General Mills has entered a “strategic sourcing partnership” with US-based Organic Valley in a move that the Annie’s maker said will support its expansion in the US organic yoghurt category.

The company said the agreement will ensure organic supply for its yoghurt unit in the US, which includes brands like Yoplait, Annie’s, Liberté and Mountain High. 

General Mills recently launched the Annie’s brand in the US yoghurt category with a line of certified organic whole milk yoghurt. The firm also revealed it is making its Liberté yoghurt brand in the US to USDA-certified organic. The group is planning a nationwide roll out of organic Liberté this summer. 

David Clark, president of General Mills’ yoghurt business, said its agreement with Organic Valley will help secure supply of organic ingredients as well as encouraging the conversion of farmland to organic standards. 

“To ensure we are able to deliver great tasting organic yoghurt offerings to our consumers we are committed to supporting a framework in partnership with Organic Valley that will not only ensure a consistent supply chain, but also make it easier for dairy farmers to successfully manage through the transition to organic,” Clark said. 

The company noted the deal will help convert around 20 dairy farms to organic production over the next three years, moving around 3,000 acres of dairy farm land into the US organic certification process.

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General Mills observed under-supply of organic ingredients is making it hard for the food sector to keep pace with rising consumer demand for organic in the US. John Foraker, president of General Mills’ organic brand Annie’s, explained: “We recognise that one of the biggest challenges to accelerating organic supply is enabling farmers to bridge the three-year period required to attain certified organic status under USDA rules. There is tremendous opportunity for Annie’s — with the scale of General Mills — to increase the organic ingredient supply needed to support the rising consumer interest in organic foods.”

The company said the agreement with Organic Valley builds on its commitment to double the organic acreage from which it sources ingredients by 2019. In March, the US food giant said it expects to be sourcing from 250,000 organic acres by 2019, compared to 120,000 in 2015.  

Since 2009, General Mills said it has increased the organic acreage it sources from by 120%. The company claimed it is now among the top five organic ingredient purchasers — and the second-largest buyer of organic fruits and vegetables — in the North American packaged food sector. 

In order to further build support for organic suppliers, General Mills added it will launch the Organic and Regenerative Agriculture Transition Council, which will bring together sustainable agricultural leaders, farmers and industry stakeholders with the mission of “advancing organic and regenerative agriculture practices”. The first project will focus on dairy, the company revealed.