A common cause for sustainability

The Bell Food Group has the highest demands in terms of sustainability not only for its own activities. It is also important for the company that its suppliers pull together in this matter. All of them must fulfil the minimum requirements defined for the Bell Food Group. At some of the producers, however, the engagement goes far beyond this.

Respecting the well-being of mankind, animals and nature, saving water and energy or avoiding waste – sustainable actions have be-come increasingly important in many areas in recent years. It is essential for the Bell Food Group to shape the entire value chain sustainably – and in all countries where the company is active.

This is why it selects also its suppliers care-fully and checks the basic principles according to which they work. Certain requirements must be kept by all manufacturers delivering goods to the Bell Food Group. For the purchasing department, for example, it is defined in the so-called “Don’ts List”, which goods shall not be generally purchased or sold by the Bell Food Group. These include products made of acutely threatened species, from inappropriate husbandry or produced in a cruel way like eggs from hens kept in cages or living lobsters. «The requirements determined in this lists are chosen so that they offer protection for the entire company group and reduce the risk of being made responsible for misconduct», Marlene Pendl, Project Leader for Sustainability at Bell, explains.

Added to this are objectives set by the Bell Food Group for the next years. One example of this is palm oil, subject to heavy criticism in the media and the public. If it cannot be replaced with another fat, it must bear at least the RSPO certificate standing for sustainable cultivation and limitation of environmental damage, across the entire Group. Besides the Group level, also country-specific objectives for each company area are defined that consider the respective framework.

The Bell Food Group has also the work conditions at the suppliers in mind – especially when purchasing raw materials from overseas. «Producers from so-called 'risk countries' must prove to us that they keep certain social standards», Marlene Pendl says. «This way we can rule out that, for example, our suppliers employ children or do not remunerate their employees.»

But the Bell Food Group defines not only the framework for cooperation with its producers. The company often supports the plants also in the implementation of sustainable objectives. Hence, Bell established an integrated poultry production in Switzerland where contract producers are intensively supported with responsible livestock farming. This starts with questions about stable building, hygiene and feeding, and goes through care for broilers up to vaccination in the parents, plants by both veterinaries of the health service of Bell Switzerland. A very similar program is provided by Hilcona for vegetable farmers as well. The partner can, among others, lend special machinery for the harvest of specific vegetable sorts. Additionally, Hilcona takes care for the shortest possible delivery transport routes to its production plants.

Despite of a number of successfully implemented measures, the issue of sustainability still offers a high potential. Possible improvements are, for example, in the packaging area. Beyond the objective set by the Bell Food Group for reduction of packaging material, the producers can also contribute to further optimisation and thus, to waste avoidance.

Organic shea butter from Burkina Faso for Hügli

The shea nut tree, also called karité tree, grows in Africa in a strip north of the Equator. Also Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world, is located in this shea zone. Both women groups «ABPJF» and «Ragussi» process the seeds of the mighty trees to bio shea butter for Hügli.

The convenience specialist has been using this fat since 2013 for the stock cubes of its brands Natur Compagnie, Erntesegen and Cenovis. This way, Hügli not only prevents the use of the controversial palm oil but also sup-ports women by fair prices and fixed sales vol umes to improve the living conditions for them-selves and their families. In the last five years, since the start of the cooperation, the volume of the purchase has tripled in yearly average to 120 tons approximately today.

And because the demand for products with-out palm oil continues to rise, Hügli has in the meantime found a further sustainable purchase source for organic shea butter in a group of producing women in Ghana.

Potatoes from the pioneer in organic farming for Hilcona

As early as the 1980s when organic farming was still in its infancy in Europe, Richard Schierscher already started to operate his farm in the bio-dynamic way. Therewith, he belongs to the pioneers in organic farming in Liechtenstein. In the meantime, his son Samuel has taken over the «Auhof». But nothing has changed in respect of the strict guidelines. Therefore, he, too, does not, for instance, make use of herbicides and chemical-synthetic pesticides in the entire farming. The careful maintenance of these requirements are demonstrated by the Demeter and Bio Suisse certificates.

Hilcona has been relying on the high-quality vegetables growing on the farm for over 20 years. Thus, the plant cultivates, among others, some 60 tons of organic potatoes yearly in contract farming for the organic rösti products of the company.

Rabbit meat from species-appropriate husbandry for Bell

In order to rear rabbits as appropriate to their species as possible, Kani Swiss developed a unique farming method in Europe. The animals live in small groups together in generously dimensioned pens. Large volumes of hay and straw as well as individual possibilities for retreating ensure that they can behave naturally and feel comfortable all-round. For this, the Bell supplier was awarded also with the “Good Rabbit Award” in Berlin two years ago.

Bell Switzerland has been purchasing rabbit meat, that is sold exclusively at Coop, from Kani Swiss for nearly 20 years. While still a part-time job at that time for proprietor Felix Näf, the purchase volume has increased significantly in the subsequent years, and animal welfare has become more and more relevant. When, in 2008, Coop decided to sell rabbits from Switzerland only, Felix Näf expanded his plant, and developed the species-appropriate group husbandry method.

Today, the breeder delivers, together with his partner plants, up to 3,000 rabbits weekly to Bell from the own slaughterhouse. And he continues to focus to improve with regard to sustainability: he is developing approaches currently to market by-products like bones, stomachs and furs.

CO2-neutral heat for Eisberg  vegetables and salads

In a clever cooperation with the neighbouring waste incinerator, the Gebrüder Meier Gemüsekulturen AG heats its greenhouses completely without using fossile fuels. On a surface of four hectares at the site in Hinwil, Switzerland, vege-tables and salads grow now at temperatures ex-actly tuned to their demands. This way, around two million litres of heating oil can be saved yearly.

The customers of the innovative plant include Eisberg. The company has been cooperating with Gebrüder Meier for over 20 years, and purchases, for example, different salads, cauliflower and zucchini from them. All aspects of sustainable vegetable cultivation are regularly discussed among the partners during personal visits on the farm and contract negotiations.

Turkey from an animal-friendly farm for Süddeutsche Truthahn AG

Turkey farmer Ernst Linder wants to play an active role in the development of future livestock farming practices. The farmer from southern Germany is therefore taking part in the "model and demonstration project – animal protection" of the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE). On his demonstration farm, he is currently experimenting with keeping turkey toms without trimming their beaks. Background: with their sharp beaks, turkeys can severely injure each other, which is why their beaks are often trimmed on conventional factory farms. In the interests of animal welfare, this project investigates how to minimise this behaviour among turkeys with untrimmed beaks.

Ernst Linder converted one brooder house and one fattening house for 4,000 turkeys each to ensure that they have sufficient opportunities for being by themselves or keeping busy. He inspects the houses three times a day to make sure that his turkeys are comfortable and happy. The BLE's animal welfare advisers also come for visits. The farm's participation in this initiative was supported by Süddeutsche Truthahn AG. The Bell Food Group company nominated his farm for this project and supported him in preparing for on-site meetings with the project managers. Süddeutsche Truthahn AG has been buying turkey meat from this committed farmer since 2006. The farm currently supplies some 1,500 tonnes per year.

Poultry farm with its own biogas plant raises chickens for Hubers Landhendl

Chickens like a warm coop. Newborn chicks, for example, need to be kept at 34 degrees Celsius. Depending on the outside temperature, this may mean that poultry houses have to be heated throughout the year. Chicken fattener Norbert Hummel has found a sustainable source for heating his coops: his chickens' manure – of which they produce around one tonne a day. To exploit this resource, he built a biogas plant on his farm in Waldkirchen in Austria 15 years ago. This plant not only produces enough heat to warm the poultry houses and the farmhouse, but also enough to dry grain in the summer months. The plant also generates electricity that Norbert Hummel feeds into the Austrian green electricity network.

In addition to sustainable farming practices, the welfare of the animals is also important to the farmer. In 2016, he therefore decided to build his new poultry house for 40,000 chickens according to the principles of "particularly animal-friendly stabling" or PAS. He was supported in this by a strong partner: Hubers Landhendl. This Bell Food Group company not only advised him on the construction of the new poultry house, but also became a wholesale customer. Today, Norbert Hummel delivers some 580 tonnes of chicken meat per year to Hubers Landhendl, thus helping to meet the huge demand for PAS chicken in Switzerland.