Westfalia Fruit Spotlights Sustainability Strategy; Raina Nelson, Zac Bard, and Johnathan Sutton Detail
OXNARD, CA - Mother Earth is revered across fresh produce due to the pivotal role she plays in production. As consumers have increasingly begun to turn their attention toward the ethos of the companies they support, sustainability and the environmental friendliness of suppliers have become key differentiating factors, giving our industry a chance to shine.
With a focus on protecting the land, conserving natural resources, and caring for communities, Westfalia Fruit is using its commitment to sustainable solutions to inspire retailers, shoppers, and other industry companies to do the same, creating a brighter future for the food supply chain.
To understand the details of Westfalia’s sustainability program, I sat down with several company leaders who gladly pulled back the curtain.
Jenna Plasterer: What role does sustainability play in Westfalia’s growth strategy, and why is it such a crucial part of the company’s history?
Raina Nelson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Westfalia Fruit USA: Westfalia Fruit was founded over 70 years ago on the guiding principles of environmental and social sustainability, which continue to underpin our approach today. Sustainability is in Westfalia’s DNA and defines our company. Caring for the lands and communities is the guiding compass of our strategy.
Dr. Merensky acquired the Westfalia Estate in 1929 and reclaimed the overgrazed and poorly managed land. He experimented with many environmentally sustainable agricultural systems, and the success of these initiatives helped shape the company's environmental ethos, which has been maintained ever since.
JP: Now I can see that sustainability is more than just part of a company program; it is woven into everything you do. With sustainability so prominent in the company’s mission, what are some critical areas in which Westfalia has made significant progress?
Zac Bard, Executive Manager, Westfalia Fruit (Pty) Ltd: Westfalia’s research division holds the title of the largest privately funded research program focused on avocados, and rootstock is another significant part of the sustainability mission. Through our research, Westfalia produced rootstock that produces more fruit and uses less water by utilizing natural elements, reducing root rot, and generating more protection.
Lastly, we are adamant about reducing waste. We have created a new skincare line, Dr. Craft, which utilizes the pit of the avocado by grinding it down to make an exfoliant.
Johnathan Sutton, Group Safety and Environmental Executive, Westfalia Fruit (Pty) Ltd: Water management has been a crucial part of Westfalia’s sustainability strategy since its inception. We use the resource sparingly and effectively, and our innovation in this space takes conservation to a different level.
Soil protection is another cornerstone of our sustainability program as soil loss threatens to destabilize food systems. One inch of topsoil can take several hundred years to develop, and rain is a significant threat as it causes soil to wash away. Westfalia moved the direction of trees and orchards to prevent this from happening, so the water runs slower and removes less soil.
JP: As Westfalia continues to make strides in the sustainability sector, why is it essential for other companies in the produce industry to do the same?
Zac Bard: We look at it this way: We share the same planet, and it’s up to all of us to take accountability and action.
In 2020, Westfalia improved water-use efficiency by 14 percent, generated 50 percent more of its electricity, reduced waste to landfill by 9 percent, and lowered its carbon footprint per kilo of fruit by 5 percent. We aim to achieve zero waste to landfill by 2025, achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, and reduce pesticide usage on farms by 50 percent by 2035.
As Westfalia further expands its sustainability goals and initiatives, look for the AndNowUKnow logo in your inboxes for the latest updates.