Market leader aspires to be a sustainable frontrunner in canned vegetables
Canned vegetable and legume producer HAK, based in Giessen, the Netherlands, is the first producer in the canned vegetables sector to seek to achieve the On the way to PlanetProof quality mark for many of its products. This new independent sustainability quality mark (formerly the Milieukeur quality mark) provided by Stichting Milieukeur (SMK) foundation can be awarded to farmers, horticulturists and producers that produce or grow their products sustainably. HAK’s target is for its summer and winter vegetables and legumes grown in the Netherlands to achieve this sustainability quality mark by 2021 or earlier if possible.
Suppliers of dairy, fruit and vegetables, eggs, flowers, plants, trees and flower bulbs must meet stringent requirements in order to carry the On the way to PlanetProof quality mark. This is verified by independent certification institutes that assess a range of factors including targets for energy and climate, crop protection, biodiversity, soil fertility, fertilisation, water, waste and purification. Production and consumption (including packaging) are also included in the certification process. The requirements for On the way to PlanetProof can be revised and, if necessary, modified every year.
HAK CEO Timo Hoogeboom says the ambition to gain the On the way to PlanetProof quality mark is first and foremost strategic in nature. “Helping as many people as possible to eat more vegetables and legumes in a responsible manner constitutes a vital part of our business operations and mission. And it’s above all an important next step within the context of our long-term efforts in the field of sustainability and quality across the entire chain. This spans the spectrum from our intensive collaboration with growers, the processes in our factory, and product and packaging development to the collaboration and dialogue with our distribution partners. We’re convinced that consumers will develop, sooner than you might think, a clear preference for products that are harvested, processed and packaged according to the best sustainability standards. The strength of the On the way to PlanetProof concept lies in the fact that it is broadly based and focuses on sustainability across all links of the chain.”
Making necessary changes to the cultivation
HAK has for decades been working closely with local growers to promote high-quality and responsible production. A-brand HAK sources the largest proportion of all its vegetables and legumes within a 125-kilometre radius of the factory in Giessen. This occurs both directly and partially via specialised horticultural companies with which HAK has entered into agreements.
Adri den Dekker, Director of Purchasing, Agriculture and Sustainability at HAK, confirms that all summer and winter vegetables and legumes that are sourced within the 125-kilometre radius are scheduled to be certified. “Our red cabbage, which we source primarily from local growers located in the vicinity of our factory in Giessen, will be certified starting with this year’s harvest. Our sauerkraut will also be On the way to PlanetProof certified from the new season onward. With respect to the other raw materials, HAK will collaborate with the own growers and specialised horticultural companies to make every effort to make the necessary changes to cultivation, including improvements in the field of crop protection. And that isn’t always an easy task given the volumes demanded by the market under changing climate conditions.”
Den Dekker says On the way to PlanetProof is actually only the next step in HAK’s ongoing sustainability journey. “This didn’t just happen. We’ve been working with the Veldleeuwerik Foundation for many years and have been focusing for some time on reducing our growers’ use of crop protection products, based on our own environmental impact reduction plan,” says Den Dekker. “But On the way to PlanetProof goes a step further. And we want to be an active ambassador for this movement.”
On the way to PlanetProof is part of HAK’s mission and newly integrated sustainability strategy called the Green Kitchen. This strategy is aimed at encouraging consumers to eat more vegetables in a responsible manner. This extends beyond only sustainable cultivation to include sustainable processing, ingredients, packaging and consumption as key cornerstones of the strategy.
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