As they claim on their website, MorningStar Farms has been “on this plant-based train since 1974.” MorningStar Farms is rising in popularity, with their sales seeing a 31% rise during the initial months of the quarantine. As stated on their website, their three guiding principles are 1. More vegan possibilities, 2. A better world, and 3. A greener world. For the most part, MorningStar lives up to their lofty goals, making strides toward being more environmentally friendly and sustainable. Examples of this include reducing and refining packaging, and switching to more sustainable ingredients as well as going fully vegan with all their products. They also have a “VegEffect Calculator” on their website which allows people to see how much of a positive environmental impact they could have on the environment by switching from meat to plant-based meats, which is a great tool. They do a fair amount of community outreach, retweeting and amplifying food justice organizations’ content on social media platforms, communicating frequently with consumers on twitter about their products, and partnering with sustainability groups like the Sustainable Packaging Coalition to make their product more sustainable. The main critique for MorningStar’s sustainability is transparency. They don’t have a well publicized supply chain or a big focus on the labor and ethics side of sustainability.
The major ingredients (listed on MorningStar’s website) include water, wheat gluten, soy flour, soy protein concentrate, and corn oil. MorningStar committed to all its products being 100% vegan by 2021, removing 300 million egg whites from their products annually. By being a vegan alternative to meat products, MorningStar is already promoting more sustainable eating. There are still important nuances between vegan ingredients, but the environmental benefits of switching from meat products to fake meat alone is huge. Starting in 2018, MorningStar began switching some of their ingredients to more sustainable alternatives, like “colors and flavors from natural sources” and “Non-GMO soy protein,” the latter likely a result of a 2016 controversy that came to light about their use of genetically modified soy and corn. Initiatives like this reflect a growth-mindset on the part of the company, which is very promising to see. They do use corn oil, which is possibly the most controversial out of their ingredients. Corn as a whole is not a very sustainable crop. It depletes nutrients from the soil at a rapid rate, uses a lot of water for growth, typically has a lot of pesticides sprayed on it, and (especially in the US) is grown as a monoculture. Looking into alternative oils would be beneficial for MorningStar. Overall though, the ingredients that make up this product are very sustainable, and MorningStar’s growth in ingredients is commendable!
The Italian Sausage Style Crumbles come in 13.5 and 10oz resealable bags. Packaging seems to be the main sustainable focus for MorningStar outside of their ingredients, with the ‘sustainability’ page on their website consisting only of packaging information. Their packaging seems not sustainable to a great extent, but honestly this is more of a reflection on packaging technology then MorningStar’s efforts. Both MorningStar and their parent corporation Kellogg have publicized packaging reduction goals in the past. In 2016, MorningStar’s goal was to reduce packaging weight by 38%. They justify this well, stating on their website that “weight reduction is the most impactful way to make packaging more sustainable because it has multiple impacts across the supply chain, reducing energy, resource usage, and greenhouse gas emissions” and validate this with scientific studies. Their packaging is in resealable bags, which helps prevent freezer burn and fight food waste. MorningStar also acknowledges on their website that recyclable packaging does not exist yet for frozen food products, but they are partnering with organizations like the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and exploring new technologies for more sustainable future packaging. Kellogg also has a goal of 100% sustainable packaging by 2025, so it’ll be interesting to see what this means for MorningStar’s packaging. A summation of this is: MorningStar is doing what they can with packaging, but inefficient technology means they fall short of being sustainable.
MorningStar Farms is a Kellogg subsidiary, with its base in Battle Creek, Michigan. Although growing, MorningStar Farms is a relatively small company with one website citing that they have only 29 employees. There is no evident disclosure of their facilities, supply chain, or employees anywhere on their website or any other easily accessible site. There is at least one other plant is Zanesville, Ohio that manufactures products for MorningStar, as Kellogg is reportedly investing 43$ million to expand the plant and therefore the MorningStar brand. While the only controversy that has come to light about MorningStar Farms has been the 2016 genetically modified soy and corn issue, a lack of ethical or labor controversy isn’t the same as being transparent about their supply chain and labor. MorningStar has broad goals on their website like “making a better world.” Though a good guiding principle, there is no elaboration on how they intend to do this with regards to labor and who makes their products. Almost all the detail provided on the website is with regards to improving their food and making vegan food, not about employees or supply chain. It is important to note that as a subsidiary of Kellogg, Kellogg’s sustainability likely has a bearing on MorningStar’s. However, for the purposes of this review I focused solely on MorningStar’s sustainability practices. To analyze Kellogg’s sustainability is a whole other can of worms. To improve in this category, MorningStar Farms should be more transparent about where they source their ingredients from and who makes up their workforce.
Italian Sausage Crumbles | MorningStar Farms® Meal Starters
The Veggie Effect Calculator | MorningStar Farms
Kellogg expanding Morningstar Farms plant | 2020-08-18 | Food Business News
Kellogg’s-owned veggie burger brand MorningStar farms to go all-vegan by 2021 - MarketWatch
ADM partners with Kellogg on sustainability issues | 2020-09-23 | World Grain (world-grain.com)
Kellogg Company Exceeds Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goal Ahead of Schedule - Sep 16, 2020 (kelloggs.com)
Morningstar Farms - Overview, News & Competitors | ZoomInfo.com
GMOs Are Found in Morningstar Farms Products - Los Angeles Times (latimes.com)
Sustainable Packaging (kelloggs.com)