Speaking to BakeryandSnacks.com for World Food Day 2014, the CEO of the Snack Food Association (SFA) Tom Dempsey and director general of the European Snack Association (ESA) Sebastian Emig said family farms were an important part of the supply chain.
This year's theme for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) World Food Day was ‘family farming’ and its role in providing food security and nutrition sustainably.
Dempsey said for potatoes, corn and wheat – the main raw materials in snacks – many US snack makers had long-standing relationships with local farmers in North America and Canada; ties that proved positive for business.
“Whenever you’re working with small businesses, the access to the decision makers is always easier… You cut through a lot of bureaucratic red tape when you’re dealing with small farms,” he said.
In Europe, Emig said a large number of snack makers also had lengthy working relationships with local, family farms, particularly contract farms.
“The majority of industry is still closely linked to local producers that are closer to their manufacturing sites,” he said. Working closely with the farmers meant a lot of trust had been established over the years, he said. Manufacturers knew the quality to expect, for example, and could negotiate fairly on price directly with the farmers, he explained.
Emig said working with local farmers also had positive environmental implications. “You can reduce your carbon footprint per se because a lot of transport has been cut out,” he said.
Sustainable supply chain actions like reducing carbon emissions were a huge focus for European snack makers, he said, particularly as consumers were increasingly concerned about sustainability.
In addition, working with local farmers meant any snack by-product like potato outer skins could be incorporated into animal feed if the farms had cattle, he said.
Dempsey said many consumers also thought highly of small farms. “The perception is that the people who are closest to the ground - closest to Mother Nature - are the ones most conscious about protecting it.”
That wasn’t to say larger corporations and farmers cared any less, he added, it was just a perception that had taken hold among consumers.