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Regenerative – The Word Defining Global Food and Ag in 2021

Words by Leon Kaye
regenerative agriculture

Regenerative could become the key word that sums up 2021 if the new COVID-19 vaccines are effective and their distribution can be scaled worldwide. But in any event, recent trends in the global food sector suggest regenerative agriculture will become more mainstream in 2021 as both consumers and companies realize we’ve got to find a way to tackle global emissions in the coming decade.

Regenerative agriculture is a farming approach that has some similarities to organic agriculture, with the primary goals to build up soil health, sequester carbon, conserve water and improve air quality. Such farming methods also seek to decrease the consumption of fertilizer, fuel, and other resources used widely in modern agriculture. Not everyone agrees with the claims regenerative agriculture’s supporters have made about it could emerge as a leading way to take on climate change. Nevertheless, tactics that encompass this method of farming, including no-till planting and the inclusion of cover crops on farmland, can help make the food and agriculture sector become more responsible and sustainable.

The bottom line is that as companies seek to burnish their sustainability credentials while convincing consumers their products are the responsible ones to purchase, regenerative agriculture will be here to stay – and don’t be surprised if you see more labels touting the benefits of food products sourced from farms that deploy this method of farming.

To be fair, in 2019 Whole Foods said “regenerative” would be the top food trend for this year, but of course the pandemic disrupted everything, and images of empty store shelves from this spring instead, sadly, summed up the food industry during 2020. But assuming we emerge from this pandemic in the coming months, regenerative agriculture will score renewed interest in the coming year – and the following food and beverage companies have already set the foundation for how companies and their suppliers are rethinking agriculture.

General Mills: 1 million acres of regenerative farmland by 2030

Touting the widely accepted “six principles” of regenerative agriculture, General Mills has been one of the biggest proponents of such farming methods. The company has promised to scale up such farms across the U.S. and Canada over the next ten years. Products that are a result of General Mills’ dabbling in ingredients that are a result of regenerative agriculture include mac and cheese, graham crackers and breakfast cereal.

Start while they’re young

Danone’s Happy Family Organics is buckling up for the regenerative agriculture trend. Last year, the purveyor of baby food and snacks said it sourced 300,000 pounds of produce from farms that have harnessed regenerative practices – if all goes to plan, that amount will surge almost seven-fold by the end of this year.

The regenerative agriculture moonshot

Watch how Moonshot Snacks performs over the next few years to see whether this trend truly takes hold. At a time when companies are still churning out as many organic products as possible, Moonshot is calling itself the “climate friendly cracker” maker instead. Currently selling three flavors of snack crackers, the company only sources sunflower oil and wheat from regenerative farms. Moonshot’s website is not only effective at promoting its crackers, but serves as a great primer for consumers who need to wrap their heads around the concept of regenerative agriculture, too.

We’ll drink to that…

Moving onto products more appropriate for those of a certain legal drinking age, California’s Bonterra Organic Vineyards has concluded regenerative agriculture stores more carbon in the soil than conventional farming methods. The winery has worked with its peers to explore ways to reduce their water footprint while eschewing the use of chemicals for more natural forms of pest control.

And have a cold one while you’re at it

Moving onto brewskis, Anheuser-Busch announced earlier this year it would explore regenerative agriculture for its supply chain with the sustainable agriculture firm Indigo Agriculture. The partnership is focusing on rice, as the beer giant has used that grain to brew its famous Budweiser brand of beer since the 19th century.

Leading the regenerative culture shift

The labels may say “organic,” yet Stonyfield is among the pioneers of the regenerative farming movement. The popular yogurt brand says it’s long strived to be a partner with organic dairy farms to improve their management practices, and has also been developing tools that can help them secure soil health. It’s channeled that energy into political activism, encouraging consumers to join them on the “We Are Still In” climate action pledge.

Image credit: Roman Synkevych/Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's worked an lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.

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