Sara Lee to triple sustainable coffee buy

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 11th January 2011

Sara Lee Corp has announced a new five-year initiative aiming to triple its purchases of sustainable coffee, expand partner programs and support the market for sustainable tea.

coffee-capsules-cropped.jpgThe company, currently divesting itself of many of its product lines to focus on its coffee business, is speculated to be considering splitting its coffee and processed meats businesses.

“Sara Lee’s long-term goal is to use only certified coffee and tea in all products worldwide, and this new aggressive five-year plan is a very important step in accelerating our progress,” said Frank van Oers, chief executive officer of Sara Lee’s international beverage and bakery businesses.

“By providing coffee growers visibility five years out and publicly committing to buy very large quantities of certified coffee we can contribute to improve sustainability in the mainstream coffee market worldwide.”

By 2015 Sara Lee said it will have more than 20% of its entire annual coffee volume certified sustainable. Sara Lee ranks third worldwide in coffee volume behind Nestlé and Kraft Foods, and ahead of other leading firms such as The J.M. Smucker Company and Tchibo. Sara Lee’s International Beverage division operates in more than 40 countries around the world and generated $3 billion in net sales in the fiscal year ended in June 2010.

Sara Lee announced also that it plans to expand the number of sustainable certification partners with which it works. Although the company reiterated its committment to its main partner for sustainable certification, the UTZ Certified Foundation, Sara Lee said they will liaise occasionally with other programs such as Certified Organic or Rainforest Alliance.

In the past five years Sara Lee has become the world’s largest buyer of UTZ Certified Good Inside coffee, with cumulative purchases of more than 110 million kilos of the commodity. The company has now committed to more than triple that amount in the next five years, and purchase at least 350 million kilos across all its markets and product segments.

The UTZ Certified Foundation is an independent non-profit organization that runs one of the most popular and respected agricultural commodity sustainable certification programs. The foundation is dedicated to achieving sustainable agricultural supply chains that meet the growing needs and expectations of farmers, the industry and consumers.

The company estimated its sustainability investments could deliver up to US$100 million in income to coffee farmers, their associations and representatives over and above what they would have earned by selling uncertified coffee beans in the open market.

In addition to expanding its sustainable coffee investment, Sara Lee confirmed their committment to bringing sustainable tea to consumers.

In 2010 Sara Lee became the first to bring to market UTZ CERTIFIED Good Inside® tea as part of its long-term commitment to achieve full certification. Sara Lee is already using certified tea for one third of its total European tea volume, which is sold under flagship brands such as PICKWICK® and HORNIMANS®.

Sara Lee is a long-standing member of the Ethical Tea Partnership, an international non-commercial alliance of 20 tea-packers with a vision for a thriving global tea sector that is socially just and environmentally sustainable, and is the main sponsor of the Douwe Egberts Foundation, a multi-million euro investment to improve the living and working conditions of small coffee and tea farmers in countries of origin.