pladis UK & Ireland (UK&I) currently sources 40% of the wheat needed for its biscuit supply from more than 216 farms in Northumberland and East Anglia.
The company aims to raise this to around 70% by the end of 2019, and has expanded the scheme to include a new group of farmers in the south of England.
The Back to Farm scheme was launched in 2015, essentially to revive the supply of Group 3 wheat, or biscuit wheat, which had declined in popularity with growers.
The company essentially broke from tradition of buying exclusively from flour millers, to source the 270,000 tons of wheat flour it needs annually directly from farms and grain cooperatives.
According to pladis, the scheme has improved its key supply relationships.
It has also resulted in a group of farmers in Northumberland working towards developing a bespoke responsible wheat program, which will focus on areas such as biodiversity, soil health and recycling of plastics.
Biodiversity and sustainability
“Ever since McVitie’s started baking biscuits in 1830, our bakers have relied on a dependable source of top quality biscuit wheat and our Back to Farm scheme has helped maintain the high quality needed to bake the nation’s best-loved biscuits," said Richard Plant, agriculture and ingredients lead at pladis.
"However, we don’t simply focus on value and planting, we’ve also started to influence, in a collaborative way, important initiatives like bio-diversity and sustainability.
“We truly recognise the value it brings to farmers. They don’t normally receive the personal relationship that we offer through our Back to Farm scheme. Farmers like to know they are supplying to one of Britain’s most iconic household brands. They rightly feel proud about that.”
“The Back to Farm Agreement has positively influenced the decision to plant Group 3 soft wheats in a number of ways,” added Gary Grahamslaw, chairman of Coastal Grains that has been growing wheat for pladis for over nine years.
“Firstly, we have the confidence we’re growing a specific product to meet a valued customer’s needs, rather than risky speculation in an uncertain market. Secondly, the guaranteed market for the crop produced with a minimum premium brings a level of stability to the farm business plan. And finally, knowing that the crop is part of the supply chain that will be used to produce a specific recognised branded product creates a sense of pride for the farmers.”