Thomas' was founded in 1880 in New York and introduced their first bagels in 1991. Since then, the company has grown significantly and become a huge success. Going into researching Thomas’ bagels, I was a bit pessimistic about what I might find knowing that it was such a huge corporation. However, outside of the ingredients in the bagels, I was very excited to learn about all that Thomas and Grupo Bimbo, Thomas’ parent company, do in regard to sustainability and human rights efforts. Overall, I was very impressed with the corporation and thought that their sustainability goals were very ambitious, and it gave me hope for the future. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement and transparency in order to make these companies even more sustainable.
Thomas’ Plain Bagels are composed of many ingredients: enriched wheat flour [flour, malted barley flour, reduced iron, niacin, thiamin mononitrate (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), folic acid], water, sugar, yeast, wheat gluten, salt, cornmeal, calcium propionate, sorbic acid, monoglycerides, citric acid, guar gum, vegetable oil (soybean), and soy lecithin. Thomas’ does not specify where they get all of their ingredients from, so I will be reviewing them on a general level. While flour has a low water and carbon footprint, wheat production for the flour uses large amounts of fertilizer and energy. When this fertilizer degrades into the soil, nitrous oxide gas is released, which is another greenhouse gas that causes warming in the atmosphere. Sugarcane production also has harmful effects on the environment. Fertilizer runoff from sugarcane farms often pollute freshwater ecosystems and harm the organisms living within these ecosystems. In addition, sugarcane farming uses large amounts of water and fuels deforestation. Yeast has a low water and carbon footprint, and its production does not have any significantly damaging effects on the environment, making it a very sustainable ingredient. Similar to yeast, wheat gluten has a low carbon footprint and does not have any devastating impacts on the environment, making it relatively sustainable. However, it does use a moderate amount of water to produce, making it a little bit less sustainable than yeast. It is likely that the salt used in these bagels is produced through solution mining, which involves digging a well into an underground salt deposit and using lots of water, making it a less sustainable ingredient. While cornmeal has a low water and carbon footprint, its production has devastating effects on the environment. Corn depletes nitrogen and other nutrients from the soil, and often uses GMOs, contaminating ecosystems and killing wildlife. Therefore, cornmeal is not a sustainable ingredient. Calcium propionate and sorbic acid are both used as preservatives. Monoglycerides are fats used to improve the texture of bread products and can be made from either soybean oil or animal fat. Because Thomas does not specify where they source their ingredients, it is hard to gauge just how sustainable this ingredient is. Guar gum uses a lot of water to make, making it one of the less sustainable ingredients. The vegetable oil that Thomas bagels uses, and soy lecithin, are both made from soybeans. This raises some environmental concerns including the fact that growing soybeans requires deforestation, and most soy is genetically modified and grown with pesticides that are environmentally destructive. It is hard to tell just how sustainable the ingredients of Thomas’ bagels are without knowing their exact sources or farming techniques, but on a general level, many of these ingredients and their farming practices are unsustainable.
Grupo Bimbo, Thomas’ parent company, says that they are working towards sustainability in their manufacturing and sourcing processes. They are trying to help their farmers develop more sustainable agricultural practices in order to reduce their water and carbon footprint, and improve the well-being of their farmers. They try to use resources energy efficiently by replacing old equipment with newer highly efficient models, eliminating boilers, implementing waste-heat recovery systems, and improving insulation. They also set out to optimize their water use by guaranteeing its reuse quality. In addition, they have set a goal to achieve zero waste to landfill through waste reduction and recycling. They also manage and monitor carbon, water, sustainable sourcing, sustainability in buildings, food waste, and packaging. Grupo Bimbo has set goals to use 100% renewable electricity by 2025 and achieve zero net emissions by 2050. Thomas itself has already achieved 100% renewable energy in all of their plants; however, they do not mention anything about how they transport their products. This is important to consider because they ship their products all over the country, which can emit a lot of greenhouse gases. Thomas’ bagels are packaged in recyclable materials and Grupo Bimbo has set a goal to have 100% recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable packaging. Overall, I am very impressed with the sustainability efforts of Thomas and Grupo Bimbo and I appreciate how ambitious all of their sustainability goals are.
As previously mentioned, the sources of where Thomas gets all of their ingredients is not very clear; however, Grupo Bimbo has implemented regenerative and sustainable agricultural practices and technologies. Not only will this benefit the environment, but it will also benefit the farmers, giving them increased yields and profitability. They also ensure that supplies are ethically sourced, and do not accept the use of illegal, abusive, slavery or child labor within their business or suppliers. They are constantly assessing their supply chain through internal risk analysis, supplier self-assessment, and the identification of high-risk suppliers. Grupo Bimbo has also been named as one of the most ethical companies in the world by The Ethisphere Institute. I am very impressed with a lot of the efforts that Grupo Bimbo has taken in order to ensure ethical work practices. However, there is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to reaching out to more farmers in order to implement regenerative and sustainable agricultural practices, which is why I left some room to improve with their rating. In the future, I would also like to see Thomas be more transparent to their consumers about the sources of their ingredients because it will help bring to light the treatment of their workers across the whole supply chain.