Food, Nutrition & Science

from our newsletter, broadcast on
Wednesday May 28, 2014

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Sustainability Series: Saffron Road

Global Garden

Saffron Road debuted the world’s first all-natural, Halal-certified, antibiotic-free, and certified humane frozen entrée in July of 2010. Since then, the company has become a recognized leader in both halal and frozen antibiotic-free entrees, and their products are currently sold in Whole Foods stores across the nation. With a mission to be both socially-conscious and dedicated to sustainable farming practices, Saffron road also celebrates bringing together families and cultures to share a meal around the dinner table. We talked to Executive Vice President Jack Acree about the importance of taking meaningful steps forward in their business.

How does your business define sustainability?

Given who we are as a team and having been in the Natural Foods channel for quite some time, sustainability is more instinctual to us than something we define by specific numbers. It is always changing as new technologies come to the market. While we work towards the most sustainable business and packaging packages, the top priority for us is the food supply chain. For example, when Saffron Road launched no other frozen entrée was using animal protein from livestock raised without antibiotics. To us, the overuse of antibiotics is a huge sustainability issue as it relates to the ultimate safety of the food supply chain. We are happy to be able to count more than five frozen entrée brands that now follow this practice. We also are very aware to be transparent in our activities so that any claim we make, sustainable or otherwise, is always third party verified.

How are you incorporating sustainable practices into your business?

All Saffron Road products are created with the well being of our planet and our customers in mind. All cardboard box packaging and plastic trays are BPA free and may be recycled. Whenever possible, products use single-use pouch packaging to ensure less waste and a reduced carbon footprint. We also are always looking at the ingredients we are using. All Saffron Road products contain high-quality and sustainably-sourced ingredients, especially organic when possible. We buy our key items from small family farms and local growers in the U.S. who are dedicated to using sustainable farming practices, and we make sure that they are paid fair prices. Even before the labeling movement came along we were doing things like making sure that we were using Non GMO at risk items, such as using Organic Tofu. We are proud to have launched the first ever Non-GMO Project Verified Frozen Entrée, Chana Saag, and now have 15 Project Verified products.

What are your short term and long term goals?

We are always working on increasing our Non-GMO Verifications while also increasing the use of Organic products. Our Crunchy Chickpea Snacks are a good example of this. In the mid to longer term, we are working on our supply chain to reduce our carbon footprint and also ways that we can maintain the premium quality of Saffron Road’s products while also making our packaging even more sustainable. 

Where do you think you’ll have the biggest impact? And how do you measure your progress?

We have and will have the biggest impact in the food supply chain. The plain fact that Saffron Road is the fastest growing brand of frozen entrées by more than a factor of two shows that customers want a great meal experience made from wholesome ingredients. Success breeds imitation, and we welcome more to join us. We are still a small company, so we set reasonable goals, like reducing our carbon footprint and verifying our products as antibiotic-free and so on.

How do retailers factor into your efforts?

We value their opinion on a wide variety of issues, but frankly much of what we do comes from the standpoint of doing the next right thing. There was no retailer asking us to use antibiotic-free animal protein, we did that on our own. We applaud the efforts of retailers large and small from Whole Foods’ stance on labeling, all the way down to the long held stance of independent retailers like Jimbo’s in California. The Natural trade as a whole has been very supportive.

Why are sustainable business practices important to both the food industry and to the consumer?

To some, these practices have been important for quite a while, but we are also seeing more and more that people, especially new parents, want to leave the Earth in better shape than they found it. Without sustainable business practices, the food supply chain will ultimately break down.