Spring 2010 Newsletter


The Sustainable Food Lab is a consortium of business, non-profit and public organizations working to incubate innovation at every stage along the supply chain from producing to distributing and selling food.

New Member Ben & Jerry's Global Director of Social Mission Rob Michalak comments on the meaning of membership in the Food Lab:

“We must understand the constructive roles we each play to conceive a planet that is nurtured and a world where we not only live, but thrive in fulfilling and sustainable ways.  It takes an elegant collaboration to foster new solutions that address such complex issues.  The Sustainable Food Lab creates the space in which enlightened solutions are born.”



Cool Farm Tool Launches

The Global Agriculture Climate Assessment is picking up steam with 14 committed organizations sponsoring GHG assessments on 15 farming systems. The initiative engages farmers to identify management options for reducing net emissions with help from the practical Cool Farm Tool GHG calculator.  We are hosting 2 webinars on the Cool Farm Tool and the broad goals of the Assessment on June 9 and July 14.  


Unilever, PepsiCo, Heinz, Sysco, Pulse Canada, Yara, Marks & Spencer, Costco, Oxfam GB,  GTZ/Sangana Commodities, Ambootia Tea Group, Sekem and the Canadian Canola Growers Association

Farming Systems:

Coffee, Canola, Cotton, Dairy, Eggs, Lentils/Navy Beans, Lettuce, Potatoes, Mixed Vegetables, Tea, Tomatoes, and Wheat  


Azerbaijan, Canada, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, Guatemala, Holland, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Tanzania, UK, USA           

Pilot assessments have been done on potatoes, pulses, tea and tomatoes.  Learnings from these are being incorporated into the Cool Farm Tool. The University of Aberdeen is also  developing customized modules for GHG emissions in tree crops and livestock systems. A recent addition to the initiative is our Key Science Advisor, Keith Paustian, a renowned climate expert at Colorado State University.


There is still space to join! Please contact Stephanie Daniels for more information. 


Join us for a Webinar on June 9

Please join us for an online introduction to the Global Agriculture Climate Assessment, and its cornerstone tool, the Cool Farm Tool farm-level GHG calculator. The Food Lab project leaders will be joined by Assessment sponsors Unilever and Pepsico and technical partners from the University of Aberdeen and Soil & More.


Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:


Title:    Cool Climate Assessment                                 

Date:    Wednesday, June 9, 2010                              

 Time:    12:00 PM - 1:00 AM EDT


“Ghanaian cacao farmers are some of the best growers in Africa. By bringing superior cacao clones to Ghana, and teaching Ghanaian farmers to grow them, they will increase their income with a sustainable crop, while we will get a reliable supply of excellent cacao. Everybody wins.”

John Scharffenberger

John with coffee farmers

“The Ghana Fine Flavor Cocoa Project has a large potential to alleviate poverty of smallholder cocoa farmers. Once all the pieces of the project are put together and the first chocolate is traded through the new segregated supply chain it will be easy to expand the project and its benefits to many more farmers.”

Dr. Peter Laderach

Harnessing the Demand for Fine Cocoa to Increase Incomes and Opportunities of Ghanaian Small Scale Cocoa Farmers   

An Update
Demand for gourmet chocolate from high-quality cocoa has been rising steadily – and so has its market price. This means there are income-earning opportunities for cocoa producers in West Africa, who can move into the gourmet cocoa market.


Early 2010 marks the halfway point in a four-year initiative to bring fine flavor varieties of cocoa to West African farmers to improve production practices and increase farmers’ incomes from the sale of these highly valued beans. Last summer we reported on plans for this project.  One year later the partners in this initiative are beginning to see signs of success, and by the end of 2011 commercial shipments of the first premium, fine flavor cocoa of West African origin will arrive at chocolate manufacturers’ loading docks.


CIAT and the Sustainable Food Laboratory (SFL), together with implementing partners Agro Eco Louis Bolk Institute and the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), are linking expertise at each stage of the cocoa value chain from world class cocoa geneticists and participatory farmer trainers to the Ghanaian government and the premium chocolate industry. The initiative is part of a US$5.2 million New Business Models for Sustainable Trading Relationships project focusing on improving market access for small farmers throughout sub-Saharan Africa. It is led by Rainforest Alliance with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


The premium chocolate segment is experiencing the largest growth rates of all confectionery segments, with rates of 9-25% annual growth in mature markets compared to an average of 3% annual growth in chocolate overall.  Artisan and premium chocolate makers are scouring the world’s cocoa regions for the most unique and delicate of the aromatic cacao varieties. The global supply of fine flavor cacao is estimated at 170,000 metric tons, less than 5% of total production whereas dark chocolate comprises roughly 10% of the chocolate market on average. The Ghana Fine Flavor Cocoa Project is a chance to increase and fortify the declining global supply of fine flavor cocoa for the premium market while effectively opening this profitable market opportunity for poor smallholder cocoa farmers.


Central to the initiative is the preeminent breeding knowledge of CRIG and the genetic diversity of its cocoa collection, which includes many of the tested fine flavor varieties well-known throughout Latin America. In total, 24 clones of fine flavor cocoa varieties were propagated by the CRIG for use in the project and 15 yielded enough pods to process a sample for a flavor evaluation. These varieties were evaluated in December 2009 for their flavor profile, which resulted in a shortlist of five of the most suitable varieties for planting. These varieties will be distributed to farmers for planting and grafting in spring 2010.


The project trains farmers on a denser planting system and regular pruning regime that compensates for the less vigorous fine flavor clones in comparison with Forastero varieties, in combination with the production of hardwood shade species.  Crucial components of the project include the training of farmers in the new production system, strengthening the capacity of the farmer organization and the segregation of the cocoa for quality control and to avoid the blending with bulk cocoa.


Ghana’s competitive advantage in producing fine flavor cocoa lies in its best-in-class quality control system, which grades and tracks cocoa from village level to the point of export.  The additional step of tracking the fine flavor cocoa from farm to village buying center will be included in the chain, to ensure farmers are paid directly for the extra effort involved in cultivating these valuable varieties.


The project was initiated from the inspiration of John Scharffenberger, the co-founder of Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, now a brand of The Hershey Company.  Spurred by a commitment of The Hershey Company to support the project with quality evaluation and a potential commercial relationship, five communities of cocoa growers – a total of 127 people – in the Ashanti region of Ghana are poised to adopt the fine flavor cocoa varieties. If this small group has success in selling their cocoa at premium prices, the Ghana Cocoa Board will support expansion to other regions. 


The Hershey Company is providing flavor evaluation and advice on the commercial viability of the varieties.  Additional expertise has been provided by Ed Seguine, Mars Chocolate NA and the ICCO Fine Flavor Committee Chair, Dr. Darin Sukha of the Cocoa Research Unit at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad & Tobago, and Chloe Doutre-Rousel, Chloe Chocolat, France.


Through the World Cocoa Foundation’s Cocoa Livelihoods program, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, two lead farmers from the project are being trained as Master Facilitators, and will start Famer Field Schools (FFS) in the communities of the Offinso Farmers Association. The FFS will provide training in good agricultural practices, along with training modules tailored to the fine flavor cocoa system of dense planting and rigorous quality control.


The Quality Control Division of the Ghana Cocoa Board will handle the quality inspection of the beans throughout the domestic supply chain, and the product will eventually be exported by the government’s Cocoa Marketing Company to premium markets in the USA, Europe and Japan.

excerpted from C&CI April 2010 issue



"Every operating company will put their own spin on local food.  In a year or two SYSCO has tripled the number of operating companies that have legitimate local foods programs.  There is a lot of support of the idea and each operating company shapes this program in their own slightly unique way."

--Craig Watson, SYSCO

SYSCO:  Tackling Local

Nearly 10 years ago, the $40 billion Sysco Corporation recognized a serious weakness in its business model. Like other food industry giants, Sysco achieved a leading position by offering its restaurant and institutional customers, such as schools and hospitals, the lowest prices and the most convenient service.

But the industry’s successful focus on constantly streamlining, to gain more and more efficiencies, had resulted in a very narrow product selection that many customers were questioning and rejecting. Restaurant chefs and school cafeterias, for example, were beginning to ask for products that Sysco could no longer source easily as a result of an industrial approach to food sourcing and distribution that Sysco and other major food companies helped to develop.

For example, most of Sysco’s 185 regional operating units in the United States offer only two varieties of apple: Red Delicious and Golden Delicious. The reason is partly the industry’s drive for cost-efficiency, which has reduced choices across the commercial food system. Apples and many other products offered through major food service channels are down to those few varieties that can withstand thousands of miles of travel and still sell at a low price because they are produced in large volume.

But restaurants, schools and other food service customers now want more flavor, variety and meaningful connections to the people and places behind their food than this far-flung system can provide. They want fresh-picked apples and more types from which to choose. They want the story behind the apple – about its heritage and its farmer, for example. They want to support local farms and local economies. They also want more accountability regarding labor and environmental practices.

Rick Schnieders, Sysco’s chief executive officer from 2003 to 2009, recognized this demand shift and realized two things:

  • Requests for more product diversity, and more connection to the people and places that produce the food, would not go away; in fact, the demand for what he called “romance, memory, and trust” was on course, and has grown significantly.
  • The best way to keep and gain customers would be for Sysco to find new ways to source from farms and other food businesses that could help the company meet customer demand for greater variety and stronger social and environmental values behind the food they buy.

Thus began Sysco’s journey from its mainline food supply chain model to a new value chain approach. According to research in this emerging field, new food value chains differ from traditional food supply chains in that value chains:

  • Operate as a series of win-win strategic relationships through the supply chain from farm to table rather than win-lose, interchangeable business transactions.
  • Differentiate products by attributes that traditional supply chains do not typically monitor or promote, such as the environmental and social benefits of producers’ practices.

Sysco’s goal is to develop a strategic plan for the procurement and distribution of foods that meet new consumer demand for knowing where food comes from, who produced it, and how it was produced. The desired outcome is a replicable business model for Sysco’s independent operating companies across the country.

Sysco’s Grand Rapids operating company, for example, now offers 12 varieties of apples from environmentally certified Michigan farms. The company landed major accounts in Grand Rapids and Kansas City because those operating companies were able to offer food produced in environmentally sensitive ways by area farms. Sysco Grand Rapids won the entire Michigan State University account. One of several new local farm products Sysco brought to MSU included major sales for a Michigan lettuce producer and a fresh produce processor in the region who worked together to supply chopped and bagged lettuce within 30 hours of harvest. Similarly, Sysco Kansas City won the business of the Kansas University system and the Hallmark Cards Corporation, based in Kansas City, because of the distributor’s local and sustainable food focus.

In 2009 Sysco developed a concise, one-page document, called Guiding Principles: A Value-Chain Partnership Charter, to communicate its philosophy around values-based food supply chains and its commitment to transforming its operations.

Sales success is the way to start that conversation, and the two-year pilot did just that. Local product movement was up more than 30 percent during the 2009 growing season across the two original pilot regions: Sysco Grand Rapids and Sysco Kansas City. Key to this profitable growth was regional branding, early and motivated sales efforts, and innovation with new pack sizes and products. In addition to growth in the original pilot regions, the program successfully launched a new region in 2009: Sysco Chicago.

Strategically, Sysco sees the opportunity to link regional operating companies’ local food efforts so that they not only share information but also suppliers. Growers now working with Sysco Grand Rapids could easily supply Sysco Detroit and even Sysco Indianapolis, depending on the farm’s scope and location. Sharing information and contacts can help each operating company build its local portfolio, which is important for keeping product flowing and for keeping customers and sales staff excited and engaged. This engagement, again, is the first step to building the values-based food supply chain relationships.

Excerpted with permission from Wallace Center's report:  SYSCO's Journey from Supply Chain to Value Chain:  2008-2009 Final Report by Patty Cantrell.

To see the full report:  http://ngfn.org/sysco2009 


Unilever wins top spot on Tomorrow's Value Rating

GreenBiz.com, 18 March 2010 - Unilever helped found the Marine Stewardship Council and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil , and was one of the early supporters of fair trade and nutritional labeling.

Over the years, its sustainability strategy has matured and efforts to reduce environmental impacts yielded increasingly impressive results.

All of these factors combined to put the London-based company at the top of its sector in the latest Tomorrow's Value Rating tool, which ranks the industry's 10 largest public companies. It is the sixth industry to be examined by sustainability consultancy Two Tomorrows on how well it manages social and environmental issues.



Farming is both a major contributor to GHG emissions … and has a mitigation potential that can offset most of them.  So farmers and industry buying from them will be called upon to act.

But there is an implementation gap...

---Christof Walter,

Please join us.  Register Here.

Agriculture has the opportunity to play a major role in addressing the challenge of climate change.  Financial incentives for farmers to ‘produce’ emission reductions or to sequester carbon can help unleash this potential.  One market tool that policy makers have been using successfully in other sectors—carbon markets—are beginning to be applied to agriculture. Any such system of financial incentive however, must achieve the intended environmental outcomes and ‘work’ for both agricultural producers and potential investors. 

The Market Mechanisms for Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (M-AGG) is one of three initiatives, along with C-AGG and T-AGG (outlined below) building the capacity for carbon market infrastructure development in both the short and long-terms.  In the short-term, this project provides greater context, links initiatives, and engages a broad stakeholder group.  Over the longer-term, it is building market capacity towards eventual rule-making processes under the USDA and/or US EPA (or regional initiatives). M-AGG, T-AGG and C-AGG are funded by the David and Lucille Packard Foundation.

Two workshops in the US for stakeholders in the agriculture sector, carbon market, research, policy, and investment sectors will build common understanding and linkages among the stakeholder groups in support of development of the carbon market infrastructure required to engage the agriculture sector. In particular, the workshops include the presentation of a pair of reports, published by M-AGG, on the interface of agriculture and the carbon markets for stakeholder comment.  The sessions will be interactive and practical. 

Why Should You Attend?

  • Meet and engage with the leaders who are charting the course for carbon markets in agriculture.
  • Hear the latest developments on federal and regional climate policy for agriculture.
  • Understand how carbon markets work and discover the tools necessary to access them.
  • Explore cases using the latest market protocols and quantification methods for a broad set of agricultural activities.
  • Provide feedback on the design of market tools and infrastructure that are suitable for agricultural sectors.

Linked Initiatives


The Market Mechanisms for Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (M-AGG) is focused on identifying the current tools for quantifying greenhouse gas emission reductions and sequestration across a broad range of agricultural sectors. M-AGG will benchmark a sub-set of these tools, namely quantification protocols, that fit a defined set of offset quality criteria common to most emerging carbon markets today. 

The culmination of M-AGG will be a pair of reports on the availability of quantification tools across agricultural sectors and a benchmarking of available quantification protocols.  This will highlight opportunities for the on-going development of tools and protocols and support voluntary or pilot (pre-compliance) projects to establish the path-to-market for carbon emission reductions and sequestration from within the agricultural sector.

For more information, contact: Daniella Malin with the Sustainable Food Lab ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ); Keith Driver with Blue Source Canada ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ); or Karen Haugen-Kozyra with KHK Consulting ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )


The Coalition on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (C-AGG) seeks to mitigate climate change and benefit farmers by advancing the development and adoption of science-based policies, methodologies, protocols, and projects for GHG emissions reductions and carbon sequestration within the agricultural sector. C-AGG members are agricultural producers, scientists, GHG quantification experts, carbon investors, policy experts, and GHG project developers. 

C-AGG’s report, “Carbon and Agriculture:  Getting Measurable Results”, released in April, 2010, represents contributions from participants in C-AGG, and was developed in consideration of the diversity of opinions within the Coalition. It is intended to serve as a catalyst for ongoing discussion, and will likely evolve over time as science and data and information improve and evolve.

For more information about C-AGG, contact:  Debbie Reed, C-AGG Executive Director, at:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit the C-AGG website at:  http://www.c-agg.org/


The Technical working group on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (T-AGG) brings together technical expertise to assess and assemble the scientific and analytical foundation for developing high-quality agricultural protocols.  T-AGG hopes to expand the opportunities for agricultural practices that can mitigate climate change and benefit farmers.  T-AGG involves academic experts in agriculture and related fields from across the United States in dialogue with federal agencies, carbon registries, agricultural producers, project developers, and policy experts.

T-AGG will produce a series of reports on key GHG mitigation activities for U.S. agriculture during 2010: a survey and comparison of a wide range of agricultural practices that can provide a road map for future protocol and policy development; and in depth reports to guide protocol development for two promising agricultural activities – soil carbon management and nitrous oxide emissions reduction on cropland.  

For information about T-AGG, advisers, experts, outlines, drafts and reports, please visit the T-AGG website at: http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/institute/t-agg/, or contact Lydia Olander, T-AGG Project Director, at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

“The Ford Foundation has decades of experience with rural development and a reputation for intellectual integrity. We’re proud to partner with them as they assess work with the private sector.”

----Hal Hamilton,
Sustainable Food Lab

Ford Foundation grant supports engaging with small farmers

The Ford Foundation announced this week a grant to the Sustainable Food Lab and the ISEAL Alliance to assess the current state of knowledge about how formal value chains can serve pro-poor development, and to subsequently design projects that will increase benefits to small-scale producers.

Food Lab staff with their ISEAL collaborators will develop a screening tool to weigh the “pro-poor” opportunities of specific value chain projects. Staff will select value chains and products that have high impact potential, and within each project pursue a suite of approaches including investments in infrastructure by government agencies and seed funding by Ford and other foundations.

Special thanks for support for this meeting from:

 Dole ra logo green darker

Food Lab Leaders Gather in Costa Rica in March 2010

Meeting Summary with links to presentations

Two days of field visits to producers selling into mainstream markets, including Dole, Wal-Mart, and Starbucks introduced more than two-thirds of the meeting participants to on-the-ground challenges and successes in Costa Rican agriculture aimed specifically at capitalizing on the integrity of the ecosystem services and environmental commitments of this Central American country. 

Immediately following the field visits, more than sixty business and food system leaders gathered near San Jose, Costa Rica for two days of more formal, intensive discussions and presentations focusing on issues of mainstreaming sustainability in food and agriculture.  Sessions focused in three categories of current Food Lab work:  learning and exchanges about government and policy for ecosystem services as exemplified by Costa Rica, insights and new lessons from global value chains striving to address producer livelihoods in developing countries, and food business opportunities in quantifying emissions and sequestration of greenhouse gases. 

For further information on this event or Food Lab membership contact

Susan Sweitzer  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Sustainble Food Lab and SAI Platform Host The Art of Farming - Innovative Solutions for a Sustainable Mainstream Agriculture

The 3rd Conference on Sustainable Agriculture The Art of Farming - Innovative Solutions for a Sustainable Mainstream Agriculture was held in Brussels 11/12 May 2010, jointly hosted by SFL and SAI.  Meeting program with links to presentations can be found at http://www.sustainable-ag.org/



Welcome new members: Ben & Jerry's and Stone-buhr

Ben & Jerry’s Homemade is a Vermont corporation which manufactures and markets super premium ice cream, low fat ice cream, low fat and no-fat frozen yogurt, ice cream novelties and sorbet. Our ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet products are produced in pints, quarts and 2.5 gallon tubs. Ben & Jerry’s products are distributed nationwide and in selected international markets in supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, scoop shops, restaurants and other venues.

Ben & Jerry’s franchises scoop shops in both the U.S. and Canada. The company also has wholly-owned operations in France, Japan and the United Kingdom, and licensees in the Benelux countries, Israel, Canada, Peru and Lebanon.

The Stone-Buhr Milling Company first opened its doors on Evanston Ave. in the Freemont District of Seattle, Washington, in 1908. Theodore Roosevelt was President, the Chicago Cubs had won the World Series (failing to do so since) and Henry Ford produced the first Model T car.

It was a simpler time, when local farmers would bring their harvest to The Stone-Buhr Milling Company, where it was milled and sold to local bakeries and shop keepers. The Stone-Buhr Milling Company remained independently owned for 73 years, until a series of sales and acquisitions led to the Stone-Buhr brand under Unilever ownership and the milling outsourced to larger mills. 

In 2002, after witnessing first hand the rise and fall of the Dot-com Bubble, I craved a return to a simpler, better way of doing business - where real products are traded with real people.

This back-to-basics philosophy is what led me to Stone-Buhr and has been the inspiration for our transition towards certified sustainable flour from family farms. We invite you to join us in supporting the health and well being of our environment and rural communities one loaf, muffin or cookie at a time.

Josh Dorf


Think Big. Go Small.

Adapting business models to incorporate smallholders into supply chains

Read full briefing (PDF 1.69MB)


Food and beverage companies are facing a rapidly changing world. Global demand is rising as the world’s population grows. Yet the planet’s ability to meet this demand is threatened by factors such as droughts and other expected consequences of climate change, together with land degradation and biofuel production. At the same time consumers everywhere are growing more knowledgeable and concerned about the ethics of where and how their food and drink are produced.

A number of innovative companies have begun integrating smallholders into their supply chains. There is evidence that this strategy can attract customers and manage supply risks. The investment by a company can be relatively modest if the company collaborates with farmers’ organizations, government, and other non-commercial actors. This approach to investment can have broader impacts on the rural sector, ensuring that trade benefits men and women farmers who are normally marginalized from wealth creation.

Ensuring a smallholder sourcing program can deliver both commercially viable products and value to the smallholder, requires a number of structural challenges to be overcome. An increasing number of new business models are emerging of global and domestic companies that have adapted to overcome these challenges.

Key principles

Five principles to underpin sustainable trading relationships that ensure both corporate and smallholder value:

  • Chain-wide collaboration and innovation
  • Market linkages
  • Fair and transparent governance
  • Equitable sharing of costs and risks
  • Equitable access to services

This briefing builds on the Sustainable Food Lab work on ‘New Business Models for Sustainable Trading relationships’ and Oxfam agricultural market programs.

Authors: David Bright (Oxfam GB), Don Seville (Sustainable Food Lab) and Lea Borkenhagen (Oxfam GB)

Upcoming Events
June 9, 2010
July 14, 2010
Cool Climate Assessment Webinar: an orientation to the Cool Climate Assessment Project and a demonstration of the Cool Farm Tool Register
June 10, 2010,  Davis, CA
June 17, 2010,  Washington, DC
Agriculture and Carbon Markets: Making Carbon Count: Hear the latest developments on federal and regional climate policy for agriculture Register
June 7-10, 2010 Sustainable Brands '10 Conference: Monterey, CA.  Featured Speakers include SFL members:  Starbucks, Scharffenberger, Sodexo and Peter Senge from SoL.
August 10-11, 2010 Sustainable Agricultural Partnerships, San Francisco, CA.
Fall 2010 Cool Climate Assessment Partner meeting, Europe
June 6-9, 2011 Sustainable Food Lab Member Summit, Portland, OR