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21 February 2013 | Anna Reynolds
Häagen-Dazs and the General Mills Foundation will invest $125,000 in a two-year programme to support vanilla farmers in Madagascar.
General Mills, producer of the ice cream, relies on Madagascar’s Sava region for the vanilla used in Häagen-Dazs. The programme will help to promote sustainable vanilla farming and has been developed with the help of vanilla supplier Virginia Dare and international humanitarian organisation CARE.
Steve Peterson, director of sourcing sustainability at General Mills, said: “From our knowledge of the region, we have come to understand that our ability to share our agronomic and supply chain expertise, while leveraging our financial resources, could help create a better, stronger, more sustainable supply of high-quality vanilla, while raising living standards for the farmers who grow this important crop.”
The Malagasy vanilla programme will provide training to hundreds of smallholders, including value-added production techniques such as yield improvement and vanilla curing to produce a more sustainable and higher quality crop. By adding value at farm level, vanilla growers should be able to increase their incomes and benefit entire communities.
It is part of a wider sustainable sourcing plan developed by General Mills, after the company carried out a global assessment in 2011 of the ingredients and materials it sources. Vanilla is one of the 10 ingredients the company, whose brands also include Green Giant and Old El Paso, has prioritised to source sustainably.
David Clark, president of Häagen-Dazs, said: “Häagen-Dazs prides itself on using only the finest ingredients, including the highest quality of a very select breed of vanilla from Madagascar.”
General Mills is also funding research at the University of California, Davis to map the vanilla genome that will lay the foundation for natural breeding improvements to increase yields, strengthen disease resistance and enhance flavour.