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Cargill’s Red Seaweed Promise: “The next step in our sustainability journey”

Cargill has launched its “Red Seaweed Promise,” which the company hopes will ensure a long-term sustainable supply chain. The program is designed to address key sustainability challenges for the harvesting and cultivation of red seaweed, while also enhancing producer livelihoods, supporting local communities and conserving marine environments. The program also focuses on food industry and consumer needs for sustainable food ingredients, with a commitment to sourcing 60 percent sustainable red seaweed by 2025.

Red seaweed is the raw material needed to produce carrageenan, a texturizer used in various food applications across dairy, confectionery and personal care segments. According to Cargill, the Red Seaweed Promise leverages the company’s partnerships with producers and suppliers to increase traceability and transparency in the supply chain.

Cargill’s Sustainability Manager James Ede, says the initiative ultimately “shines a light on the safety and sustainability of using carrageenan as an ingredient.”

“Red seaweed production is critical to the prosperity of approximately one million producers and their communities,” notes Sebastien Jan, Cargill Seaweed Strategic Sourcing Project Manager. Today, these producers face multiple challenges, from climate change and extreme weather events to inefficient farming and harvesting practices, which have a significant impact on the quality of red seaweed.

“The Red Seaweed Promise supports producer’s prosperity by providing the training, coaching and tools producers need to adopt environmental and safe production best practices while committing to sustainable marine and coastal ecosystems,” Jan explains.

As part of the program, Cargill is working with Proforest, a non-profit group offering consultancy services in the sustainable sourcing of natural resources, which supports the company in regions where red seaweed is sourced.

Results are used to set region-specific continuous improvement plans, focusing efforts on four priority areas:

  • Empowering seaweed producers
  • Improving production and harvest practices
  • Supporting sourcing communities
  • Strengthening partnerships

Ede tells: “The program is ultimately based around our mission to enable the producer and their communities to have a better income and living standard and we sought to achieve this through promoting sustainability around red seaweed production.”

“It’s very much a global program that we looking to establish, which empowers seaweed producers and allows them to build better practices, alongside a fully traceable supply chain.”

Cargill has a long history with red seaweed and carrageenan ingredients and Ede stresses that this promise has been established by years of working hard in this area. “The Red Seaweed Promise is the next step in our sustainability journey,” he continues. “It highlights the achievements that we made so far, and, ultimately shines a light on the safety and sustainability of using carrageenan as an ingredient, reassuring our customers by offering confidence in what we can deliver.”

Cargill hopes to build the story behind different products and brands to highlight the sustainability right through to the consumers, according to Ede. “We really aim to give credibility that supports market claims if customers wish to go down those sorts of areas,” he adds.

With a supply chain like red seaweed, it comes as no surprise that there have been many different players, Ede notes. “So when you are connecting with different parts of the supply chain, that can cause some issues.”

Cargill sources red seaweed from four continents, says Ede. “Whether it’s in Asia, Africa or South America, this global promise aims to tackle all sourcing areas that will become part of the program.”

Cargill is committed to making a positive impact and securing sustainably sourced red seaweed for our customers, Ede comments. “To ensure we are following international sustainability priorities, the program supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

Key players in seaweed ingredients are expected to expand and improve their product portfolios in the coming years due to an increased demand for use of the ingredient. Moreover, the players to leading in the global commercial seaweed market foresee the rise in investment in R&D, along with better range of applications to be some of the major strategies. The key players dominating the global seaweed markets are Cargill, Acadian Seaplants Ltd., Gelymar SA, CEAMSA, E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company and CP Kelco.

Cargill is ramping up its sustainability efforts beyond its red seaweed and carrageenan ingredients. In December 2018, the company outlined its plan to eliminate deforestation from its cocoa supply chain through the company’s Protect Our Planet plan, which seeks to provide concrete actions to achieve 100 percent cocoa bean traceability. The plan is also a commitment of “no further conversion” of any forest land in Ghana and Ivory Coast for cocoa production, and expands the company’s forest efforts to five origin countries (Brazil, Indonesia, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Ghana).

In October 2018, Cargill committed to source waxy corn 100 percent sustainably from European farmers. In support of this initiative, Cargill developed the Waxy Corn Promise program, leveraging the strong partnerships between farmers and suppliers to address key sustainability challenges in the waxy corn growing regions.

Finally, in August 2018, Cargill revealed plans to invest US$150 million to construct an HM pectin production facility in Brazil. The intended project is part of a plan to strengthen Cargill's full pectin footprint, including improvements to its existing three plants in Europe (Germany, France and Italy) and adding a plant in Brazil to take advantage of local resources.

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