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Supply Chain
Unilever Launches First UK Regenerative Ag Project for Mint, Mustard

The program will work with farms that grow mustard seeds and mint leaves used in Colman’s products.

Unilever has launched its first regenerative-agriculture project in the UK this year — working with British farms that grow mustard seeds and mint leaves used in its Colman’s products.

Alongside food giants including General Mills, Kellogg’s, Nestlé and PepsiCo, Unilever is using its global influence on agricultural supply chains to help restore soil health and ensure long-term crop resilience.

The new focus on mint and mustard builds on global programs that have seen the adoption of Unilever’s Regenerative Agriculture Principles to grow ingredients in Hellmann’s (soybean oil) and Knorr (tomatoes) products in Argentina, France, Italy, Spain and the United States. Globally, Unilever has committed to invest in regenerative-agriculture practices on 1.5 million hectares of land and forests by 2030 — helping to ensure food security and supply chain resilience.

“Healthy soil should matter to all food businesses; and as the climate crisis continues to impact the natural world, we need to not just protect but to help regenerate the soil and farmland used to grow the crops and ingredients we enjoy every day,” said Andre Burger, Head of Nutrition at Unilever UK & Ireland. “Colman’s is a British condiment staple — and our new regenerative-agriculture project will help to ensure the sustainable supply and future of the delicious ingredients and farms that put the big flavor into our products.”

Working with farms supplying Colman’s for 200 years

Aligning Value Management and Regenerative Practices

Join us as Regenovate co-founders Chris Grantham and Adam Lusby lead an interactive workshop on how to rethink value in the context of regenerative innovation by linking value to the dividends and resilience that come to an organisation from enhancing system health — Thurs, May 9, at Brand-Led Culture Change.

The project will initially trial the application of regenerative-ag practices across mustard and mint farms around Norwich and Peterborough over four years — including mustard farms that have supplied Colman’s products for over 200 years — with the first crop of the program due to be sown next month.

The project brings together Unilever and two farming cooperatives, the English Mustard Growers and Norfolk Mint Growers, with a group of technical and academic partners — Farmacy and National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB). Designed to address the unique challenges and needs of these crops and landscapes, the farms will trial regenerative-agriculture practices new including the use of low-carbon fertilizer, crop-nutrition strategies, planting of cover and companion crops to reduce pesticide use, new digital irrigation-scheduling systems and reduced cultivation.

“As with all farmers, we are facing the challenges of climate change directly on our land,” attested mustard farmer Michael Sly MBE. “Alongside our English Mustard Growers Group, we’re on the journey with Unilever and NIAB to integrate regenerative-agriculture practices that include strong measurement processes to improve our yield, improve the soil health, and maintain the flavor of a fantastic product alongside that.”

Measuring success

Unilever has worked with the farms to collect and establish baseline data and created a framework to measure the impact these practices will have over four years — collecting data on soil health, fertilizer use, biodiversity, water-use efficiency and carbon reductions; as well as impact on yields and farm profitability. The company is also funding the development of new technologies to improve data collection on farms — including a device that will be able to measure carbon levels in soil in situ.

“To increase our resilience and continue to produce high-quality products, we need to work with our climate — which means adapting our practices,” said mint farmer David Bond. “This new project with Unilever will enable us to implement regenerative-agriculture practices on a wider scale, together with more measurement and analysis from our partnership with NIAB, so we can continue to learn and improve for the future.”

As a member of Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform, last year Unilever joined forces with other FMCG companies and farmer cooperatives and supported the development of SAI’s new Regenerating Together global framework — which has globally aligned regenerative-ag practices under a common framework and an understanding that measurable outcomes are needed for a resilient food supply chain.