Belvita breakfast bars are a popular snack worldwide because of their great taste and reported nutrition. The cinnamon flavor is a personal favorite of mine as it’s a perfect on the go snack for before practice or in between classes. Belvita is owned and operated entirely by Mondelēz International. Mondelēz is a global company known for being in every grocery store snack aisle and also as a big polluter. Mondelēz International motto is snacking made right, but from what I could find the one thing that they do right is maximize profits.
The ingredients listed for cinnamon brown sugar Belvita breakfast bars are made of 17 ingredients with the most notable being wheat and sugar because of their unsustainable properties. The main issues I found with these ingredients are pertaining to wheat and sugar. The sustainability report located on the Mondelēz International website states that they use four ingredients that are major contributors to carbon emissions, which are palm oil, cocoa, wheat and sugar. The issue surrounding wheat is the fertilizer used to make it grow. Worldwide production of wheat contributes to 43% of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the ammonium nitrate fertilizer and nitrous oxide that is released into the atmosphere once the fertilizer is broken down in the soil. Sugar production is harmful to the environment because it contributes to loss of habitats, uses a lot of water and also uses fertilizers that contribute to runoff in nearby water. This product does not use palm oil or cocoa which makes it better for the environment than some of the other Belvita products. Many Mondelēz products rely on wheat and sugar that of total revenue, 40-60% is based off products containing wheat and 60-80% of it is based off products containing sugar. To combat the environmental issues relating to wheat, Mondelēz International has created a program for farmers called Harmony Wheat. For a farmer to be apart of the Harmony Wheat program they must do two things. Three percent of their field must be kept for planting flowers to promote natural pollination and biodiversity and they must rotate crops and care for the soil so that pesticide use can be reduced. This program is only located in Europe which I was discouraged to see since Belvita bars are produced in 12 countries, this does not seem very equitable. In addition, it appears that they could be doing much more to reduce the impacts of growing wheat.
There was no information about how Belvita bars are made on their website. All information was found on Mondelēz International site. This company owns 38 brands and do not talk about products individually, instead they group the Belvita bars with other brands that produce biscuits. The lack of transparency about production is concerning, but honestly not surprising because this parent company is so large. On the company website, the scopes emission report includes that they have produced 23.4 million tons of CO2 equivalents in 2019. Almost 20 million tons come from scope 3 emissions, which involves purchased good and service, fuel and energy use, waste generated in operations, upstream and downstream transportation and distribution, business travel, employee commuting, use old sold products, and end of life treatment. These are indirect actions that put so much GHG into the atmosphere and because they do not come from direct production companies are more likely to get away with that. I believe for companies to become more sustainable they need to be held accountable for all emissions that are generated by their product. For the company as a whole packaging is made of 45% corrugate, 31% paper 16% flexible plastics 5% rigid plastics and 1% glass and metals. Mondelēz has shown slight improvements in packaging over the years, but they need to do more as they make so much packaging that is costly to the environment. Their goal is all packaging to be recyclable by 2025, but it is hard to know if that is realistic or just greenwashing in action. Switching packaging to more sustainable alternatives and reducing the amount of packaging would go a long way for this company and the Earth.
Belvita Bars is owned along with 37 other companies by Mondelēz International. Mondelēz was created in 2012 when Kraft decided to split into two companies. Kraft Foods Group focused on the North American grocery business, and the other company became Mondelēz, with the focus being an international snack company. I was surprised to see many popular brands that are also owned by Mondelēz, including Oreo, Honey Maid, Toblerone, Philadelphia, and Halls. Belvita bars were first created in 1998 in France as LU Petit Déjeuner, and later rebranded to Belvita in 2010. Biscuits are Mondelēz biggest market, but it was not clear what percentage of Belvita bars contributes to that. The main issues with Mondelēz seems to be their pollution and CO2 emissions and use of child labor. They are at least transparent enough to admit they have problems with how their products are made and have created programs to stop the use of child labor. They address these issues through sustainable sourcing of cocoa and palm oil through the Cocoa Life Program and Palm Oil Action Plan. The Cocoa Life Program is currently made up of 188,000 farmers that provide 68% of the chocolate used by Mondelēz. The main point of this program is to increase wages of farmers involved in the Cocoa Life Program and to set up trainings to teach farmers how to be sustainable.
The Palm Oil Action Plan requires palm oil to be traceable and monitored. Mondelēz requires that the suppliers stop deforestation and exploitation or workers. The website provides a twenty page list of the palm oil mills. To me that many suppliers seems hard to keep track off and the indirect control makes me question how far sustainability efforts are really getting. Cocoa and palm oil sourcing are the the main areas of concern regarding unsafe labor practices, but as far as the other steps in the manufacturing process it is unclear what the labor standards are. With net revenues being $26 billion in 2019. Mondelēz can afford to be more aggressive with their sustainability goals.