General Mills Launches Sustainable Vanilla Project

General Mills is bringing sustainability to its vanilla bean sourcing program. The company announced a $125,000 investment last week to improve the lives of vanilla farmers in Madagascar and improve the quality of their vanilla production.

The primary goal of General Mills’s project seems to be training vanilla farmers in vanilla curing, the multi-stage process of concentrating vanilla flavor and fragrance. The company says it will provide education on curing, as well as new vanilla curing and storage facilities.

“What we’re trying to do is actually teach [the farmers] to do more value-added work on their farm, specifically curing of the bean,” said Steve Peterson, General Mills director of sustainable sourcing. “That will allow them to potentially double the amount of income that they can get from growing the bean plus curing it. For us, it provides the potential advantage of even getting better quality vanilla to be used in our products.”

Madagascar is the world’s leading producer of vanilla beans. The General Mills project will focus on farmers in the country’s Sava region.

Ice cream maker (and General Mills subsidiary) Häagen-Dazs, vanilla flavors supplier Virginia Dare (Brooklyn), and the non-governmental organization CARE International are also supporting the vanilla project.