La Brea Bakery, Aryzta, sustainability
Wheat Montana exclusively grows La Brea Bakery's heirloom grains in the Big Sky region of Montana.

Turnout at the polls

Rasma Zvaners, vice-president of regulatory and technical services for the American Bakers Association (A.B.A.), said consumers are asking companies questions like: “Do your ingredients come from growers using sustainable agriculture practices?” “Where are you ingredients sourced from?” “Are ethical work practices being used by you growers abroad?” “Is your company aiming to use fewer natural resources, recycle packaging and explore energy initiatives?”

Ms. Zvaners serves as the policy director for A.B.A.’s “Nourish. Enrich. Sustain.” program. Its mission is to support continuous improvement of collective sustainability practices to minimize the environmental footprint while also helping the industry achieve business goals.

When consumers and, in many cases, retailers began inquiries about sustainability initiatives a decade ago, some thought it was a short-lived trend.

“It was not,” Ms. Zvaners said.

Aryzta shareholders are asking about sustainability programs and basing their decisions to purchase on published data, which makes sustainability a business imperative, Ms. Sheehan said. The impetus to convert Aryzta's Los Angeles-based La Brea Bakery breads to Non-GMO Project verification was driven by Americans requesting non-G.M.O. ingredients in artisan baked goods. The company also launched the La Brea Bakery Reserve line, which delivers farm-to-table artisan breads that are sourced from heirloom grains grown exclusively in the Big Sky region of Montana. 

Field, sustainability
A traceable supply chain to crops grown sustainably fosters transparency with consumers.

“The Fortuna wheat used in La Brea Bakery Reserve is grown for flavor, not for yield, and incorporates responsible growing practices such as crop rotation, promotion of wheat diversity and no-till farming,” Ms. Sheehan said. “We are proud to be the first national farm-to-table bread in North America, promoting sustainability, integrity and traceability in our supply chain.”

A survey commissioned by Unilever this year looked at how a brand’s social or environmental impact plays a role in consumers’ purchasing decisions. The survey of 20,000 adults living in the United Kingdom, United States, India, Brazil and Turkey found that 33% of respondents said they choose to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good.

“This research confirms that sustainability isn’t a nice-to-have for businesses,” said Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer for Unilever. “In fact, it has become an imperative. To succeed globally, and especially in emerging economies across Asia, Africa and Latin America, brands should go beyond traditional focus areas like product performance and affordability.”

Instead, he added, they must act quickly to prove their social and environmental credentials and show consumers they can be trusted with the future of the planet and communities, as well as their own bottom lines.

Twenty-one per cent of respondents would actively choose brands if they made their sustainability credentials clearer on their packaging and in their marketing, the survey discovered. Unilever also found purpose-led purchasing is greater among consumers in emerging economies than in developed markets. While 53% of shoppers in the U.K. and 78% in the United States said they feel better when they buy products that are sustainably produced, that number rises to 88% in India and 85% in both Brazil and Turkey.

Sustainability is clearly a key to not only domestic but also international growth.