a more transparent and sustainable future for the industry, as well as the biggest trends in these areas. The session will also use a cookie as an example, showing how the baked good can be made from sustainable, traceable supply chains. 

IBIE_QA_TaiUllmann.jpgTai Ullmann, global sustainability lead for edible oils, Cargill


What does it mean for a bakery product to be ‘sustainable’ and ‘transparent’?

Tai Ullmann: We know sustainability means different things to different people. For some, it stretches beyond support of the environment to encompass issues around social responsibility, ethical sourcing and other values-oriented positioning. 

However a brand defines “sustainable” sourcing, transparency is a key piece to delivering meaningful impact on the ground, as well as building consumer trust. True transparency is complex and multifaceted, encompassing traceability (what supply chains look like), on-farm programming (what impact do supply chains have), monitoring and verification, and communication and marketing. 

What are the benefits of transparency and sustainability in a bakery supply chain?

Tai Ullmann: More than ever, businesses and consumers care about the standards behind the products they buy. Across all commodities, people increasingly want assurance that raw materials are sourced in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way, with high regard for social standards and ethical economic practices. Building transparent and sustainable ingredient supply chains is key to delivering on those demands. 

What are consumers looking for in a sustainable bakery product?

Tai Ullmann: We know consumers engage in values-based purchasing and are drawn to products that are produced in a socially and environmentally sustainable way. Cargill’s proprietary TrendTracker insights, which identifies the global trends that influence how and what consumers buy, finds rising expectations for brands to engage in socially and environmentally responsible practices. Seven in 10 (73%) US consumers say they’ve made changes to their diet and lifestyle to reduce their carbon footprint. A similar number, 68%, says brands should do more to protect the environment. They expect product labels to be specific and transparent (77%), and most (72%) say they’d pay more to support companies that share their values.

Cargill’s 2022 US FATitudes survey affirms this growing concern for the environment. Our research, which tracks consumers’ awareness and behaviors around fats and oils found in packaged food such as potato chips and cookies, revealed that sustainability has gained importance in consumers’ food choices. We found 41% of US consumers indicate they’re more likely to purchase a packaged food item if it includes a sustainable claim, up four points from the previous year and a 20-point jump since we fielded the first FATitudes survey in 2013. When asked what type of sustainability claim they were looking for, “sustainably sourced” (69%) and “responsible sourcing” (55%) topped the list. 

What are some of the biggest trends in sustainable and transparent bakery products?

Tom Vierhile: The sustainability concept is growing in bakery, but from a very low base. We’re just beginning to see bakery launches in the US talk about emerging sustainability themes like “carbon labeling” and “regenerative agriculture.” You would be hard pressed to find any products launched three or four years ago mentioning either theme. These claims first began to emerge in 2021 and that momentum continues into 2022. Other themes give you a better idea as to where new product innovation is headed in the future. Bakery makers are taking aim at sugar and carbohydrate reduction in themes that could be considered part of the “transparency” banner. Bakery launches in the US making a carbohydrate reduction claim grew at better than a 25% compound annual growth rate from 2018 to 2021. Sugar-free launches had even more momentum, posting a compound annual growth rate of over 46% for the same period. Innovation activity in both areas seem to promise consumers better health outcomes and are congruent with the growing theme toward enhanced health and wellness benefits across the spectrum of the food and beverage industry. 

How can bakers best achieve sustainability and transparency with their products?

Tai Ullmann: Sustainable ingredient sourcing and transparency are important to many of our customers, but very few touch farmers directly. Because we sit at the intersection of farmers and food customers, we can help find solutions that address their concerns.

For example, we offer RSPO-segregated certified palm oil. This palm oil is produced according to the principles and criteria established by the RSPO, which verifies against no deforestation, no development on peat and no exploitation principles. To carry the segregated-RSPO designation, all product must be kept separate from commodity palm oil supplies and be traceable throughout the supply chain. It is produced on RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil plantations and refined at RSPO-certified facilities.

This fall, we are expanding our RSPO-segregated offerings to include palm stearin and palm olein products. This is possible, in part, thanks to our investment in a new palm oil refinery in Indonesia. When complete in late 2022, the new refinery will help Cargill meet customers’ evolving expectations around sustainability and transparency.

Within our cocoa and chocolate business, we offer a portfolio of products and services that enable customers to directly support sustainability efforts that align with their brand promise. Cargill’s Promise Solutions allow customers to purchase sustainable cocoa sourced directly from our known and trusted farmer organizations. Going one step further, customers may choose to invest in a high-impact project linked to a key challenge in the cocoa sector, such as gender inequality, deforestation or child labor. As a final step, we connect brands to the farming communities that provide their cocoa through our CocoaWise digital customer portal, which provides unprecedented access to data, information and storytelling aspects of our sustainably sourced cocoa.

Those are just two examples, but similar work is taking place across our supply chains, as we strive to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way. 

How can a cookie be made more sustainably and with a more transparent supply chain?

Tai Ullmann: In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s no longer enough to create a great-tasting product. Increasingly, it’s the compelling story that captivates consumers. Shoppers expect companies to provide information and a high degree of honesty about ingredients, including their origin and production processes. At Cargill, we’ve taken those desires to heart, developing supply chains across our ingredient portfolio that deliver on those demands for transparency and sustainability. 

Too often, we see brands address sustainability in terms of individual commodities, but we believe customers should take a more holistic view. To illustrate the possibilities, we created a Sustainable Cookie Concept that showcases how brands can truly bring sustainable sourcing to life. It demonstrates that whatever the customer’s product or challenge, we have the ingredient portfolio and global reach to help them achieve their sustainability goals.