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Future-proofing Colman’s ingredients with our first UK regenerative agriculture project


After supplying ingredients for use in Colman’s products for many decades, some mint and mustard farms in the UK are trying something new: future-proofing their yields and securing Unilever’s mustard supply chain by trialling regenerative agriculture practices.

An image of two tins of Colman’s mustard powder and a jar of mustard photographed in a field.

Soil is the single most important asset that mint and mustard growers in the UK have. Like all farmers, their yields and revenues depend on it, as do the supply chains that are linked to it.

However, today this precious asset is under threat. Globally, the equivalent of one soccer pitch of soil is lost every five seconds. And with weather conditions becoming more volatile, farmers who supply ingredients for Colman’s products in the UK are future-proofing their yields by investing in the health of their soil and environment with financial and technical support from Unilever.

Funded by Unilever’s Climate & Nature Fund, our first regenerative agriculture project in the UK forms part of a wider global roadmap that looks to see Unilever invest in regenerative agriculture projects on 1.5 million hectares of land and forests by 2030.

“Trialling these regenerative agriculture practices will help to create much-needed long-term resilience in the agricultural value chain against climate-related impacts,” says James Holmes, Unilever Plant Science & Technology Lead, explaining why healthy soil and a healthy environment are as business critical for Unilever as they are for farmers.

“Simply put, if farmers cannot adapt to the challenges of climate change, we won’t be able to grow ingredients in the same way – the unpredictability of weather is the biggest challenge for farmers. Ultimately, by investing in the soil, farmers improve their resilience to extreme weather,” he says.

A jar of Colman’s mint sauce in front of green plants.

Sowing the seeds for the future of farming

Regenerative agriculture practices offer the best chance of avoiding this situation, which is why Unilever is partnering with mint and mustard farms around Norwich and Peterborough to test a variety of regenerative agriculture practices.

During the trials, data will be collected on key metrics, including soil health, fertiliser use and farm yields and profitability.

New practices will include:

  • Cover and companion crops
  • Alternative pest control
  • New digital irrigation scheduling systems
  • Reduced cultivation

It is hoped that this mix of practices will help alleviate several very specific challenges facing mint and mustard farmers today. Beetles, for example, can devastate crops, while a dependence on imported fertilisers is also challenging for farmers.

“As part of this project, we want to work with farmers to understand how they can use less fertiliser or different low-carbon products,” says James, adding that although farmers have been hugely innovative in finding solutions to these and other issues, Unilever’s support will offer them access to unique expertise, thanks to the involvement of its technical partner, the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB).

A bird’s-eye view of a man walking through deep green mint fields.

How cutting-edge technology is helping farmers measure success

Having already collected and established baseline data with the farmers, NIAB has been able to create a framework which will be used to measure the impact new regenerative agriculture practices are having.

“We’ve done a lot on the field to scale among ourselves,” says mustard farmer Greg Bliss. “But now what we’re going to do is something with good metrics that will let us know that we’re making an improvement. And if we are not making an improvement, we’ll adjust.”

An image of mustard farmer Greg Bliss

Reaping the results

The first harvest of crops using these regenerative agriculture practices will take place in July. Data will then ultimately go through an auditing process as part of Unilever’s global Measurement Reporting and Verification System, with a view to publishing results in 2025.

“Healthy soil should matter to all food businesses and as the climate crisis continues to impact the natural world, we need to not just protect but also to help regenerate the soil and farmland used to grow the crops and ingredients we enjoy every day,” says Andre Burger, Unilever’s UK and Ireland Head of Nutrition.

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