Uncle Ben’s, the world’s largest rice brand, has announced that 100% of its basmati rice is now sourced from farmers who are working towards the Sustainable Rice Platform’s (SRP) standard for suitable rice – a first in the global rice industry
This is the initial part of Mars Food’s (the parent company of Mars Foodservice and Uncle Ben’s) commitment to source all of its rice varieties from farmers who are working towards the SRP standard by 2020.
Matt Cutts, Product Director at Mars Food Europe believes that the timing is perfect:
“With more and more consumers, when eating out, wanting to know where their food comes from and that the dishes they buy are produced sustainably, the ability for outlets to highlight the sustainability credentials of their food has never been greater. Operators using UNCLE BEN’S® rice have always trusted the high-quality of the rice and now they can be proud that their favorite rice brand is on a journey to be sustainable.”
Sustainable rice is critical to meet the needs of a growing population. Rice is the daily staple for more than 3.5 billion people and provides livelihoods for 19% of the world’s population. Yet rice farming has environmental impacts. Previous rice production practices used approximately 40% of the world’s irrigation water, and was responsible for up to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
“At Mars Food, we’re committed to sourcing our rice in a way that creates shared benefits for our farmers, the environment, and the industry,” said Denis Winkler, Global Vice President of Commercial and Supply for Mars Food. “Working through public/private partnerships and on the ground with our farmers, we can ensure a high-quality rice crop for the billions around the world who depend on it for their nutrition and livelihood.”
Uncle Ben’s basmati rice is sourced from India and Pakistan, through farmer partnerships which enable the company to trace its rice from field to fork. Uncle Ben’s works with its suppliers and partners, such as the International Rice Research Institute, World Wildlife Fund and Helvetas, to share innovative farming methods with farmers. A 2016 pilot project to test SRP technologies in Pakistan demonstrated that new growing techniques delivered an 8% increase in yield, 30% reduction in water, and 32% increase in net income.
Since 2013, Mars Food has worked through the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), a multi-stakeholder initiative co-convened by UN Environment and the International Rice Research Institute, to develop a global standard for sustainable rice that it can use to map its supply chain, identify gaps, and drive improvements. In addition to mapping against the 46 performance indicators of the SRP, Mars Food is going further by investing in programs to address human rights and women’s empowerment in its rice supply chains.
The company’s move toward more sustainable rice is the latest in a long line of industry innovations led by Mars Food – including the inventions of parboiled and ready-to-heat rice. The company will work over the next few years to sustainably source other rice varieties, including jasmine, wild, and medium and long grain rice.