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From crop to cup: Ricoffy beans now 100% sustainably sourced

Nestlé South Africa has announced that the coffee beans used for its instant chicory and coffee extract brand Ricoffy are now 100% sustainably sourced.
StockSnap via
StockSnap via Pixabay

The announcement forms part of Nestlé South Africa’s RE initiative to Rethink, Reduce and Repurpose, which illustrates how brands in the Nestlé portfolio are rethinking their approach, reducing any negative impact on the environment and further encouraging consumers to repurpose while also looking for opportunities themselves to repurpose in their value chains.

Launched in 2010, the Nescafé Plan is a tangible effort of how Nestlé creates shared value in the coffee sector. As part of this, Nestlé assists farmers, farming communities and the environment through agricultural skills training, including developing natural biodiversity through intercropping and agri-forestry programmes, in order to help farmers secure their income.

Nescafé Ricoffy’s Responsibly Sourced campaign aims to consolidate the brand's sustainability initiatives, strategies and resources, and in doing so strengthen its contribution to a waste-free future.

We caught up with Nicole Roos, Nestlé business executive officer: coffee & beverages to find out more...

What was the inspiration behind the Nescafé Ricoffy Responsibly Sourced campaign?

The reason for such a campaign is that as Nestlé we understand that at the heart of good food is the quality of the ingredients, the people who produce them and the soils and ecosystems in which they are grown.

Protecting growers and their environments ensures the long-term success of Nestlé’s business. This requires that Nestlé know where their ingredients come from and that they are produced in a way that minimises negative impacts and makes a positive contribution to individuals, communities and the planet.

Of course, we believed that South Africa's most loved chicory and coffee mixture brand needed to thus lead the way and drive 100% responsibly sourcing of coffee beans to ensure that we contribute to a better planet for future generations, characterised by wide fluctuations in price.

This price volatility has significant consequences for those who depend on coffee for their livelihood.

In which ways can the adoption of sustainability initiatives be beneficial to industry sectors and their wider audience?

Whilst the journey towards achieving a sustainability goal is a critical one, it is a global issue and not one that can be tackled by just one person, one organisation or one government. It requires a collaborative effort if we are to make a sustainable impact.

Businesses, including ourselves, need to rethink and approach our businesses in a circular way as opposed to extractive industrial models based on take-make-waste if we are truly going to make a lasting impact to save the environment.

Could you explain how Ricoffy is taking steps toward building a sustainable brand, especially in light of its 100% responsibility-sourced beans. Why is/was this so important?

Through our network of about 300 agronomists, we actively work with coffee farmers across 15 coffee-producing countries; visiting more than 30,000 coffee farms per year and providing training or assistance to about 100,000 coffee farmers every year.

As Nescafé Ricoffy, we take into consideration the challenges; climate change, crop diseases, water shortages and movement of people from farms to cities, impacting coffee production. Being part of this respectfully grown programme, allows us to create partnerships that protect the farmer from these harsh realities. 

Sustainable coffee beans are grown in a way that is kind to people and the environment. The coffee industry as a whole is dedicated to building a truly sustainable supply chain, from crop to cup. This now means that we know where all (100%) our coffee comes from, and that it is produced in a way that minimises negative impacts and makes a positive contribution to individuals, communities and the planet.

All our coffee can therefore be traced back to the respective/identifiable group of supplying farmers. It is verified or certified by independent organisations.

Has the production of coffee beans changed today? How so?

Yes, it has changed and this change is, by and large, driven by consumer trends.

Today, consumers are much more aware of issues around responsible supply chains. They are starting to demand that the products they buy have been sourced ethically, that human rights are upheld in the process, and that these products are transported and packaged in a sustainable manner.

Over the past ten years, the Nescafé Plan has worked towards making the farming and production of coffee for Nescafé more sustainable, improving the lives of farmers and the economic and social development of their communities.

Together with coffee-growing communities, suppliers, and business partners, we have strengthened responsible sourcing practices throughout the Nescafé supply chain, improved farmer incomes and social wellbeing of the communities, and reduce the environmental footprint of farms and Nescafé factories.

What can producers do differently to adopt a sustainability-minded production approach?

Worldwide demand for food is growing and while eating habits and behaviours are changing, there is demand on food manufacturers to ensure that their production does not impact the planet. One of the considerations will be to invest in technology and innovation therefore enabling meeting consumer demands without negatively impacting the planet.

There are new and exciting approaches in food systems that enables producers and processers to have more sustainable practices that benefit the environment and also yield process optimisation from producers. These include regenerative focus areas such as topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle, and strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil.

At the same time, agricultural supply chains face many challenges, from an ageing farming population to the effects of climate change. At Nestlé, we want to help build a sustainable, long-term supply of ingredients by focusing on regenerative practices.

How do you see sustainability thriving in the future?

Achieving a thriving and sustainable circular economy in the food industry has the potential to drive economic growth

There is no doubt that sustainability will not be nice to have in the future. In a rapidly changing world, where sustainability challenges such as climate change, plastic pollution and ecological degradation as a result of industrial activity continue to rise, businesses addressing these challenges will be a key component of resilient and successful businesses.

Therefore, for sustainability efforts to thrive, sustainability needs to be at the forefront of business strategy. Businesses need to approach a business model that is sustainable by design (end-to-end) and circular. This will be a way of building inclusive economic growth and one that sees regeneration as a wonderful opportunity of opportunity to repurpose.

Through this, businesses will be able to deliver an economic opportunity for all and build connected societies with less harm done to the environment

Do you think in light of Covid-19, that 'sustainability thinking' is the way forward? Why is this?

The pandemic has had enormous impacts on lives, livelihoods, economies and societies, including in the coffee sector. It has exacerbated some of the systemic and complex challenges that the sector faces, including climate change, farmer profitability, labour shortages and the protection of human rights. To us, it underscored just how important and urgent our work is.

While we work to meet the increasing food demand, we must at the same time, as an industry, develop solutions that, for example, reduce packaging volume and impact without compromising on protection. We should collectively, envision a future without waste, and this means supporting efforts that are aimed at increasing recycling capacity.

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