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Traceability, testing, and capacity should be key considerations when vetting an ingredient supplier’s non-GMO supply chain capabilities.
By Tim Bauer, Starch Product Line Manager, Cargill
Non-GMO is quickly becoming one of the fastest-growing claims in the U.S. food industry. With demand for non-GMO and organic products projected to grow 12% annually through 2018, North American food manufacturers are looking for ways to quickly and confidently introduce new non-GMO products to the marketplace.
Today, nearly 95% of corn and soybeans and 99% of canola grown in the U.S. and Canada are sourced from bio-engineered seeds. This leaves food and beverage manufacturers interested in meeting consumer demand for non-GMO products with a significant challenge: finding a reliable non-GMO ingredient supply chain.
Manufacturers need confidence that they can efficiently source non-GMO ingredients and need to trust that those ingredients meet the rigor and standards consumers and non-GMO certifiers have for products entering the marketplace. While speed to market is critical for the growth of a brand, food manufacturers also require a reliable verification process for their non-GMO products. To be able to more confidently assess the non-GMO status of their products, food manufacturers should partner with suppliers with reliable identity preservation processes. Critical components of these programs include traceability, established co-mingling standards, and third-party verification.
Traceability is increasingly important to consumers. They want to know where their food came from and what happened to it before it ended up on the shelf and, ultimately, in their grocery cart. To that end, manufacturers need to be able to trace their non-GMO ingredients back to the specific producer, whether that is a corn, soy, or high-oleic canola farmer.
Segregation and cleaning procedures can help safeguard non-GMO ingredients from cross-contact with GMO ingredients, ensuring that co-mingling levels are within range of the agreed-to standard. This level of transparency increases consumer trust in non-GMO labels.
Testing can be performed on harvest bin composites, incoming truck deliveries, and finished ingredients to ensure non-GMO ingredient products comply with third-party standards. Since there is not a federal standard for non-GMO products in the U.S., suppliers must work with each customer to identify and then test against the non-GMO standards they wish to meet, including those set by the European Union and third-party groups such as the Non-GMO Project.
Another critical verification point happens at non-GMO production facilities. For example, plants that operate under Good Manufacturing Practices and have been verified by Global Food Safety Initiative certification agencies give manufacturers additional confidence in the integrity of their ingredients.
Customer preference is driving market demand, for both non-GMO and GMO ingredients. In the last three years, the amount of meals or snacks that include a food item with a non-GMO label has jumped from 1% to 11%, according to the Pew Research Center. To meet that growing demand, food and beverage manufacturers need a reliable supply chain partner that can provide both the rigor needed to verify non-GMO ingredients and the scale to support large production of non-GMO food and beverage products.
Tim Bauer is an industry veteran whose career at Cargill spans more than 15 years. During that time, his responsibilities have included overseeing day-to-day operations at food ingredient processing facilities and managing global product lines. In his current position, he is responsible for Cargill’s complete starch product portfolio, including its extensive Non-GMO Project Verified line of starches.