The partnership is part of General Mills’ commitment to double its organic acreage and meet its goal of increasing organic food sales from about approximately $675m to $1bn by 2019, the company said. General Mills plans to source organic ingredients from 250,000 acres of organic farmland by 2019, up from 120,000 in 2015.
Organic Valley is currently the ingredient supplier for Annie’s mac and cheese products, which General Mills acquired in 2014.
Bridging the 3-year organic certification process
It currently takes dairy farms about three years to fully transition their operations to meet USDA certified organic standards. The partnership between General Mills and Organic Valley is intended to increase the organic ingredient supply needed to better meet rising consumer demand for organic products.
“Depending on the operation, it typically takes three years for a farm to transition its soil, crops and pastures from conventional to organic production,” General Mills corporate communications manager Bridget Christenson told DairyReporter.
“One of the biggest challenges to accelerating organic supply is enabling farmers to bridge the transition period required under USDA rules to attain certified organic status.”
Expanding organic yogurt offerings
Since 2009, General Mills has increased the organic acreage it supports by 120% and is now among the top five organic ingredient purchasers. General Mills yogurt division includes brands Yoplait, Annie's, Liberté, and Mountain High. The company says it is now the third largest manufacturer of organic foods in the US.
Earlier this year General Mills introduced the Annie's brand to the US yogurt category with a new line of certified organic whole milk yogurt. In addition, the company is transitioning its Liberté yogurt brand in the US to USDA certified organic, which will roll out nationwide this summer.
General Mills is also set to launch the Organic & Regenerative Agriculture Transition Council, which will bring together sustainable agricultural leaders, farmers and industry stakeholders with the mission of advancing organic and regenerative agriculture practices. The first project will focus on dairy.