Haagen-Dazs and General Mills to Help Smallholder Vanilla Farmers Increase
Yields and Improve Sustainability Practices in Madagascar
New vanilla sourcing program builds on company's commitment to improving the
lives of smallholder farmers in developing countries
MINNEAPOLIS, Feb. 20, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS, Feb. 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- General Mills and Haagen-Dazs today
announced an initiative designed to foster greater economic vitality for
smallholder vanilla farmers in Madagascar and ensure the availability of high
quality vanilla for future generations.
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Haagen-Dazs, the world's leading brand of super-premium ice cream, 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
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; vanilla supplier Virginia
Dare will leverage its deep understanding of the vanilla market; and
international humanitarian organization CARE will leverage its extensive
expertise fighting global poverty.
"At General Mills, our mission is Nourishing Lives," explained 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 extensiveglobal 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.
Program to bring social and environmental benefits to Malagasy vanilla farmers
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
"Haagen-Dazs prides itself on using only the finest ingredients, including the
highest quality of a very select breed of vanilla from Madagascar," said David
Clark, president of Haagen-Dazs, the global super-premium ice cream brand
owned by General Mills. "Operating sustainably and ethically goes hand-in-hand
with our commitment to deliver the quality, super-premium products consumers
expect from Haagen-Dazs."
Madagascar is the world's leading producer of vanilla, responsible for more
than 80 percent of the world's production. General Mills relies on the Sava
region of Madagascar for the high quality vanilla used in Haagen-Dazs ice
cream. For a majority of the estimated 80,000 Malagasy farmers, the vanilla
crop is their only source of income.
"Contributing to the viability and sustainability of vanilla farming could
have a significant impact on the lives of Malagasy growers, their communities,
and the environment," said Steve Peterson, director of sourcing sustainability
at General Mills. "Vanilla is integral to their way of life. 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."
General Mills also has worked to deepen the world's understanding of the
vanilla plant, which should additionally help benefit growers in Madagascar.
For example, the company is funding cutting-edge research to map the vanilla
genome. This unprecedented research, already under way 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. Scientists from the J. Craig Venter Institute (USA),
CIRAD (UMR-PMVBT La Reunion), the University of Antananarivo (Madagascar) and
INIFAP/SAGARPA (Mexico) are all involved in the effort.
General Mills' Commitment to Small Farmers
The new vanilla initiative is one of several General Mills programs directly
benefitting smallholder farmers around the world. In Mexico, for example,
General Mills and its Green Giant team of agronomists are working with
broccoli and cauliflower growers to encourage adoption of drip irrigation
practices, which can significantly reduce water usage. General Mills is
providing interest-free loans to farmers for the purchase of drip irrigation
equipment in the Irapauto region of Mexico, which has accelerated the adoption
of drip irrigation in the area. General Mills estimates that 1.1 billion
gallons of water are being saved annually as a result.
In China, small farmers in the northeastern village of Yongqing have increased
their household income four- to eight-fold by growing corn exclusively for
General Mills' Bugles corn snacks. By contracting directly with General Mills,
more than 750 farmer households receive seeds, other inputs, agronomic
guidance, and two unique guarantees: a price that's higher than the market
price and a promise to buy their entire crop. Since the advent of the corn
initiative in 2003, signs of the farmers' new higher standard of living are
prominent, ranging from new homes and new farm equipment to improved diets and
In Africa, through the General Mills nonprofit Partners in Food Solutions,
company scientists, engineers and technicians are working with more than 40
food processors on 140 projects to improve and increase food production in
Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi. As these small African food processors
grow, they are able to hire more workers and source more materials from local
smallholder farmers. The farmers, with their additional income, can send their
children to school, get better medical care or even start new businesses.
General Mills is also partnering with CARE International and Merck in fighting
poverty and empowering women and girls in Africa through a program called Join
My Village. Through the program's 350 village-based savings and loan
associations, over 3,000 small business loans have been administered,
positively impacting hundreds of women and families involved in food
production in Malawi.
The efforts by General Mills to operate sustainably and ethically have been
recognized by third-party groups such as Forbes and Corporate Responsibility
magazine, Lynch acknowledged. "But we know there is much more to be done. Even
as we launch this new initiative in Madagascar, we know we must remain
diligent and committed to elevating our sustainability efforts even further."
About General Mills
General Mills is one of the world's leading food companies, operating in more
than 100 countries. Its brands include Cheerios, Fiber One, Haagen-Dazs,
Nature Valley, Yoplait, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Old El Paso,
and Wanchai Ferry.General Mills owns the global brand of Haagen-Dazs and
operates that business across the world, except in the U.S. and Canada where
it licenses to Nestle the rights to produce and sell Haagen-Dazs
products.Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., USA, General Mills had fiscal
2012 worldwide sales of US $16.7 billion.
Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package, CARE is a leading
humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus
on working alongside poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper
resources, they have the power to lift whole families and entire communities
out of poverty. Last year CARE worked in 84 countries and reached 122 million
people around the world. To learn more, visit www.care.org.
About Virginia Dare
Virginia Dare is a Brooklyn, N.Y. based flavor and extract company founded in
1923. Today the company creates and supplies flavors tothe food, beverage,
nutritional and pharmaceuticals markets. An industry recognized vanilla
specialist, Virginia Dare uses an extensive network in Madagascar to procure
the highest quality vanilla beans to produce extracts and vanilla flavors. As
the world's leading industrial extractor of vanilla beans, Virginia Dare
actively purchases this raw material from all producing countries and has been
a pioneer in launching vanilla related sustainability initiatives.
SOURCE General Mills
Contact: Kris Patton, +1-763-764-6364, firstname.lastname@example.org
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