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Angelo Trocchia. We have created a Sustainable Agriculture Standard. And made it available to everyone

Economy / -

Angelo Trocchia, Presidente e Amministratore Delegato di Unilever Italia

Doubling their turnover while halving their environmental impact. This is no chimera, but the ambitious Sustainability Plan adopted by Unilever. The latest component is the Unilever Sustainable Agricultural Code, a shared platform for sustainable agriculture.

It sounded provocative: doubling turnover while halving environmental impact. But no: the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan which Unilever CEO Paul Polman announced in 2010, is going according to plan, to the point that the company can now claim that 55 percent of the raw agricultural goods used in its products are certified as sustainable. Palm oil tops the list, having already reached 100 percent certification. The objective is to achieve 100 percent certification of all raw materials by 2020.

These efforts appear to be paying off in business terms, as the brands which already comply with the Plan’s sustainability requirements are contributing to group growth at double the rate of the others. Proof that consumers approve of this approach. We discussed it with the man at the top of the Italian subsidiary, Angelo Trocchia, Chairman and CEO of Unilever Italia.
 
What impact has the sustainability program set up by Paul Polman had in Italy?
The sustainability plan is now an intrinsic part of our mission and has fully permeated Unilever’s strategy in Italy: our four Italian plants do not send waste to landfill; they have cogeneration plants and a detailed plan for reducing water consumption. In addition, each brand is expected to make sustainability an integral part of their identity.
 
Here at Expo Milano 2015 you have focused on the Algida brand. What are the reasons for this choice?
We felt that Algida, which is also celebrating its 70th anniversary, was the ideal brand to represent Italian-ness, as it is “the” ice cream that whole generations grew up with. It too is a brand which has sustainability in its DNA: the chocolate used for Magnum ice creams is 100 percent Rainforest Alliance certified, as is the wood for the sticks. The vanilla we use in Carte D’Or is 100 percent certified by Symrise, and all the ingredients of Ben&Jerry’s ice creams (which in the USA is actually registered as a B-Corp, i.e. a social enterprise) are fair trade certified.
 
Due to their size, the purchasing choices of multinationals have an enormous impact on the economy of their supplier countries: what criteria do you follow to ensure compliance with the various elements of sustainability?  
We follow a very simple criterion: where there are well-respected worldwide systems, such as the Rainforest Alliance, we start the certification process with them; otherwise we draw up codes of practice which we make public. The most recent example of this is the Unilever Sustainable Agricultural Code: a self-regulating code of practice for sustainable agriculture, which we think can become a shared standard which other food and agricultural businesses can adopt.
 
At Expo Milano 2015 there are several types of ice cream on offer: some focus on local or seasonal products, or on their natural ingredients: how can industrial ice cream producers answer this trend, which originates from consumer demand?
It is a further stimulus to constantly improve the quality of our ingredients, as I was saying. However, I think that brand quality also lies in the ability to create emotions, and in this area, with products such as Cornetto and Magnum, I feel we have that special edge.
 
How has this focus on sustainability changed your management style?
Sustainability goes hand in hand with being genuine: nowadays, managers must have a transparent style. Only if you are genuine can you ask your employees to incorporate sustainability into the business.
 
What do you think of Expo Milano 2015?
Personally, I am a great supporter of the Universal Exhibition. I really like it. I came to the opening ceremony and it was wonderful. I have visited some of the Pavilions and found a very nice atmosphere; I count on coming back again to see more of it.
 
 
 

Haiti. A shimmering pearl set in the heart of the Caribbean

Culture / -

cover haiti
© Anthony Asael_Art in All of Us Corbis

White sand beaches and dream landscapes. This wonderful country, full of unexpected contrasts, located between the island of Cuba and the Dominican Republic, is starting to recover from the disastrous earthquake which hit it five years ago, thanks to two of its most important resources: tourism and agriculture.

Brightly-colored markets bursting with stalls and people, picture-postcard bays, national parks, fishermen’s villages, colorful local festivals and farmland on which cereals, tubers and tobacco are grown. This is the true essence of Haiti, a small country with a fascinating history and elegant architecture which reflects both the French colonial period and Native American traditions.  

Few ingredients, but expertly mixed 
Haiti is famous for its simple but tasty dishes made from the freshest local food. Newly-caught fish, rice, cornmeal, honey, beans, chickpeas and spicy sauces made from curry, chicken, pork and fruit are the staple diet of Haitians. The food culture in Haiti has influences from French, Spanish and African cuisine and is based on strong, spicy tastes which certainly make an impression on those trying them for the first time.

Haiti at Expo Milano 2015 to share its Native American heritage 
Haiti is taking part in the Universal Exhibition as part of the Cereals and Tubers Cluster with the aim of increasing appreciation and sharing the historic heritage of Native Americans’ cultivation of these crops, which nourish not only the ten million-plus inhabitants of Haiti, but also a large number of peoples all over the world. The Pavilion of Haiti is two storeys high and inside it the visitor can admire the exceptional skill of Haitians in cookery, art and making local handicrafts.  
 
 

The world of honey

Taste / -

 
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The world of honey
The world of honey
The world of honey
The world of honey
The world of honey
The world of honey
The world of honey
The world of honey
The world of honey

From ancient times up through the spread of the exploitation of sugar cane and beet, honey has been the sweetener par excellence. Here is how this sugary substance, of viscous consistency, is processed and stored by bees in the cells of the hive.

Honey is the nectar of foraged flowers, partially pre-digested and then regurgitated by bees (Apis mellifera). It is for this reason that it is called a living food. This unique production process, in the hands of small insects, loads the product with enzymes and makes it very enjoyable, to the point of being one of the most quickly digested foods.  It takes less than twenty minutes for the body to absorb it.  

How honey is born
The Earth is home to several thousands of billions of bees, which annually produce a million tons of good quality and diversely flavored types of honey. When the first flowers bloom, a few worker bees, known as explorers, begin their frantic exploration activities; if they find nectar to collect; they report the discovery to their foraging companions and start an intense back and forth journey between flowers and hive.
 
The collection is non-stop: the bee rests on the flower, entering the corolla, sucking the nectar and goes from flower to flower until it has filled its honey sac, an appendage that allows the transportation of nectar and water.

The work proceeds methodically: once the bees starts collecting delicious nectar it not distracted by the other blossoms.

Inside the bee hive is a bee whose job it  is to take delivery of the harvest; the nectar passes from bee to bee until it is poured into a cell of the honeycomb: with each step, the nectar is concentrated and enriched with enzymes.

Inside of the mature honeycomb cells, a constant temperature and low humidity is maintained, thanks to the beating of the wings of bees by bees whose job it is to maintain a proper hive environment. The right atmosphere enables the nectar to dry and thicken to become honey. Eventually, when the honey is ready, the bees will seal the cell with a layer of wax.

The beekeeper collects the honeycombs once they are filled with honey. After removing the wax cap that seals the cells,  the beekeeper then places them in the honey extractor; a centrifuge that extracts of the honey from the combs without damaging them.
The honey that has been collected is then stored in a decantation container followed by a filtering process to remove any impurities such as bits of wax or other debris. Now, the honey is ready to be to be packaged.
 
A world of variety
Even in the finished product, honey retains traces of nitrogenous substances and residues from pollen grains, which can be seen under the microscope. Due to these trace substances; honey is almost always flavored with aromatic substances from flowers. There are almost as many varieties of honey as there are kinds of flowers on Earth.  The honey’s various flavors are influenced by the diet of the bees, therefore from plants that have they foraged from. Examples include the millefiori (thousand flowers) honey, that comes from a variable mixture of nectars and is less refined than single flower flavors,  along with the flavors of pale clover, acacia and eucalyptus honey with its delicate amber hue. There is also the dark and resinous pine and heather honey. Another variety is found in the  exclusive preparation of the white and creamy summer honey; thought of as honey of the  highest quality since ancient times, it is produced by bees from Mount Imetto in Greece, made famous by the  honey produced there, where thyme, mint, savory and marjoram are grown in abundance.
 
 
 

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