Raízen and ASR Group team up for fully traceable GMO-free sugar

Diving brief:

  • Brazilian raw sugar exporter Raízen and sugar refiner and distributor ASR Group have has partnered to create a fully traceable system and the non-GMO sugar supply chain. It is the first non-GMO traceability system of its kind for sugar, according to the companies.
  • The partnership – which includes an investment from ASR Group and a 10-year purchase agreement with Raízen – has created a unique process. Using Raízen’s technology, raw sugar can be traced from the farms where it is grown to the facilities where it is ground to create sugar and biofuels. The final raw sugar product is separated and moved to a dedicated port facility for export, the companies said.
  • As consumers become more knowledgeable about the ingredients in their foods, the ability to trace their origin – and be able to certify that they are indeed GMO-free – is becoming increasingly important for manufacturers.

Overview of the dive:

With a product like sugar, being able to verify that it is non-GMO could match big business.

Much of the sugar on the US market is genetically modified. In the United States, approximately 60% of all sugar comes from beetsAnd about 95% of all sugar beets are grown from genetically modified seeds. Genetically modified sugar cane also exists.

While scientists have said GMO foods are safe for consumers, some people are skeptical of the products. Nearly a quarter of US consumers said they regularly buy products labeled as non-GMO, according to the International Food Information Council. Food and Health Survey Report 2022. Due to the extensive genetic modification of sugar beets, some manufacturers have encountered difficulties when looking for non-GMO sugar options.

Although GMOs make some American consumers wary, they are not heavily regulated here. Other countries, including those in Europe, have stricter regulations on when and how genetically modified ingredients can be used in food. The first year of this partnership will prioritize non-GMO sugar shipments to ASR refineries in Canada, the UK, Portugal and Italy under its Redpath, Tate & Lyle, Lyle’s and Sidul brands, according to the companies. The companies say there could be future shipments of this sugar to US refineries, as well as those under the Domino and C&H brands.

Transparency in general is becoming increasingly important to consumers, who want to know where their food comes from and how it grew. Nearly three out of four consumers said detailed information on product ingredients and manufacturing methods is important to them, according to a 2022 report from the Food Industry Association (FMI). Manufacturers and ingredient companies – including Mondelēz, Nestlé, UnileverOlam and Barry Callebaut – and coffee companies such as JM Smucker and Jacobs Douwe Egberts have all introduced traceability programs, apps and websites to provide this information to consumers.

The Raízen and ASR partnership takes this concept further. The companies said funds invested in the program will also help Raízen achieve its sustainability goals. These include improving land productivity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by making operations more efficient, and better water use and reuse, the companies said. And because the non-GMO sugar included in this partnership is separated from the rest of the crop that Raízen grows and processes ASR, it will be easy for companies to quantify exactly how much they are saving in terms of sustainability.

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