VAIL, COLO. — Sustainability will continue to be at the forefront of consumers’ minds, but also can be beneficial for producers, a panel addressing sustainable sourcing adding value to the food supply chain said at the 37th International Sweetener Symposium held Aug. 1 in Vail.

Alissa Marturano, sustainable sourcing global director for Mars Wrigley, said it was important from a brand perspective to have data to support claims about sustainability.

“Consumers care,” Ms. Marturano said, noting that about 85% of consumers globally have shifted to consider sustainability and ethics in their buying decisions.

“The consumer is boss,” she said, adding that Mars has shifted ingredient sourcing considerations to make sustainability just as important as quality and service. Expectations about sustainability and transparency are global and cross category, she said. “It’s a consumer expectation.”

Panelists stressed the benefits to growers of sustainable farming practices, including less outlay for fuel and fertilizer among other input costs while maintaining or even increasing yields because of the positive environmental impact. They noted that many farmers, including sugar beet and cane growers, have practiced sustainable farming for decades even before sustainability was a trend. Patrick Frischhertz, a farmer from Plaquemine, La., said sustainability in farming was a form of self-preservation.

Rebecca Larson, PhD, vice president of government affairs and chief scientist for Western Sugar Cooperative, said there were “lots of opportunities” for farmers related to sustainability, allowing them to reduce input costs while not lowering productivity. The effort can be farmer led, she said.