Raízen and ASR Group partner on fully traceable non-GMO sugar

Dive Brief:

  • Brazilian raw sugar exporter Raízen and sugar refiner and marketer ASR Group have partnered to create a fully traceable and non-GMO sugar supply chain. This 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. Through Raízen’s technology, raw sugar can be traced from the farms where it is grown to the facilities where it is milled to create sugar and biofuels. The final raw sugar product is separated and goes to a dedicated port facility for export, the companies said. 
  • As consumers become more aware of the ingredients in their food, the ability to trace their origin — and being able to certify that they are indeed non-GMO — is becoming more important to manufacturers.

Dive Insight:

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

Much of the sugar on the market in the U.S. is genetically modified. In the U.S., approximately 60% of all sugar comes from beets, and about 95% of all sugar beets are grown from genetically modified seed. Genetically modified sugarcane also exists.

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

While GMOs make some U.S. consumers wary, they are not heavily regulated here. Other countries, including those in Europe, have stricter regulations of 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 U.K., Portugal and Italy under its Redpath, Tate & Lyle, Lyle’s and Sidul brands, according to the companies. The companies say that there may be future shipments of this sugar to U.S. refineries, as well as those under the Domino and C&H brands. 

Transparency in general is getting to be more important to consumers, who want to know about where their food comes from and how it has grown. Nearly three in 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, Unilever, Olam and Barry Callebaut — and coffee companies such as J.M. Smucker and Jacobs Douwe Egberts have all introduced traceability programs, apps and websites to provide that information to consumers.

The Raízen and ASR partnership takes that concept further. The companies said that the funds invested in the program will also help Raízen work on its sustainability goals. These include improving land productivity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions through making operations more efficient, and better use and reuse of water, 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 ASR processes, it will be easy for the companies to quantify exactly how much they are saving in terms of sustainability.