US fertiliser company sashays into snack sector with climate conscious popcorn

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Connect Gourmet Yellow Butter Popcorn will appeal to consumers who care about their own health and that of the planet. Pic: Pivot Bio
Connect Gourmet Yellow Butter Popcorn will appeal to consumers who care about their own health and that of the planet. Pic: Pivot Bio

Related tags Pivot Bio Greenhouse gas Climate change Popcorn fertilisers Nitrogen

Pivot Bio has launched Connect, a line of snacks designed to accelerate progress towards cleaner air and water by sourcing ingredients grown with microbial nitrogen instead of synthetic nitrogen fertilisers.

Pivot Bio was founded in 2010 to transform the way fertiliser is produced and used by the farmers around the world. Through a decade of research, the Californian company has learnt how microbes work in nature before being adapted to heavy fertiliser use to enable these naturally-occurring microbes to work as nature intended again.

Critical to plants

Nitrogen is critical to the lifecycle of plants – without it, plants do not grow. However, most crops are not able to get enough nitrogen from the soil by themselves, forcing farmers to revert to the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilisers.

According to Pivot Bio, the agricultural community today uses over 100 million tons of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, accounting for about 5% of America’s GHG emissions.

However, synthetic nitrogen is inefficient and expensive for farmers as typically only about half of the applied fertiliser is actually used by crop. Instead, it washes into our waterways and volatises into the air, contributing to climate change.

Pivot Bio’s microbes are produced using fermentation. They are fed sugars and then allowed to grow until they have reached a high enough concentration to sell to farmers. Fermentation replaces the traditional energy-intense production process for creating synthetic nitrogen, and reduces potential greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 98%.

Now, the Berkeley-based company is harnessing its knowledge of nature, plants and farming to produce snacks that are kinder to our planet.

The first product in the Connect range is a Gourmet Yellow Butterfly Popcorn, grown by farmers in Nebraska that use Pivot Bio’s microbial nitrogen instead of synthetic nitrogen fertilisers.

Research conducted earlier this year by Pivot Bio found that foods that contribute towards cleaner air and water particularly resonate with consumers compared to general sustainability claims. This is where Connect Gourmet Yellow Butterfly Popcorn ticks all the boxes:

Cleaner air – Less synthetic nitrogen fertiliser means less nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is 300 times worse than carbon dioxide.

Cleaner water – Synthetic nitrogen fertiliser runoff contributes to dead zones in the ocean where marine life cannot survive.

Cleaner goodness – The corn grown for Pivot Bio is 100% whole grain – making it a good source of fibre – and non-GMO.

Cleaner footprint – The company is also working to reduce the carbon footprint of the snack’s packaging, which is made from 35% post-consumer recycled plastic. The snacks are mailed out in boxes made with a minimum of 35% post-consumer recycled paper, and the tape is printed with soy inks on 100% recycled FSC paper with a non-toxic water-activated adhesive

“Pivot Bio is committed to delivering better nitrogen to farmers that are better for them and our planet,”​ said Karsten Temme, CEO and cofounder of Pivot Bio.

“We have a strong business with our first-of-its-kind microbial nitrogen. Launching a CPG brand is a natural next step for us. We want to connect consumers with farmers to start a conversation about the environmental benefits of crops that are powered by clean nitrogen from Pivot Bio microbes.”

A cleaner future

Pivot Bio recognises the importance of farmers to advance its mission and pays a premium to those who reduce their use of synthetic nitrogen and grow crops specifically for the Connect brand.

One such farmer is Brandon Hunnicutt, a fifth generation farmer with a commitment to leave the land as healthy as he can for his children. By growing popcorn with no synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, he’s contributing to cleaner air and cleaner water for his family’s future.

Brandon Hunnicutt Popcorn Farmer
Brandon Hunnicutt

“At Connect, farmers are our heroes. Their nurturing care for each crop is at the heart of our tasty snacks. We are inspired by the benefits these choices have for our planet, especially accelerating progress towards cleaner air and water,”​ added Temme.

Connect Gourmet Yellow Butterfly Popcorn is available to purchase online and on Amazon for an RRP of $12.99/24oz pack for delivery across the US. Pivot Bio is also on track to launch a microwave popcorn line in 2022 and says that popcorn is just the beginning.

“We are working to build a future where all food is grown with no synthetic nitrogen fertiliser.”

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