Building strong relationships can be tough. It can take years—but when they finally come to fruition, the payoff can be substantial. This is just as true in business as it is in our personal lives, and our efforts with Walmart provide a great example of how hard work and patience can make a relationship blossom.
A nod to our alliance, Walmart executives recently visited a dairy member farm and an Answer Plot® site to learn more about our end-to-end approach to sustainability. They saw firsthand how our members and businesses adhere to sustainable practices that meet the requirements of our customers and consumers.
But it took a long time to get to this point—for more than 10 years, the Walmart team has been working diligently to build and strengthen our relationship with the retail giant.
“We have found continued success by leveraging rigorous analytics and innovative solutions to build on favorable consumer trends,” says Zak Lowe, field sales director. “Perhaps most of all though, it’s a reflection of the hard work of a lot of folks at Land O’Lakes, both in Bentonville and the home office, who are all willing to roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty and help grind out wins ranging from distribution, to replenishment, to sustainability.”
Focus on sustainably sourced foods
While it’s no secret that Walmart has a lot of influence in the marketplace, they still need strong partnerships to make change happen. Today, one area they are focusing on is re-inventing supply chain systems to meet consumers’ increasing demand for sustainably sourced and produced foods. After all, consumers are increasingly voting with their wallets.
That’s where we come in. At Land O’Lakes, Inc. we have been steadfastly working on our sustainability program for years by implementing the industry standard Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) animal care program and our own on-farm sustainability program that includes the Farm Smart™ assessment tool. Thanks to the growing number of member-owners who voluntarily participated in these programs, we are fast becoming an industry leader in this area.
So when Walmart asked the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy which companies were making strides in sustainability, Land O’Lakes was at the top of the list.
Leaders in FARM program and Farm Smart™
Our participation in the FARM program—of which 100 percent of our members are verified—shares many similarities with Walmart’s own animal care standards. This helps validate our members’—and the industry’s—approach to animal care and helps position Land O’Lakes as a trusted partner.
We complement the animal care program with a customized on-farm sustainability approach that uses the Innovation Center’s Farm Smart™ assessment tool. Currently, about 30 percent of our milk supply has gone through our on-farm sustainability program and that number grows every year. Walmart recognizes our members’ leadership and we continue to explore ways in which our program can meet everyone’s needs.
“A big ‘thank you’ goes out to all our members,” says Becky Kenow, director of sustainability. “Their commitment to sustainable practices have given us a great story to tell.”
Not just dairy foods
Dairy is only part of the story. Because of Land O’Lakes’ farm-to-fork scope, we have the opportunity to be a partner all along the supply chain. While we may not be selling adjuvants or livestock feed directly to Walmart, one way or another our products tend to play a role in the crops and animals that make their way onto Walmart’s shelves.
This could provide WinField an opportunity to use its vast precision ag capabilities to help farmers meet Walmart’s sustainably sourced food requirements. And Purina’s commitment to excellence can definitely play a part as Walmart defines its approach to sustainably sourced food.
“Our Purina business has leading animal nutrition experts working to increase animal feed efficiency, which can aid in animal care, productivity and emission reductions,” says Becky. “Feed is an important contributor to sustainability.”
Value across the enterprise
From milk produced by farmers who follow the best animal care standards, to the animal feed and crops used to feed the world, Land O’Lakes’ reach across the agriculture value chain is a valuable asset moving forward.
“Focusing on sustainability is important, and we also need to continue advancing our farm-to-fork growth strategy. Working with customers is just one way we are driving this dual focus,” says Zak. “Chris, our CEO, has referred to it as the greatest growth industry of our era. Given our unique position spanning the value chain I’m excited to see what the future holds for Land O’Lakes.”