Diamond Foods counts on Kettle for sustainability expertise
By Lee van der Voo
Sustainable Business Oregon contributing writer
The Kettle brand has proven to be a beacon of sustainability for Diamond Foods despite an uncertain future for the company.
Diamond Foods, the publicly traded snack company based in San Francisco, has propelled the green-leaning mission of popular chip manufacturer Kettle Foods forward since acquiring the Salem-based company in 2010.
And despite missteps at its corporate parent that led to a botched acquisition, the ouster of its CEO and an uncertain financial picture, insiders say that Kettle’s know-how is informing an increasingly progressive corporate philosophy in the areas of food-source transparency, renewable energy, waste recycling and new sourcing strategies.
How Diamond acquired an interest in such practices is how large companies acquire a lot of things, says Scott Exo, executive director of the Food Alliance: They buy them. And the corporate ethos of acquiring new assets seems to be, in the case of Diamond and others, translating to environmental smarts.
“Shareholders, activists and others are turning the screws down on brands, demanding more traceability and transparency — not just about what goes on within the four walls of their company, but with what's happening in their supply chains,” said Exo.
As companies look to be more accountable to such consumer demands, he said the best outcome in a buyout scenario “is when the combination of the culture and the accumulated wisdom of a smaller company starts to inform the work of a larger company.”
Diamond Foods was at work on building its own environmental record before acquiring Kettle. The company installed a roof-mounted, 20-turbine wind farm on at its Beloit processing facility in 2007. It also began sourcing packaging materials closer to processing operations and started using soy-based inks on Pop Secret packaging. After acquiring products from General Mills, Diamond continued to use recycled materials for packaging Pop Secret, Emerald 100-Calorie and Breakfast on the go! cartons.
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