Hummingbird Wholesale Sustainability Report

A great company, from whom we buy several local products, has published their first sustainability report!

 Let’s acknowledge Hummingbird Wholesale, both for their sustainability efforts, and for their beautiful documentation!

Keep it up, ‘Birds, kudos to you!

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Dig Deeper

The Sweet Side of Organic Farming – By Nigel Willerton, CEO, Wholesome Sweeteners


Dig Deeper

The Sweet Side of Organic Farming

In appreciation of their support, we invite Rodale Institute Business Members to share an article about their work on our website. These articles often include insightful information based on their experience and line of work.  It provides a unique perspective of organic agriculture that we enjoy sharing with our readers. 

By Nigel Willerton, CEO, Wholesome Sweeteners

Indonesian coconut tree

At Wholesome Sweeteners, we believe that a healthy planet allows for healthy and happy people. So from the very beginning, organic, sustainable farming has been at the heart of our philosophy. We proudly partner with farmers who help us create this ideal by producing our sugars in a safe and ethical way without sacrificing superior quality or harming the land. Our customers can be confident in the great taste and great care we’ve taken to bring them the best sweeteners.

Our Organic Sugar comes from sugar cane grown in Paraguay and milled at Azucarera Paraguaya. These farmers provide an excellent model for organic, sustainable farming; every step of their process fosters a high quality product with very low environmental impact. The sugar cane is “green cut” or hand-harvested, and the tops of the sugar cane are left in the field to enrich the soil and control weeds. The cane is never burned or sprayed, a damaging practice to the cane and the field and lethal to the local wildlife trapped in the fields. After harvesting, the cane is transported to the mill where it’s crushed to extract the sweet juices. The crushed stalks, called bagasse, are used to fuel the mill’s boilers, providing enough electricity for the mills and neighboring villages so that fossil fuel is unnecessary. In fact, the mill creates so much energy from the bagasse that they are able to sell some of the electricity back to the state.

Indonesian farmers with Coconut Palm Sugar

In Java, Indonesia, Wholesome Sweeteners partners with family farmers that create Organic Coconut Palm Sugar. Palm trees have been rich, food sources in Indonesia for more than 4,000 years. Farmers tap the sweet nectar from the coconut palm tree flower and turn it into Organic Coconut Palm Sugar. The trees grow wild on their property, so there is no need to use harmful, chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Every day the farmers climb the palm trees to tap the coconut palm flower at the top. Once they collect enough nectar, they heat it in large kettles where it’s stirred by hand until it cools and crystallizes, leaving behind a rich brown sugar. The farmers enjoy a reliable living from these trees: the nectar is produced year round for up to 25-40 years; the coconut fruit is used for its meat and water; and the fibrous husks are used for twine or weaving material. Most importantly, the extraction process leaves the local environment intact since the trees are never cut down destroying the farmers’ forested properties.

Wholesome Sweeteners’ organic farming practices stretch across our liquid sweeteners as well. Our Organic Blue Agave is grown in Jalisco, Mexico. The


leaves of the large plants are hand-cut by the farmers with a large blade, a “coa,” and left behind to protect the soil. The remaining core of the plant or the “piña” houses the blue agave nectar. The piña is crushed to extract the juices, which are then gently heated and filtered yielding a sweet amber agave syrup.

Our Organic Honey comes from hives located deep within the secluded jungles of Brazil and Mexico, where beekeeping protects native plants and encourages biodiversity. The beekeepers maintain an organic environment for the honeybees by never using antibiotics or other toxins on the hives. The hives have been placed among a variety of organic flora for miles and miles, knowing that bees will only travel up to 4 miles from their hives for food. Since the bees are feasting on a variety of wildflowers that change with the season, the honey’s flavor characteristics constantly evolve, deepening in color and flavor. The honey is minimally filtered allowing it to retain its inherent pollens and enzymes. In Brazil the beekeepers recycle the wax honeycombs once a bee colony has left for a new home.

Our efforts to produce safe and flavorful sweeteners would be nearly impossible without the time and dedication that the farmers give to their crops. That is why Wholesome Sweeteners is a proud supporter and advocate for Fairtrade programs. We believe in paying farmers a fair price for their crops and are encouraged to see how the added premiums are improving their lives. Nearly all of our organic granulated sugars are Fairtrade Certified as well as our Organic Blue Agave and Organic Honey. Wholesome Sweeteners has paid more than $9 million in Fairtrade premiums to villages in Paraguay, Mexico, Brazil and Malawi. This money has helped cultivate vital needs for those communities like electricity, healthcare, schools, clean water supplies and new farming equipment.

As more and more consumers demand safe and healthy food options, Wholesome Sweeteners continues to champion organic, sustainable farming whenever possible. This method of farming serves as a great reminder of the bountiful capabilities inherent in Mother Nature and how the right kind of human intervention can be the best formula for yielding a safe and delicious harvest.

Nigel Willerton, CEO, Wholesome Sweeteners
Since establishing Wholesome Sweeteners in 2001, Nigel has helped grow the Texas-based sweetener company into the U.S.’s largest Fairtrade Certified, USDA Organic and Non-GMO Verified supplier of sugars, syrups, stevia and honey. Because of its strong focus on social responsibility, Wholesome Sweeteners has paid more than $9 million in Fairtrade premiums to impoverished farming communities around the world. For more information on Wholesome Sweeteners’ commitment to organic, sustainable farming or to learn about its Fairtrade practices,


Recipe! – Refreshing Drinking Water for Hot Days

     Entice yourself to drink more water!

     We know hydration is important on hot summer days, but sometimes just plain water is not enough to entice our taste buds. Here is an easy idea to enhance your drinking water with the addition of a few organic flavors!  Combine generous slices of jalapeño, lemon, lime, mint, and cucumber with your filtered water in a glass or a pitcher. Allow the mixture to rest a little while for the flavors to mingle, then enjoy!  Keep refilling the vessel until the flavors are exhausted, and keep drinking more water so you are well hydrated!

We thank Anne Marie Farrell for the photographs and the great idea!


Anne Marie Farrell - Photographer

Refreshing Water

Anne Marie Farrell - Photographer

Anne Marie’s Refreshing Water

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Leadership in Sustainability

Organic Food Companies Excel With Innovative Sustainability Initiatives

Organic Food Companies Excel with Innovative Sustainability Initiatives, Says Sustainable Food Trade Association Report

– Sustainable Food Trade Association (SFTA) members are leading the organic food industry when it comes to innovative sustainability initiatives, according to the new SFTA 2015 Member Sustainability Progress Report. The report addresses initiatives undertaken in 11 areas from farm to retail in 2013 and 2014.

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SFTA Member Sustainable Progress Report 2015 Infographic 052015

While these SFTA member companies are leading the way, any food company can and should be initiating strong sustainability programs.

Washington, DC (PRWEB) May 20, 2015

Sustainable Food Trade Association (SFTA) members are leading the organic food industry when it comes to innovative sustainability initiatives, according to the new SFTA 2015 Member Sustainability Progress Report. The report addresses initiatives undertaken in 11 areas from farm to retail in 2013 and 2014.

SFTA member companies go the extra mile, not only selling organic products, but addressing animal care, climate change, distribution/sourcing, education, energy, governance, labor, organic, packaging, water, and waste – the 11 areas in the organization’s “Declaration of Sustainability.” SFTA members measure, analyze, and report on their sustainability activities, and have been doing so since 2008.

“Our report demonstrates how companies with a commitment to organic are excelling in their overall sustainability journey, addressing their sustainability challenges in a number of bold and ground-breaking ways,” stated Katherine DiMatteo, SFTA Executive Director. “While these organic companies are leading the way, any food company can and should be initiating strong sustainability programs.”

The SFTA 2015 Member Sustainability Progress Report contains aggregated data from 22 reports submitted by SFTA members in 2014 about their prior fiscal year’s activities, as well as short vignettes highlighting some of the most innovative initiatives. Findings include:

The purchase of organic products, and member commitment to providing organic food options continues to grow. 77% of SFTA reporting members’ sales are from organic products, and over 1.9 billion pounds of organic products were purchased — more than a 25% increase over 2014 figures!

Commitment to reduce climate change and air emissions is a top priority. 91% of reporting members measure greenhouse gas emissions, and 100% of distributors take measures to reduce fuel use through distribution route optimization. 73% of the companies
offer transportation and commuting incentives to employees.

SFTA members continue to increase their energy efficiency measures and use of renewable energy sources to decrease their impact on the environment. Almost half (45%) of the reporting members generate a portion of their own electricity on-site (solar, methane digesters, etc.), and a whopping 80% of companies’ electricity use is derived from renewable resources. This last figure represents a 23% increase in the total renewable electricity use reported in 2014!

Waste reduction and landfill diversion efforts continue to gain momentum and grow in their levels of sophistication. Members reported completely diverting 72% of solid waste from the landfill, and 55% of members had a diversion rate of 70% or higher! These efforts added up to diverting more than 21,000 tons of waste from the landfill, including 4,225 tons of compostable materials and 7,536 tons of recycling materials.

When sourcing animal products, companies give animal care practices the highest consideration. 83% of reporting members that sell animal products have developed strict internal animal welfare production or purchasing guidelines that include open grazing for poultry, humane housing and slaughter, responsible fishing, and habitat regeneration.

Dedication to strengthening communities and quality of life is clearly demonstrated through a multi-layered approach. 100% of reporting retailers have programs dedicated to growing and selling local products. A growing trend is to add staff positions to increase local purchases. There also was a 129% increase in reported charitable donations; in 2014, SFTA reporting member donations topped $15.8 million!

2014 SFTA reporting members were: Amy’s Kitchen; Annie’s, Inc.; Ashland Food Co-op; Bridge’s Organic Produce; Ciranda; Community Food Co-op; Earl’s Organic Produce; GloryBee Foods; LifeSource Natural Foods; MOM’s Organic Market; Nature’s Path Foods; Organic Valley; Organically Grown Company; Outpost Natural Foods; Pacific Foods of Oregon; PCC Natural Markets; Port Townsend Co-op; So Delicious Dairy Free; Straus Family Creamery; Traditional Medicinals; United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI); and Viva Tierra.

About the Sustainable Food Trade Association

The Sustainable Food Trade Association (SFTA) mission is to build the capacity of the organic food trade to transition to sustainable business models. SFTA serves as a hub for businesses to learn, improve performance, communicate results, and share common metrics and best practices.