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General Mills, Häagen-Dazs Launch Sustainable Vanilla Sourcing Program

MINNEAPOLIS—General Mills and Häagen-Dazs announced a new sustainable vanilla sourcing program designed to foster greater economic vitality for smallholder vanilla farmers in Madagascar and ensure the availability of high-quality vanilla for future generations.

Häagen-Dazs, with the General Mills Foundation, will invest $125,000 over two years to benefit villages in Madagascar’s Sava region, home of the world’s highest-quality vanilla. The commitment builds upon General Mills’ century-long history of working closely with farmers around the world to promote sustainable agriculture.

The new program will leverage the strengths of three global partners to help promote sustainable vanilla farming in Madagascar. General Mills will leverage its extensive supply chain and agronomic knowledge, and vanilla supplier Virginia Dare will leverage its deep understanding of the vanilla market. The international humanitarian organization CARE will leverage its extensive expertise fighting global poverty.

Madagascar is the world’s leading producer of vanilla, responsible for more than 80% of the world’s production. For a majority of the estimated 80,000 Malagasy farmers, the vanilla crop is their only source of income. General Mills relies on the Sava region of Madagascar for the high-quality vanilla used in Häagen-Dazs ice cream

“At General Mills, our mission is ‘Nourishing Lives’," said Jerry Lynch, vice president and chief sustainability officer at General Mills. “Working to improve the lives of smallholder farmers by helping them accrue a greater share of the benefit from the crops they produce will also help ensure a sustainable and quality supply of vanilla for the future."

The sustainable vanilla sourcing program is part of a larger, more comprehensive sustainable sourcing plan being advanced by General Mills. In 2011, General Mills completed an extensive global assessment of the ingredients and materials it sources, developing an overall global sustainable sourcing model. Vanilla is one of 10 ingredients General Mills has prioritized to source sustainably. The company is now advancing sourcing strategies on each of the 10 priority ingredients where the greatest impact can be achieved.

The Madagascar vanilla program will provide training and education to several hundred smallholder vanilla farmers focused on producing a more sustainable and higher-quality vanilla crop. The training will teach value-added production techniques, including yield improvement and vanilla curing. By adding value at the farm level, vanilla growers should be able to significantly increase their incomes, which should benefit entire communities in the region. The program also will focus on building vanilla curing and storage facilities.

General Mills also has worked to deepen the world’s understanding of the vanilla plant, which also should benefit growers in Madagascar. For example, the company is funding cutting-edge research to map the vanilla genome. The research, already underway at the University of California-Davis, will help lay the foundation for natural and conventional breeding improvements to increase yields, strengthen disease resistance or even to enhance flavor.

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