MadeGood granola bites are a simple allergen friendly vegan snack, and frankly one of my favorite tasting granolas. What makes MadeGood good are their natural and healthy ingredients, but their sustainability initiatives are lacking. While MadeGood and their parent company Riverside Natural Foods show promise of becoming more sustainable, they have a long way to go before they reach that goal.
The ingredients in these granola bites are pretty simple: oats, bananas, sunflower oil, and dark chocolate chips make up their main ingredients, with sugar, brown rice, tapioca flour, inulin (a polysaccharide produced by plants), and vegetable extracts finishing off the recipe. I was pleased to read there were no mysterious chemicals with unpronounceable names lurking in the ingredients list. The ingredients also have an impressive number of certifications: nut-free, gluten-free, allergy friendly, servings of vegetables, USDA organic, kosher, non-GMO, and vegan. How these ingredients are sourced is a more challenging question, but these simple and vegan ingredients are promising.
The other part of any product, however, is its packaging. The granola minis can be bought in two forms: a paper box full of individually plastic-packaged snack-packs, or one larger resealable plastic pack. The box and resealable pack are both recyclable, but plastic production still emits carbon, and their packaging does not opt for recycled materials. What I found most disappointing, however, was the use of individual smaller packs within the box. MadeGood does not provide any information on how this packaging is made, but after a good amount of image searching, the wrappers seem similar to a typical potato chip bag, with an aluminum-coated polymer inside layer that makes the entire product non-recyclable. I want to mention that another product owned by Riverside Natural Foods uses a biodegradable pouch that looks visibly similar to MadeGood’s packaging, which signifies there could be potential for them to transition this brand to those same materials.
Overall, I would rate this section a 1, as I appreciate the quality of the granola itself, but the unnecessary non-recyclable packaging is rather disappointing.
How MadeGood’s products are made is where things start to get sketchy. Their website makes plenty of broad claims about sustainability with little information of what that actually means. Their parent company Riverside Natural Foods recently released their first sustainability report, which provides the majority of accessible information.
To begin, MadeGood’s ingredients are certified USDA Organic. The most significant sustainability factor of the official organic certification is that the ingredients were grown on soil that had not been treated with synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and other prohibited chemicals for at least three years. Such substances threaten biodiversity, and their run-off can cause eutrophication and dead zones in water ways. An organic certification is certainly a good thing, but that on its own does not make a product sustainable. MadeGood also maintains AA status BRC Global Standards, a company that aims to improve food safety, packaging materials, and more. They are also certified by Zero Waste. This accomplishment indicates that the brand has set a goal to reach zero waste production, and have already successfully diverted at least 90% of waste away from landfills and incinerators.
Riverside Natural Foods reported plans to perform a sustainability study across their suppliers in the final quarter of 2020, and plans to expand their sustainability initiatives in 2021. Their largest facility—accounting for nearly 70% of their production—is LEED certified and is energy efficient, but they do not address renewable energy use. In terms of agriculture, Riverside is examining regenerative agriculture techniques, but nothing has yet been implemented.
I rate this section a .75. There’s evidence of some attempts for sustainability and potential for growth, but whether Riverside and MadeGood will be able to keep their promises remains to be seen.
MadeGood is owned by Riverside Natural Foods, a private Canadian company that owns two other allergen friendly food brands. In 2018, Riverside increased their payments from minimum wage to a living wage, as well as including retirement and medical benefits, and parental leave. They have also implemented diversity and inclusion programs, however they provide few details on what those programs actually entail. Talking about diversity is important, but actually implementing it is even more urgent. Riverside also strongly emphasizes how they value their employees and community, and donated almost $250,000 to COVID relief funds and nearly 325,000 meals to Canadian food banks. It is still unclear where MadeGood’s products are actually sourced and the standards being held by their suppliers, or the actual diversity metrics of their direct employees.
MadeGood might not be the most sustainable or transparent, but they also don’t pitch themselves as a primarily Earth-friendly brand. Their main marketing strategy is towards parents, selling their products as healthy and allergen-free snacks, with mentions of caring about the planet. I don’t want to diminish the value of a product that is safe for so many allergies, because I know that market can be slim. While this is notable and should not be overlooked, a brand called MadeGood needs to prove that their products are actually good from sourcing, consumption, and completion.
I rate this section a 1 again. I believe Riverside Foods and MadeGood have good intentions, but actions are more important than empty goals.