2020 has challenged most Americans in ways they didn’t expect, especially given all the additional time we are all spending at home. So now, more than ever, parents and kids need a quick, warm, easy-to-prepare meal that is made with good ingredients. Enter Annie’s Homegrown! With many of us juggling kids with virtual learning needs as well as our own remote offices, Annie’s has filled at least one of our needs – accessible, well-made food.
When it comes to being a “grassroots,” macaroni maven, Annie’s Homegrown is a clear leader. Annie Withey, the co-founder of Annie’s Homegrown, believed that it was possible to build a socially conscious and successful business. In the beginning, Annie not only sold her products out of the trunk of her car, she also included her home phone number on the packaging.
It wasn’t that long ago that natural foods were hard to come by. To find specialty items, you would have to go to specialty stores, often only found in large metropolitan areas. In many towns, the variety of natural foods were limited and came with a heftier-than-usual price tag.
But over the past 20 years, the natural food landscape has evolved into the mainstream. Traditional groceries now have multiple aisles dedicated to natural foods, something that was unheard of even into the early 1990s. One brand that abounds in these aisles is Annie’s Homegrown. What started out in 1989 as exclusively a Mac ‘N’ Cheese operation, has evolved into a portfolio of products including snacks, cereals, baking mixes, and even condiments. Annie’s Homegrown’s mission is to cultivate a healthier, happier world by spreading goodness through nourishing foods, honest words, and conduct that is considerate and forever kind to the planet.
How is Annie’s achieving all this goodness? Well, Annie’s Homegrown and its parent company, General Mills (which bought Annie’s in 2014), have a strong commitment to regenerative agriculture. What is regenerative agriculture you ask? In simple terms, it is instilling carbon into the soil to help reduce carbon emissions and counteract climate change. Annie’s website states, “Building on our longstanding commitment to organic agriculture, we’re helping to advance regenerative farming principles in an effort to build soil health, foster biodiversity, steward healthy watersheds, and promote resilient farm communities.”
Annie’s is accomplishing this by focusing on three key outcomes: soil health, biodiversity, and farmer economic resilience. The organization has also been working with farmers, scientists, and partner organizations to closely measure the impact of their efforts. Farmers have been given tools and guidance for self-assessment that enables them to quantify their impact on regenerative agriculture. Annie’s also employs a Sustainability Lead. Through team efforts, the organization is integrating sustainability into all aspects of its business including packaging, supply chain, and employee education. And all of these efforts are quantified with measurement tools used to track and gauge progress.
Annie’s also wins an A+ for giving back to the community. There is a bit of magic that takes place the first time a child picks a cherry tomato or a raspberry off a bush and eats it. That same spark occurs when you witness a seed grow into a seedling and eventually a full plant. Grants for Gardens is Annie’s unique program that helps facilitate gardening education at schools. Annie’s is focusing on bringing children closer to the food at its source so that kids grow up having a more holistic relationship with the food they eat. The key qualifier for a school to win this grant is that the garden they create must include edible plants. Any public or private school with a 501(c)3 tax status is eligible to apply. Most grants are in the $3,000 – $5,000 range, though Annie’s has given larger grants to communities where the company has a corporate presence.
In its 31 years of existence, Annie’s has grown from a “back of the trunk” business into a large, successful company that gives back to the community while also looking out for our sustainability as a nation. Its evolution from a small business to a large one has given Annie’s great resources to be a more powerful participant in benefitting our planet. It is this mission-minded attitude that has kept Annie’s in the limelight of natural foods fans. By supporting ecologically conscious businesses such as Annie’s Homegrown, we all are helping to protect our farms and food sources.