As a food business, sourcing ingredients is an area of our operations where we have a direct impact on people and the planet. There are many factors that we must consider when we make ingredient sourcing decisions for Agni products, including:
- What ingredients we want to source
- Where they are grown & processed
- Who they are grown & processed by, under what conditions, and with what regard for nature
- The availability of those ingredients in the United States
- What the wholesale market price is and if it is a fair price
- Visibility into food quality and safety practices
- What 3rd party certifications the ingredients are labeled with
Because we source many ingredients to make Agni products, we have to look at all of these factors as pieces of a puzzle. Being transparent about how we make choices to balance these factors is extremely important to us. As a food business, we believe we are responsible for educating our community about the complexities of our food supply chains and the “why” behind our decisions. We hope to support your unique food healing journey with our thoughtfully crafted products, educational resources, and community. In return, we are so excited to share our food healing journey as a business with you!
Our ingredient sourcing journey is a significant piece of our sustainability journey. We refer to it as a journey because we are constantly making progress towards closer alignment with our values. In some cases, our goals feel out of reach based on constraints of the system. So, we come up with alternative paths and plans to reach them, and share openly about the limitations we are facing and how we plan to overcome them.
At the foundation of our ingredient sourcing journey is a simple question: does this decision line up with our core value of raising the intention of loving-kindness for our planet, others, and self through food? If the answer is no, we ask ourselves what steps forward we can take to be in closer alignment with our values.
Our Ingredient Sourcing Priorities
We believe in the healing properties of food, so we carefully curate all Agni product recipes to include nutritious and delicious ingredients. We work with our Medical Advisory Board to integrate nutritional wisdom from different disciplines into our recipe development. We aim for ingredient lists that are simple and impactful - we include ingredients that enhance nutrition and taste, and leave out anything that is unnecessary.
Food companies often use additives like fillers and preservatives to achieve results like consistency at scale, longer shelf life, and lower cost. Historically, large food corporations have utilized these techniques to scale quickly while simultaneously increasing margins. All food businesses have to decide whether to follow that path or not. At Agni, we choose not to. We believe our values-based approach is foundational for our healing mission as a brand and this is what allows us to prioritize nutrition and quality over volume and price.
Our current objective is to uphold this standard as we create new tasty, healing foods.
Food Quality & Safety Practices
Our ingredients are sourced from partners we trust that use practices that are conscious of human and environmental health. We require all of our suppliers to have food safety practices and certifications in place. We validate this by reviewing their protocols, audits, and certifications before we purchase ingredients from them. This gives us confidence that we are sourcing high quality, nourishing foods that were processed in a low-risk environment, in a way that maintains nutrition and eliminates toxins.
Our current objective is to streamline onboarding new partners, ensure all related documents are easily organized for our team and our manufacturing partners to access, and find a way to educate our community about our food quality and safety practices.
Grower / Processor Equity
We believe the best way to ensure that the people who grow and process our ingredients are treated fairly is, simply, to know those people. Unfortunately, the food industry has been designed to create chains of supply that disconnect all of us from the origin of our foods, which ultimately reduces visibility & transparency - especially when it comes to how much the most important people in our food supply chains, the farmers, are paid.
Some of our ingredients are purchased from farmers and then processed — meaning we lose visibility to the people further up the supply chain. Fewer degrees of separation between us and where our ingredients originate is important, and we’re constantly working on finding new partners who help us to shorten this supply chain. That way, we can be certain we are paying our farmers and processors equitably for their work.
We love to see emerging food companies who are prioritizing direct trade. We think this is the future of transparent food systems and we are here for it! A few brands we deeply respect for creating more transparent trade within their commodity industries include: Raaka Chocolate, Diaspora Co., and Vega Coffee.
Our current objective is to prioritize our ingredients by volume and then partner directly with farmers of those ingredients [or] partner with processors that have more transparent supply chains. If you are a supplier of one of our ingredients and have direct access to your farmers - we'd love to chat. Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Location & Environmental Impact
We prioritize sourcing ingredients grown in the United States to reduce the footprint of transporting ingredients globally. Some ingredients we use do not grow in the North American climate in sufficient quantities, so in those cases we source from abroad - cacao is a great example of this! We know cacao and cacao products have a high logistical footprint, but it has healing benefits that we want to offer to our community.
We also prioritize sourcing ingredients from farmers and processors that share our belief about nourishing our planet through food. We look for certifications (the next section) to guide us in this search, and also prioritize ingredients with shorter supply chains (the previous section) to give us visibility into the farmer and processing practices used to prepare the ingredient for use in our products.
Nourishing the planet through food means giving our planet more than we take in the process of growing ingredients. Regenerating the soil is an example of this in action that we love, for so many reasons - particularly that it is a return to ancient farming techniques that our modern industrial food system has neglected as it has found ways to disconnect people from the origins of our food. We are excited to share more about what nourishing our planet through food means to our team. If you’re interested in learning more about this, make sure you follow us @agniforall on Instagram to be notified when we share a new blog post!
Currently all our cookies and teas are USDA Organic certified and you can expect to see the USDA Organic seal show up on those in 2021. We are working to certify our seasonings in 2021.
In order to achieve and maintain USDA Organic certification, the ingredients we source must have been grown and processed following USDA organic practices. A downside of this standard is that it limits us from working with smaller farms who are often farming even more closely in alignment with our values than a larger organic farm might be, but who cannot afford the costly certification process. This is a frustrating limitation of our complex food system and we are always looking for resources to learn more and support smaller farmers.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not allowed by USDA Organic standards - therefore you won’t find them in any of our products. Many brands still invest in the Non GMO Project label certification (you may know it as the orange butterfly), even if they are USDA Organic Certified, to make the non-GMO message louder. Each certification costs thousands of dollars, so as a new business, we are prioritizing spending money on making more tasty, healing treats at this time. You won't see a non-GMO label on our products right now, but know that USDA Organic has got it covered - you can rest assured that no GMOs were used in that product!
An Invitation to Join Us
We think there’s a better future for our food systems, and we hope that our ingredient sourcing decisions help to build that future. We allow ourselves to sit with the thought that there will always be more we can do and that we can only do our best.
We invite you to reflect with us on the complexities of our food system. What can food businesses do to achieve a future where nourishing our bodies, people, and our planet through food are equal priorities above all else? What can we do as individuals to help create this future?
Packaging is another area of our operations where we have significant impact as a business. We invite you to check out this post about Our Packaging Journey to learn more about our beliefs and priorities for packaging our products!
We are so grateful for your interest in this aspect of our sustainability journey. Please reach out to us if you have any thoughts or feedback. We are always seeking continued education for ourselves, as a brand and as a team, and we’d love to hear from you!