Highly coveted certification assists consumers in identifying environmentally friendly products

By Ellen Pruden, Cereals Canada

Sustainability labels on food packaging can be found in the grocery stores on everything from coffee to chocolate and even on wine. Food and beverage packages that contain Canadian wheat have not seen an ecolabel applied to their products until now with the Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat Ecolabel. The Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat Ecolabel program is a solution that benefits Canadian wildlife habitats, the environment and the economy.

Research by Ducks Unlimited shows that winter wheat provides ground cover in the spring to help reduce soil erosion and offers nesting habitat for wildlife, especially waterfowl and songbirds in Western Canada.

While bread and flour are obvious products that could be certified, any food or beverage brands that use western winter wheat are eligible. For example, Beam Suntory, a world leader in premium spirits, received certification for its newly launched Northern Keep Vodka, a premium craft vodka that is committed to sustainability and land protection.

“We’re thrilled to announce that Northern Keep Vodka is one of the first brands in Canada to be accredited as a certified Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat product. This highly coveted certification assists consumers in identifying environmentally friendly products that provide critical habitats for ducks, birds and other Canadian wildlife,” says Danielle Milette, senior brand manager of Northern Keep Vodka.

Northern Keep Vodka believes in preserving Canada’s natural resources and has partnered with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to protect ecologically significant parts of the country. “Sustainability and protection of the lands that have gifted us the bounty of grains needed to create this premium vodka are at the core of everything Northern Keep Vodka does,” Milette says.

Consumers will start to see the branded ecolabel on Northern Keep Vodka product promotions in local liquor stores this spring.

“As the Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat program grows with more companies, choosing products with the ecolabel helps supports Canadian farmers while making a positive impact on the environment,” says Doug Martin, winter wheat farmer from East Selkirk, MB. “By working together from field to product, we are showcasing one part of Canadian agriculture’s sustainability story.”

Manitoba Crop Alliance has partnered with Cereals Canada to develop this ecolabel in co-operation with the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions, Saskatchewan Winter Cereals Development Commission and Ducks Unlimited Canada. The ecolabel highlights the ecological benefits of winter wheat to consumers and creates new marketing opportunities that increase demand for winter wheat.

The Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat Ecolabel program promotes western Canadian winter wheat, while also sharing the environmental benefits that are inherent in this crop. “It is an innovative approach to market development that taps into growing consumer demand for sustainable products,” says Daniel Ramage, director of market access and trade policy at Cereals Canada. It also represents an opportunity to communicate agriculture’s positive contributions to the environment.

Farmers can participate in the program by growing western Canadian winter wheat and delivering it to a certified processor or end user. Grain handlers, mills and food manufacturers can become certified through an application and audit to confirm they can appropriately document grain segregation and track flour blending to meet the required 30 per cent minimum percentage of winter wheat for certified flour.

Along with Northern Keep Vodka, another company using the ecolabel is Les Moulins de Soulanges, a specialty flour manufacturer based in Quebec’s Montérégie region. They are sourcing Manitoba winter wheat to sell certified habitat-friendly winter wheat flour to bakers across North America. Both companies found a fit with the Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat program that puts sustainability at the forefront.

“We want to see this program expand. We are always looking for more companies to get certified and to use the ecolabel, and more farmers to grow winter wheat,” says Ramage. “We are excited about new partners joining the program and look forward to announcing the addition of another participating brand later this spring.”

Learn more about the Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat Ecolabel program at habitatwheat.ca

Learn more about the Northern Keep Vodka and their sustainability efforts at northernkeep.ca

East Selkirk, MB, winter wheat farmer and MCA wheat and barley committee delegate Doug Martin