The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Sustainability Series: Cargill

Sustainability Series: Cargill


July 25, 2010

Founded in 1865, Cargill is an international provider of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services. Their Truvia™ natural sweetener, derived from the best tasting part of the stevia leaf, recently came to market in response to consumer demand for a natural, zero-calorie way to sweeten foods and beverages. We talked to Zanna McFerson, Assistant Vice President, Cargill Health & Nutrition and business director for the Truvia™ enterprise (tabletop and ingredient), about the benefits of building and growing a responsible and sustainable supply chain from a product’s infancy. 

How does your business define sustainability?

The Truvia™ business works within the Cargill company-wide commitment to apply knowledge and experience to help meet the complex, economic, environmental and social challenges wherever Cargill does business. Cargill commitments to corporate responsibility are:

  • We will conduct our business with high levels of integrity, accountability and responsibility.
  • We will treat people with dignity and respect.
  • We will develop ways of reducing our environmental impact and help conserve natural resources.
  • We will invest in and engage with communities where we live and work.

How are you incorporating sustainable practice into your business?

The Truvia™ business is developing a stevia program with strong environmental, economic, and social standards at all points of the Truvia™ rebiana supply chain. By working directly with farmers at the community level the business is able to implement and audit responsible practices from field to table. 

What are your short term and long term goals?

As stevia is an entirely new supply chain, it is important to establish the foundation for a sustainable supply chain and a shared vision with supply partners from the beginning. The short term goal to establish a strong standard for the supply chain from farm to formulation is fully underway. The long term impact goals will be announced in the coming months.

Where do you think you will have the most impact?

Truvia™ rebiana begins with the leaf of the stevia plant and the farmer who nurtures that crop. The Cargill 145-year agricultural history of helping to build strong agricultural supply chains and farm communities is being leveraged to support the stevia farmers in the Truvia™ rebiana supply chain. Stevia is at the beginning of its use as a global commercial scale crop. The business will work closely with the grower communities to implement best agricultural practices and improve plant breeding programs which will improve quality and yield of the stevia plant. The Truvia™ business is also leveraging the scale of Cargill to minimize our environmental impact. As an example, by shipping Cargill salt and Truvia™ tabletop sweetener together in one truck to retailers, emissions are reduced by 56%.

How do you measure your impact? 

As the Truvia™ stevia supply chain is built, strong standards are being established that will be audited. Using standard industry foot printing models, the assessment has been done of impacts in the current field to formulation path to market. This initial data sets a baseline by which progress can be measured towards target goals.

Why are sustainable business practices important to the food industry?

Sustainable practices are critically important to ensure business continuity and success as well as fair treatment of the farming communities that provide key agricultural inputs for the food and beverage industry. They provide a solid foundation in supply chains that support the delivery of a safe and quality product to the food industry, and ultimately, the consumer. The Truvia™ business is ensuring high standards are met at all stages of the Truvia™ rebiana supply chain which enables consistent delivery of a great-tasting, natural, zero calorie sweetener to our customers.   

Why are sustainable practices important to the consumer?

Consumers care about how their food is produced. They want to know that companies are producing a safe, quality product in a manner that treats people fairly and respects the environment.

How do retailers factor into your efforts?

Retailers are playing an influential and leading role in shaping what it means for a company to be sustainable and responsible. When developing the standards for the Truvia™ supply chain, the business incorporated many elements of successful codes and programs from retailers in the United States and in Europe. The Truvia™ supply chain is well positioned to meet the expectations of the retail environment.

In upcoming issues, we will feature interviews with food companies that are making strides in their sustainability efforts. If you are interested in telling us more about what your company is doing to get involved please contact Allison Bloom