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January is just around the corner, and with the new year comes a resurgence of annual food and drink-related initiatives, from Veganuary to Dry January. One lesser-known movement to appear in recent years is Regenuary, a drive to encourage consumers to support seasonal products made through regenerative agriculture, which was started by Glen Burrows, marketing director at The Ethical Butcher, in 2020.
Independent retailers can get involved with this initiative by understanding and communicating the benefits of regenerative agriculture to their customers and by stocking products with values that ring true to consumers’ environmental concerns.
More and more food and drink brands are making their position on regenerative farming clear and are working to educate customers and industry leaders about what regenerative farming is and why it’s so important.
“We can no longer produce food in a way that destroys our soils. In the long run, this system will fail, our food system will fail,” explained Bertie Matthews, managing director of Matthews Cotswold Flour, a specialist flour maker which has diversified its range of grains to move away from intensive farming and improve soil health. “Sourcing food from regenerative, sustainable sources helps to increase soil health. Without our six inches of fertile soil, we have no food. Let’s look after it!”
In order to boost awareness about regenerative agriculture, Bertie told Speciality Food that retailers should get to know the farmers making sustainable changes, start following the people leading this movement online, and learn more through films like Kiss the Ground and 2040. “They can host a ‘Future of food’ event and campaign celebrating and giving regenerative pioneers a voice,” he says.
Producers have a responsibility to lead by example when it comes to finding solutions to tackle climate change, added Francis Clarke, managing director of Trewithen Dairy. “To ensure pioneering techniques such as regenerative farming get the recognition they deserve, it is in our interests to talk openly about the work we are doing and take a collective approach with other like-minded producers.”
Collaboration among producers can bring about greater change. “We actively encourage dialogue among farmers to share best practices and learnings, to support the growth of regenerative farming,” Francis continued. “Projecting a consistent message will appeal to consumers and may ultimately lead to better defining, auditing and certifying of regenerative farming.”
Currently, there are no certifications in the UK for regenerative approaches, but with consumers hungry for food and drink with ethical and sustainable credentials, labelling could certainly help the industry push this initiative forward.
Still, collaborative approaches are taking shape across the industry. For example, global food giants including Unilever, Barry Callebaut, Arla Foods, Ben & Jerry’s and Woolworth South Africa, have partnered with FAI Farms and Farmwel to create a roadmap for regenerative dairy as the industry seeks to boost its sustainability credentials.
The collaboration, called RE-DAIRY, will engage with dairy farmers and businesses to form a practical vision of what a productive, profitable and regenerative dairy sector would look like. “We face two great crises in nature: global warming and biodiversity loss,” said Øistein Thorsen, chief executive of FAI Farms. He said dairy businesses around the world must cooperate to create change. “We must urgently address agriculture’s impact, but we also have to produce diverse and nutritious food to nourish a growing global population. For global dairy to make the transition, we need global collaboration. That is why we invite other partners to join and take a seat at the table.”
RE-DAIRY will look at practices that are having regenerative outcomes on dairy farms around the world today and will work with farmer groups and other stakeholders to create a roadmap of critical steps and actions that must be taken to transition to regenerative dairy.
By coming together and collaborating, as Patrick Holden, founder and CEO of the Sustainable Food Trust, said like never before, eco-minded producers and retailers can create positive change in the food and drink industry.