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Coles Supplier Awards: Sustainability changing demand, supply

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From pet products to the humble bag of spuds, supermarket suppliers are getting serious about sustainability — and they are being recognised for it.

The way we shop these days isn’t just about what we buy, but the impact that product has on the environment.

Sustainability is no longer a niche issue and the Coles Supplier Awards celebrates the initiatives that farmers, producers and creative businesses have implemented to help save the planet, improve our health and support the community.

The 15 winners were whittled down from over 330 nominations.

Mitolo Family Farms in South Australia took out the Fresh Produce Supplier gong for reducing its plastic packaging by 60 tonnes.

“We were ecstatic, we couldn’t believe it. Potatoes aren’t the sexiest line of produce but they’re one of the biggest and the whole team is over the moon,” said managing director, Frank Mitolo. “We’ve got a lot more work to do but we’re working to reduce waste, reduce plastic, reduce energy and recycle more.”

As second generation farmers, he and his brothers Darren and Frank, have invested in sustainability practices to extend the life of the land. The business is made up of about 20 farms which span 40,000 hectares across South Australia and into NSW.

“We’ve always practised sustainable farming so that we have good, long crop rotations to maintain fertility, reduce disease and maintain good crop growing,” Mitolo said.

“We have a third generation coming through, my son Marco, so it makes sense for us to keep raising our sustainability ambitions.”

It took a few trials, but the brothers reduced the thickness of the plastic they use to bag the potatoes which resulted in saving 60,000 tonnes of plastic.

They also run a research and development project for seed varieties, to find those that use less water, energy and fertiliser.

The aim is to produce more with less, which is good business sense as well as being good for the planet.

“It’s been a big financial investment and it’s expensive to maintain, but I think it’s what customers want. It’s important to be relevant and make sure that we are doing everything possible from a sustainability point of view,” Mitolo said.

“It’s something that’s on everyone’s radar, more farms are going down this route and it’s good for the farm as well. We’re doing the farm a favour by looking after the land and the soil.”

The Sustainable Supplier of the Year award went to Mars Petcare, which produces pet food brands such as Whiskas and Pedigree. As well as initiatives to reduce agriculture and land-use-based emissions, it supported a number of community initiatives such as The Lion’s Share: Animals Supporting Animals and Dine Hope Reef.

“The Lion’s Share is a joint partnership with the UN Development Programme where a percentage of advertising spend is used to for projects the program supports, such as regenerating the bush after the bushfires and supporting koala habitats,” said marketing manager Emily Dowling.

“Dine Hope Reefs is regenerating coral reefs in Indonesia. There are 19,000 of them in the area and over the last two years the coral cover has increased from 10 TO 60 per cent.

“Our purpose is to make the world a better place for pets. Pet lovers are animal lovers and these programs allows those who care for pets to have connectivity to the broader impact they can have.”

The awards celebrated 15 businesses that Coles CEO Steven Cain is proud to work with.

“As part of Coles’ Sustainability Strategy, under the Together to Zero and Better Together focus areas, we are always looking for ways to advance us in our ambition to become Australia’s most sustainable supermarket,” he said.

“Our suppliers – and their creative sustainability solutions – are integral to helping us achieve this ambition.”

The winners of the 2021 Coles Supplier of the Year Awards are:

•Mars Petcare – Sustainable Supplier of the Year

•Mitolo Family Farms – Fresh Produce Supplier of the Year

•Rivalea Australia – Meat Supplier of the Year

•Manildra Group – Bakery, Deli and Seafood Supplier of the Year

•PMFresh – Dairy, Freezer and Convenience Supplier of the Year

•H&H Asia – Own Brand Supplier of the Year Award

•Henkel – Coles Non-Food Supplier of the Year Award

•Nestle – Grocery Supplier of the Year Award

•Cleanaway- Service Champion of the Year Award

•Kimberly-Clark Australia – Supply Chain Supplier of the Year Award

•Carlton & United Breweries- Liquor Supplier of the Year Award

•Coca-Cola Europacific Partners – Express Supplier of the Year Award

•Procter and Gamble – E-Commerce Supplier of the Year Award

•Australian Garlic Producers – Community Champion of the Year Award

•Muscle Nation – Product Launch of the Year Award



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