Ilonka Audenaerde, Friek van Helden, Bonduelle

"Seven pledges for sustainable agriculture and healthy nutrition"

Friday was World Food Day. That's the day when global food issues and sustainable solutions are considered. Bonduelle announced several promises on that day. These should lead to more sustainable agriculture and a healthier diet. They also fit the company's vision. "Our mission is to create a better future through plant-based nutrition," says Ilonka Audenaerde, General Manager of Bonduelle Benelux. "And that's necessary. Because our health, and that of the planet, is deteriorating. “

 Ilonka Audenaerde, General Manager Bonduelle Benelux

Canned goods shortage towards the end of the season
The corona crisis has boosted people's interest in healthy nutrition. With its canned and frozen vegetables, Bonduelle is on the right side of things too. "There was a sudden increase in demand for canned and frozen vegetables across Europe. That was in the lockdown's first two weeks. After those hoarding weeks, demand for canned goods dropped back to its usual level. But the demand for frozen vegetables remained structurally high. However, our stock programs for that year weren't prepared for this explosive increase in demand."

"That affected our stock levels. We had some shortages of a few days to a few weeks. That was at the end of our programs and with the start of the new harvest. But, this varied greatly from one vegetable to another. You could see a difference in the sales of certain products. However, not every season starts at the same time. One of our pledges is to increase consumers' awareness of our vegetables being seasonal," says Ilonka.

The changing climate also affects Bonduelle's programs. "Our growers have had to deal with drought for the umpteenth time this year. This year's crops are a good indication of that. Volumes were 30 to 40% lower in Europe. Especially in green vegetables like peas and broad beans. That, too, sometimes makes it difficult for us to fill our programs."

Both examples highlight the importance of working toward more sustainable agriculture and healthier nutrition. Vegetable products should enjoy more attention. That's why Bonduelle has set itself the goal of joining the B Corporation certificate in 2025. "This certificate is awarded to certain companies. They are committed to society and the environment."

"These businesses continue to work toward this goal. We don't want to become the best in the world. We want to be the best for the world. That's we're now committed to sustainable farming. We're committed to healthy, plant-based nutrition. That's for a world which population will reach around 10 billion by 2050," continues Ilonka.

The seven pledges
Bonduelle's promises are two-fold - sustainable agriculture and sustainable nutrition. Under the heading of sustainable agriculture, Bonduelle pledges always to get seasonal vegetables fresh from the field.

"Greenhouses also contribute to feeding the world's population. But why shouldn't consumers simply choose seasonal vegetables that grow outdoors in nature?

"The second promise relates to alternative cultivation techniques. These protect soil quality and biodiversity. This pillar's third pledge focuses on reducing the crop pesticides we use. We, instead, want to find alternatives," explains Audenaerde.

In the other pillar - healthier food - Bonduelle promises to no longer use unnecessary additives in its products. It wants to offer organic products and use sustainable packaging. Bonduelle also pledges to provide vegetable inspiration to chefs. That's to reduce animal product consumption.

Easily achieved?
People reading Bonduelle's pledges could ask if it's a no-brainer for the company. "The promises aim at creating awareness, on the one hand. On the other, they must promote moving toward becoming more sustainable," says Friek van Helden, Bonduelle's Innovation Manager. "You could say some of our spearheads are more focused on consumer awareness. Think of sustainable canned packaging. You can recycle more than 96% of these to steel."

"We also always offer fresh seasonal products. People still have the idea that frozen produce or those in cans or jars aren't as fresh as vegetables and fruit in the fresh segment. However, when, for example, pea harvesting begins, we process them within four to 12 hours. They're then ready for distribution to supermarkets. You can't always say that for goods in the fresh produce aisle. They take longer to get from the land to the consumer or their plates."

Friek emphasizes that Bonduelle isn't now announcing a few promises they have long since kept anyway. "Consider our pledge regarding 'pure' products. So, using fewer additives like sugar or salt. That's something we've been working on for years. It takes time to get people used to the taste. We're also committed to sustainable agriculture. We want our growers to use fewer pesticides and cultivate organic products. That, too, is a challenge for us. It's a long way from being a done deal."

"Some of the pledges are our affiliated growers' responsibility. But, we have in-house specialists who can help them achieve more sustainable agriculture. They must also get the right price for their products. That will push the products' prices up. But that's the price of more sustainable farming. Our growers are also satisfied with our price agreements. After all, every year, we make new price agreements. These are with growers who have been with us for years," concludes Friek.

For more information:
Bonduelle Benelux
P.O. Box 28058
5602 JB, Eindhoven, NL

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