General Mills announced earlier this month that it is investing $50,000 in the Canada-based Prairie Organic Grain Initiative (POGI), a multi-year program with the goal of building resiliency and stability in the organic field-crop sector. The primary focus of POGI is to address the shortage of organic grain growers through programs designed to attract conventional growers to transition to organic farming.
The reason why General Mills is investing in POGI is in “pursuit of further enhancing the quality and availability of organic grains by 2018,” Tom Rabaey, principle scientist and agronomist at General Mills, told Triple Pundit. He added that POGI “represents a unified effort to increase access to organic grains for General Mills.” He described the program as a “collaborative effort bringing together several public organic organizations and companies to consolidate efforts and make meaningful change.”
Earlier this year, the company announced that it will almost double its natural and organic sales by 2020. Jeff Harmening, executive vice president and CEO of General Mills, told investors that the company’s goal is to “build a $1 billion natural and organic business by 2020.” He pointed out that consumer interest in natural and organic products is expected to drive double-digit industry sales growth over the next five years.
The U.S. organic food market is expected to grow by 14 percent from 2013 to 2018, according to a 2014 report titled "United States Organic Food Market Forecast & Opportunities, 2018."
General Mills has grown its natural and organic brands since 2000 by acquiring brands such as Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, LÄRABAR, Food Should Taste Good, Immaculate Baking, Liberté and Mountain High. Last year, General Mills acquired Annie’s, making it the fourth-largest U.S. natural and organic food producer and among the top five organic ingredient purchasers in the North American packaged foods sector.
Investing in POGI is part of General Mills' commitment to organics. Or as Rabaey said, the company is “committed to continuing to expand our natural and organic business and we believe this program is a significant step in securing the pipeline of natural and organic ingredients we’ll need."
As consumer interest grows in organic farming and as General MIlls grows its organic business, it needs organic ingredients to meet its customers’ needs, Rabaey pointed out. “By investing in this initiative and partnering with like-minded organizations, we are ensuring a long-term sustainable supply,” he said. “This is only the beginning in our journey to build our capabilities and pave the way for General Mills to become an industry leader in natural and organic.”
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Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.