One of the nation’s top snack companies plans to exclusively source its almonds from “bee-friendly farmland” across the globe by 2025.

KIND Healthy Snacks said it expects its almond suppliers to reserve 3-5% of their farmland for dedicated pollinator habitat to support bees, butterflies and other pollinators. In addition, KIND said it has worked with its suppliers to eliminate any use of neonicotinoids and chlorpyrifos.

Almonds are the lead ingredient in most of KIND's more than 80 products and the company's number one ingredient by both volume and spend. The fourth-largest U.S. snack manufacturer says it sources 1-2% of the world’s almonds. In 2019, Euromonitor estimated the New York-based firm held 10.4% of the market share for snack bars.

"We have been energized and inspired by the leadership demonstrated by some of our peers and partners to more actively protect pollinators. We are also incredibly proud that many of our almond suppliers have led the way, proving that incorporating more bee-friendly practices is not just good for pollinators, but also good for business," said Daniel Lubetzky, KIND's founder and executive chairman. "But we can do more to make these practices central to the way the almond industry does business. While we know we can't do it alone, we are proud to lend our voice and scale to call for this much needed change."

California currently produces the vast majority of the world's almonds, with nearly 1.53 million acres in 2019, according to CDFA. However, KIND said in a release that only a small fraction of that acreage — estimated at less than 20,000 acres — is verified as bee-friendly.

The California almond community launched a Pollinator Protection Plan earlier this year — a collection of initiatives to protect honey bees during almond bloom and beyond. 

“Protecting and improving honey bee health during the short time that bees are in our orchards is critical to the success of every almond farmer. By working with national pollinator organizations, we are also engaging with partners who impact the health of bees during the other ten months that they spend outside of almonds,” said Josette Lewis, director of agricultural affairs at the Almond Board of California, in a release.

KIND says it will rely on a hybrid approach, using both the currently available certification and verification programs, as well as exploring new methods, to validate its suppliers' practices.

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"This commitment from KIND to increase pollinator habitat on almond orchards will provide substantial, long-term environmental benefits for soil health, water retention and regional biodiversity in California's Central Valley," said Daniel Kaiser, director of conservation strategies at the Environmental Defense Fund. "This initiative is just the type of supply chain signal that can facilitate farmer adoption of practices that will bolster the resilience of their orchards."

In addition, the KIND Foundation will also make a $150,000-investment in the Williams Lab at the UC Davis to help answer critical questions about bee health and track the efficacy of these farm-level improvements.

"As an agricultural community, we need to make real change to ensure long-term bee health. KIND's commitment to bee-friendly practices in its supply chain is the sort of actionable approach that will move the dial toward more sustainable practices industry-wide," said Neal Williams, an entomology professor at the UC-Davis. "To pair this commitment with support from The KIND Foundation for research is forward-looking and shows an understanding of how to promote further practical innovation to benefit bees."

KIND said it was also working with California almond growers to address water scarcity. The snack food company noted that U.S. almond growers, led by the Almond Board, have successfully reduced the amount of water used to grow a pound of almonds by 33% in the last two decades and is committed to further reducing that figure by an additional 20% leading up to 2025.

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