Mexican crusher says customers demand sustainability verification

Ricardo Moreno runs one of Mexico’s largest soybean oil production plants, Proteinas y Oleicos, comprised of two crushing facilities that together crush about 1 million metric tons of soy per year. He serves a diverse base of customers, but says when it comes to sustainability, they’re collectively demanding sustainably sourced products – and requesting tangible proof of this sustainability.

Q:        We’re speaking today at a U.S. Soybean Oil Latin America Summit. Do you see value in industry events like this one that bring together all links of the soy value chain?

A:         Events like this are a very good exercise. Today alone, we started with a conversation on potential price direction, then we had a presentation about what farmers are doing regarding sustainability, then a discussion about freight and now we’re brainstorming what the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) can do to help oil companies import more oil and market it more efficiently. It’s only day one of the conference, but a full plate and really enjoyable.

Q:        “Sustainability” is a big buzzword these days. Are your customers asking for certification to prove the soybean oil they purchase from you is sustainable?

A:         Sustainability is a very good, helpful tool with which to market soybean oil. I think demand for a sustainable product is going to be increasing every day. We’re starting to have inquiries primarily for food usage; companies like PepsiCo are asking where our beans are coming from, asking if we have documents we can share with them. So based on that, I just had a conversation with one of my main suppliers. I told him I need sustainability certificates of my previous cargos and also the ones for coming months. I think that will be the first step to help my sales team market those certificates. I think the next step will be marketing these certificates to the final consumer.

Q:        USSEC recently introduced a logo to label “Sustainable U.S. Soy” on products that are certified sustainable. Do you see value in a sustainability logo?

A:         A logo is a good way to proceed. You can share your sustainability certificate with your big, industrial users and share the logo with your end users. They tie together.

I’ve known for some time there was a certificate but just heard about the logo. It’s a step to a brand USSEC is developing as Sustainable U.S. Soy. I think that’s the kicker. A logo grabs your attention.

So that’s a value, and it’s going to facilitate sales. And then the value to our final consumers is if we’re able to brand a sustainable product and link it to an agency that certifies that. It’s going to be big. It’s going to be a trend. The first one that does it will push the other crushers to do it.

Q:        What sector do you think will be the first to demand verified-sustainable soy?

A: It’s going to be a demand of everybody in five years. Now, it’s a demand from food-use grade. But at the end, it’s going to be the consumer who wants it. And if you have a product that goes all the way to the final consumers, they’re going to start asking for that.

Q:        When it comes to sustainability, do soybean oil customers look for different attributes than soybean meal customers?

A:         Soybean oil and meal, both are commodities. Meal, you don’t have a human consuming it so you don’t have them asking you for it. But if we sell our meal to an egg producer, and he wants to market his product as sustainable, then demand will come soon also, even in the meal.