Lantmännen Unibake visits pumpkin seed suppliers in Inner Mongolia to listen, learn and audit
Pumpkin seeds are a tasty and nutritious ingredient in rye bread and other bread products. A long supply chain can be a challenge, though, when ensuring a high standard of food safety and acceptable working conditions during production.
This is why we make an effort at Lantmännen Unibake to visit the source of key ingredients. In the case of pumpkin seeds, that means visiting Inner Mongolia in China – one of the world’s biggest pumpkin-growing regions.
Unibake buys pumpkin seeds from suppliers that import the seeds from China. The pumpkins themselves grow on smallholder farms that deliver the seeds to collectors for transport to processing plants.
Quality, food safety and working conditions
When Jacob Bielefeldt travelled to Inner Mongolia in his capacity as ingredients category manager, his goal was to follow the journey from harvest to processing and participate in audits of two processing plants.
“Both the plants we visited are BRC certified. Our main focus was to gain insights into how they fulfil BRC requirements for quality and food safety and to conduct our own Supplier Code of Code audits on site. We were particularly interested at looking into working conditions,” he says.
Good and safe working conditions are a central requirement of the Lantmännen Supplier Code of Conduct, which follows the principles of the UN Global Compact and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
The ideal pumpkin climate
With 280 days of sunshine a year and a dry, continental climate, Inner Mongolia is ideal for pumpkin growing. On the family-owned farms, the workers sow the pumpkin seeds in May. Each small field produces 300kg on average – with around 250 seeds in every pumpkin. The pumpkin flesh is left on the fields as fertiliser during the September harvest.
At the processing plant, the seeds are washed, de-hulled, sorted and sterilised prior to packing.
Valuable on-site dialogue
“The working culture in Inner Mongolia is different to ours in Northern Europe. The audits gave us a good opportunity to review how these two suppliers approach matters such as health and safety, work environment, social conditions and working hours,” Jacob states.
During the audits, the suppliers showed clear interest in learning more about the Lantmännen Supplier Code of Conduct and were keen to take corrective actions where necessary.
Jacob looks back on a trip that highlighted the value of close supplier relationships from beginning to end of the value chain.
These visits are a strong learning experience for us as they help us continuously improve the way we work internally with sourcing at Unibake and how we work with suppliers.