Growing for a sweet niche

SPECIALTY CORN PRODUCTS NEED EXTRA MANAGEMENT

CONSUMERS DRIVE DEMAND and are increasingly becoming a driver of how food is produced, too. But with so many steps in the value chain it can be difficult for growers to benefit from meeting specific consumer demands. Ingredion is a global company growing their business by aligning production with consumer demand and making connections along the value chain.

Here in Ontario, the company is meeting the demand of a specific consumer food trend with non-GMO corn. Kevin Hachler, manager of commodity purchasing for Canada says Ingredion considers ingredients made from non-GMO corn to be ‘specialty products’ as a consumer-driven opportunity posing benefits for Ontario corn growers.

“Demand for specialty food products and the necessary inputs, like non-GMO corn, is growing,” says Hachler. “And through our Cardinal, ON, plant, we’re opening an opportunity for area growers to generate additional profit by supplying what’s in demand.” New for the 2016 growing season, Ingredion has contracted non-GMO corn growers in eastern Ontario. Similar to growing IP soybeans, Ingredion’s grower agreement focuses on traceability.

“Ontario growers have an advantage with their experience with traceability programs,” says Hachler explaining two differences between IP soybean and Ingredion’s non-GMO corn requirements — the necessary border rows, or buffer strips, of corn to prevent cross pollination with GM hybrids and the additional drying and transfer equipment that requires cleaning.

SOME STORAGE REQUIRED
Ingredion also requires farmers to provide on-farm storage, and only receive non-GMO corn during three pre-determined delivery windows throughout the year. Hachler explains this will allow the plant and equipment to be thoroughly cleaned, avoiding contamination with GMO corn.

“Our grower agreements also stipulate corn can’t be grown on fields previously planted with GMO corn to reduce the risk of volunteer corn,” says Hachler. Ingredion is targeting 0.9 per cent purity levels, but this year’s grower agreements will accept up to three per cent GMO contamination. “We’re making greater allowances for impurities this year because we want to work with growers and the supply chain to help them get on board with this program.”

PREMIUMS
Ingredion representatives are working with growers to successfully participate in the program. “Growers are often surprised to learn there are non-GMO corn varieties that yield comparably to conventional or GM corn hybrids,” says Hachler.

Meeting market demand, and in the case of Ingredion’s non-GMO contracts, producing for a market with specific requirements takes grower commitment. Ingredion is offering contracted growers a $25 premium per tonne above market corn prices for 2016. This premium opportunity for non-GMO corn as a specialty ingredient is a direct result of identifying and meeting a consumer preference.

Claire Regan, Ingredion’s corporate communications director, explains that the company’s specialty ingredient portfolio has expanded over the past few years and now represents 25 per cent of the company’s sales. “We’re sourcing and supplying higher value and higher functionality foods. And we can only do this by engaging growers to meet consumer trends and passing the premium on to the grower,” says Regan. •