Haagen-Dazs, General Mills to Help Smallholder Vanilla Farmers Increase Yields and Improve Sustainability Practices in Madagascar

Feb. 20, 2013General Mills and Haagen-Dazs today announced an initiative designed to foster greater economic vitality for smallholder vanilla farmers in Madagascar and ensure the availability of high quality vanilla for future generations. Haagen-Dazs, the world’s leading brand of super-premium ice cream, with the General Mills Foundation, will invest $125,000 over two years to benefit villages in Madagascar’s Sava region, home of the world’s highest quality vanilla. The commitment builds upon General Mills century-long history of working closely with farmers around the world to promote sustainable agriculture.

The new program will leverage the strengths of three global partners to help promote sustainable vanilla farming in Madagascar: General Mills will leverage its extensive supply chain and agronomic knowledge; vanilla supplier Virginia Dare will leverage its deep understanding of the vanilla market; and international humanitarian organization CARE will leverage its extensive expertise fighting global poverty.

“At General Mills, our mission is Nourishing Lives,” explained Jerry Lynch, vice president and chief sustainability officer at General Mills. “Working to improve the lives of smallholder farmers by helping them accrue a greater share of the benefit from the crops they produce will also help ensure a sustainable and quality supply of vanilla for the future.”

The sustainable vanilla sourcing program is part of a larger, more comprehensive sustainable sourcing plan being advanced by General Mills. In 2011, General Mills completed an extensive global assessment of the ingredients and materials it sources, developing an overall global sustainable sourcing model.  Vanilla is one of 10 ingredients General Mills has prioritized to source sustainably. The company is now advancing sourcing strategies on each of the 10 priority ingredients where the greatest impact can be achieved.

The Madagascar vanilla program will provide training and education to several hundred smallholder vanilla farmers focused on producing a more sustainable and higher quality vanilla crop. The training will teach value-added production techniques, including yield improvement and vanilla curing. By adding value at the farm level, vanilla growers should be able to significantly increase their incomes, which should benefit entire communities in the region. The program also will focus on building vanilla curing and storage facilities.

“Haagen-Dazs prides itself on using only the finest ingredients, including the highest quality of a very select breed of vanilla from Madagascar,” said David Clark, president of Haagen-Dazs, the global super-premium ice cream brand owned by General Mills. “Operating sustainably and ethically goes hand-in-hand with our commitment to deliver the quality, super-premium products consumers expect from Haagen-Dazs.”

Madagascar is the world’s leading producer of vanilla, responsible for more than 80 percent of the world’s production.  General Mills relies on the Sava region of Madagascar for the high quality vanilla used in Haagen-Dazs ice cream. For a majority of the estimated 80,000 Malagasy farmers, the vanilla crop is their only source of income.

“Contributing to the viability and sustainability of vanilla farming could have a significant impact on the lives of Malagasy growers, their communities, and the environment,” said Steve Peterson, director of sourcing sustainability at General Mills. “Vanilla is integral to their way of life. From our knowledge of the region, we have come to understand that our ability to share our agronomic and supply chain expertise, while leveraging our financial resources, could help create a better, stronger, more sustainable supply of high quality vanilla, while raising living standards for the farmers who grow this important crop.”