The Almond Board of California promotes almonds through its research-based approach to all aspects of marketing, farming and production on behalf of the more than 6,000 almond growers and processors in California, many of whom are multi-generational family operations. Established in 1950 and based in Modesto, California, the Almond Board of California is a non-profit organization that administers a grower-enacted Federal Marketing Order under the supervision of USDA. On Feb. 16, 2017, the Almond Board of California announced it is investing $4.7 million dollars in 82 independent, third-party research projects exploring next-generation farming and sustainability practices.
Natural Products INSIDER recently sat down with Molly Spence, director of North America at the Almond Board of California, to discuss the importance of sustainability and its impact on the food chain.
Food Insider Journal: Sustainability is a hot topic, especially when talking about the food and beverage supply chain. Can you discuss the importance of sustainability programs for ingredient suppliers and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies?
Molly Spence: Our food choices influence our health and the health of our planet. As such, it’s important that suppliers and manufacturers implement sustainability programs to lessen their footprint wherever possible. For some this may mean sourcing ingredients produced in a sustainable manner, and for others it could be striving toward more sustainable production processes. Ultimately, transparency around the supply chain shows commitment to customers and the community and more and more brands will need to implement these programs to keep up with increasing consumer awareness and demand for sustainable products.
FIJ: How can the industry move toward a more resource efficient and sustainable food system?
MS: We all play an important role in moving our industry toward resource efficiency and creating a sustainable food system for ourselves and future generations. By openly discussing how we can operate more sustainably in all areas of our businesses, sharing resources, and implementing best practices, we, as an industry, already are moving toward this goal. As an industry that has invested more than $60 million over decades of research, the California Almond community has built a foundation of data covering environmental, production, and other issues to continually evolve best practices and support a sustainable food system. This research has resulted in an abundance of knowledge about best practices and we strive to build on that and continually improve. Summits like Menus of Change and Sustainable Brands, which the Almond Board participates in annually, provide forums to share these key learnings and connect with industry peers toward a mutual goal.
FIJ: What are key considerations suppliers and CPGs looking to source sustainable ingredients?
MS: Transparency is imperative when sourcing sustainable ingredients. We’re seeing manufacturers provide more detailed information on where and how they are sourcing every ingredient that goes into a product so consumers can feel good about their purchasing decisions. For an ingredient like almonds, we’re proud to say that the California Almond community’s ongoing commitment to sustainable farming practices has resulted in a safe and stable supply of almonds that manufacturers (and consumers!) can depend on. At the Almond Board, we are dedicated to providing suppliers and product developers with as much information as possible on the steps our industry has implemented to create a sustainable ingredient that is suitable for clean label formulations.
FIJ: The use of land and water resources, pollution, pesticides and the collapse of bee colonies are all critical for the future of farming. Can you tell us how the Almond Board of California is working with farmers to address these issues?
MS: California’s Almond community is committed to using sustainable agricultural practices that are economically viable and based upon scientific research, common sense and a respect for the environment, neighbors and employees.1 The Almond Board has been investing in research since 1973 to explore next-generation farming and sustainability practices, and topics covered include irrigation efficiency, air quality, honey bee health, and so much more. In fact, in 2009, we established the California Almond Sustainability Program to better understand the ongoing sustainability improvements of farmers across all production practices and to provide continuing education on these topics. For more information visit http://www.almonds.com/growers/sustainability
FIJ: Plant-based eating is moving from trend to norm, which bodes well for the mighty almond. Can you discuss some of the current research the Almond Board of California has conducted on sustainability as well as any research of almonds and nutrition?
MS: One thing unique to almonds is our research into innovative uses for almond coproducts, including the almond hull, which is traditionally used to feed livestock, and the shells, which are used as livestock bedding, addressing needs across food, automotive, pharmaceutical and plastics. Even the trees are utilized at the end of their productive lives, creating alternative energy or being used to improve soil quality, contributing to the industry’s zero-waste approach. You can read more about this great research on the Almonds.com blog.
Additional research we are excited about includes a recent study funded by the Almond Board and conducted by researchers at the University of Washington that evaluated the potential effects of replacing typical snack foods with almonds and other tree nuts and shows that this simple swap has the potential to improve nutrient intakes and result in overall healthier eating patterns. Such a swap would decrease empty calories, solid fats, saturated fat and sodium in the diet, while increasing intake of key nutrients like fiber and magnesium.2