Scaling Regenerative Agriculture: What We Can Learn from Innovative Beverage Companies

April 2, 2020 | BIER

Scaling Regenerative Agriculture
Grow smarter, not harder. That’s regenerative agriculture in a nutshell. It’s a back-to-nature approach to growing that not only aims to do no environmental harm but also progressively improve ecosystems.

For beverage companies, regenerative agriculture represents one of the greatest business and sustainability opportunities today, tomorrow, and beyond.

“Essentially, we’re giving back what we’re taking,” Carine Christophe, Group Environmental Manager at Pernod Ricard, says. “We’re preserving, protecting, and nurturing the earth to ensure its resilience so we can produce quality ingredients for our beverages now and for generations to come.”

But here’s the thing: There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to regenerative agriculture. Crops vary. Growing sites and conditions range drastically across the globe. Business models and supply chain partnerships differ wildly from smallholder farmers to commercial-scale producers. And this means questions around scalability are top of mind and complex to navigate.

The good news? Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) members believe best practice sharing is key to helping organizations answer scalability questions for themselves.

From one-crop-shops to co-ops, read on to learn how a range of beverage brands are tackling regenerative agriculture.


How Leading Beverage Brands Are Tackling & Scaling Regenerative Agriculture


Company: Molson Coors

Sustainability Leader: Kim Marotta, Global Senior Director of Sustainability and Alcohol Policy

Approach: We have two goals within our agricultural supply chain, and several principles that align with regenerative agriculture are essential to our success. One of them is to reduce our water use by 10%, and the other goal is to sustainably source all our barley and our hops.

When it comes to achieving both of those goals, we’ve partnered with farmers to not only provide incentives but training and collaboration, too. From cover crops and crop rotations to variable rate irrigation to ultimately improve soil health, several regenerative agriculture techniques are being explored and implemented by many of our barley farmers.

In addition, we’re focused on the overall health of watersheds, particularly high-risk watersheds. For us, high-risk means one of three things: 1) There isn’t enough water, so there’s a drought-like situation; 2) The quality of water is a concern; 3) Access to clean water within that community is a concern.

In Texas, for example, we’ve seen drought-like conditions for years in one of our brewery watersheds. There we have a partnership with Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS), Tarrant Regional Water District, and a few others to restore water to that watershed.

Kim’s Key Takeaway: Collaboration is key—especially when it comes to working with commodity growers. They know their soil. They know their land. And oftentimes, they have unique ideas and best practices. Do your best to encourage innovation there—and spread the word across your supply chain. The more partners you have at the local level, the more successful you’ll be.


Company: PepsiCo

Sustainability Leader: Christine Daugherty, Vice President, Global Sustainable Agriculture

Approach: Through our flagship Sustainable Farming Program (SFP), PepsiCo advances positive social, environmental, and economic outcomes in our farmer-sourced agricultural supply chain. The SFP has provided over 40,000 farmers around the world with training and resources to help them on the path to greater productivity, resiliency, and sustainability. Many of the practices we have promoted through the SFP, including optimized use of fertilizers and water-use efficiency, already support regenerative outcomes.

In Iowa and Illinois, for example, we’re working with partners to demonstrate ways to build the health of soils through the use of cover crops and alternative tillage practices, among other methodologies. As well as boosting farm resilience, these measures also help to improve local water quality and biodiversity and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

Going forward, the promotion of these kinds of regenerative outcomes in our supply chain and beyond will be an increasingly important part of our agriculture strategy.

Equally important will be to invest in farmers themselves. PepsiCo is working with partners to empower female farmers, who play a vital but often unrecognized role and to inspire a new generation of farmers to lead in global agriculture.

Christine’s Key Takeaway: Think of regenerative agriculture as an investment in the environment we all rely on and on the people who work and care for the land. It’s also an investment in more nourishing crops, lower agrochemical usage, and a more resilient and secure supply chain of high-quality ingredients. The environmental challenges that the world faces are shared. Every individual and organization has an interest in restoring our climate and our ecosystems to balance.


Company: Pernod Ricard

Sustainability Leader: Carine Christophe, Group Environmental Manager

Approach: Protecting the terroirs from which we source our ingredients has always been a priority for the Group.

We first started our journey in our own vineyards with the objectives to have 100% certified according to sustainable agriculture principles – we’re now at 99% with tangible results: 100% of our vineyards are drip irrigated, the use of synthetic pesticides has been reduced by half.

We now want to go one step further with regenerative agriculture principles by developing pilot projects within all our major wine regions: Argentina, California, Cognac, Champagne, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, and China. In these pilots, we test practices like cover crops, no-tillage, organic management, etc… We will then partner with all our growers to share key learnings and have a bigger impact.

Apart from grapes, we use many other crops to make our spirits: cereals, sugar cane and beet, agave, coffee, botanicals…

To address our agricultural footprint across the 250,000 hectares from where we source these ingredients, we are partnering with farmers and suppliers to implement sustainable agricultural practices. Ultimately, we want to achieve 100% certified key ingredients by 2030.

Biodiversity conservation is a key aspect of our agricultural strategy in order to increase the resilience of our terroir. We are committed to having 100% of our 90 affiliates across the globe engaged in a strategic biodiversity project.

Carine’s Key Takeaway: Regenerative agriculture is tomorrow’s agriculture as it is not only enriching soils, improving watersheds, enhancing ecosystem services, but also increasing biodiversity, and contributing to mitigate climate change. Transitioning to this agriculture is a huge challenge but a must for our brands relying on these terroirs. We definitely have a leading role to play in this transition.


Regenerative Agriculture: An Opportunity Ripe for Beverage Industry Picking

Agriculture is an incredibly mature industry; however, inefficiencies remain and the consequences of inaction grow more significant with each passing day. As several of our members have illustrated, regenerative agriculture is one viable, scalable approach to not only evolving our businesses but protecting our planet.

Learn more about how BIER’s workstreams, such as sustainable agriculture, and our members are working to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) is a technical coalition of leading global beverage companies working together to advance environmental sustainability within the beverage sector.
By BIER [crp]

The Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) is a technical coalition of leading global beverage companies working together to advance environmental sustainability within the beverage sector. Formed in 2006, BIER is a common voice across the beverage sector, speaking to influence global standards on environmental sustainability aspects most relevant to the sector, affect change both up and down the supply chain and share best practices that raise the bar for environmental performance of the industry. By doing so, BIER is able to monitor data and trends, engage with key stakeholders, develop best practices, and guide a course of action for the future.

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