Four Key Questions About the Future of Regenerative Ingredient Supply August 2, 2021 by Leah Wolfe
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As we look forward to our upcoming Innovation Series ‘Regenerative Supply at Scale’, we’re reflecting on some highlights from our previous conversations with thought leaders. We’ve had many rich discussions over the last year about the future of our food system, and as we did so it became increasingly apparent that suppliers are front of mind for thought leaders as a critical piece of the regenerative paradigm. For our next series, we are inspired to take a closer look at the relationship between suppliers and the future of a regenerative food system.

4 questions inspired by food system thought leaders to consider as we head into the next innovation series:

Danielle Gould Food+Tech Connect & Alpha Food Labs

We need to be designing for the planet, and we need to be designing for local communities. That’s a mindset that requires a lot of different paradigm shifts and mindset shifts to design something that’s a holistic, systems-driven product.

Our discussion with Danielle made us think more critically about the relationships between producers, suppliers, and consumers and ultimately led us to our first question going into the Regenerative Supply at Scale series:

How can product developers and suppliers work together more effectively to benefit people, planet, and profit?

Ali Bouzari Pilot R&D

Will the supplier sell it to you a fifty-pound sack at a time? Or will they require you to order half a truckload? If you want it Organic, is the stuff out there Organic certified? If you want it Non-GMO or in Kosher, what are the certifying bodies that are doing that? If your product needs to be Gluten-Free, does it need to be certified Gluten-Free? Or does it just need to not have wheat-containing ingredients?

As Ali illustrated in our discussion about building sustainable products, the needs of suppliers and product developers don’t always align, even if their values do. So going forward:

How can suppliers best appeal to procurement teams? What are regenerative-focused procurement teams looking for in a supplier?

Diego Rosso Danone

We’re becoming more data-driven–our procurement teams, our sourcing teams–to really understand if we as product developers need to use this type of oil or this type of soy or almond, there are impacts to that. So working with companies that are data-driven like HowGood helps us make a better decision when it comes to innovating and designing around responsible sourcing.

Jay Watson General Mills

Regenerative ag is about all these positive impacts, not just on climate. It’s about this whole ecosystem, including the people and the stewards of the land in the ecosystem. Regenerative ag is part of a total system driving the whole agriculture industry forward.

Sourcing departments are starting to prioritize ingredients with improved environmental and social impacts, and are seeking the means to simplify the process of finding and choosing them:

What role can suppliers play in helping product developers and procurement teams understand and make use of their sustainability information?

Mike Lee Alpha Food Labs

I call it the Avenger strategy: you’re not just selling Captain America, you’re selling the Avengers. It’s the group, not the ingredient. That can be as simple as going to market with quinoa plus the other ingredient that is crop rotated with quinoa. You don’t have to market 13 ingredients or a whole system — start with two or three. As a farmer, say I’ve got dairy, but then I’ve also got apple trees or walnut trees. That’s the shift in marketing that we need, to start talking about ingredients not as single units, but as groups.

During our conversation about designing products with ecosystems in mind, Mike of Alpha Food Labs touched on a roadblock for many a would-be regenerative buyer— regenerative ingredients that become trendy often aren’t scalable, or once they’re scaled up, are no longer regenerative. So that leads us to the question:

How can sourcing teams find ingredients that are regenerative and scalable?

Interested in exploring these topics and questions further? Check out all of our archived Innovation Series sessions here, and join us for our upcoming series Regenerative Supply at Scale starting August 12th, 2021 from 1-2 pm EST!

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