K Group to focus its avocado purchasing in areas with the smallest water risk

In a fairly short time, avocado has become a favourite fruit among Finns. Increased popularity has brought to the fore the environmental impacts of the water-thirsty fruit. K Group conducted an extensive assessment regarding the water risks related to its avocado purchasing. As a result, K Group will increasingly focus its purchasing in areas with the smallest water risks, and will no longer purchase avocados from the highly problematic Petorca region in Chile.

The popularity of avocados has skyrocketed in Finland, and shows no signs of diminishing. In 2017, avocado sales in K-food stores grew by 16%. In relative terms, the "hipster fruit" is sold the most in Helsinki, Espoo, Raasepori and Kirkkonummi.

“The avocado boom began in 2012, and since then avocado sales in K-food stores have grown six-fold. Avocado is a superfood that contains good fat and is well-suited for cooking everything from starters to desserts or to be used as a butter replacement on sandwiches, for example. This summer’s trend was grilled avocados,” says Nanette Karttunen, Purchasing Manager for fruit and berries at K Group.

K Group conducted an extensive water risk assessment for its avocado purchasing

The popular fruit is also one of the thirstiest: avocados only grow in dry soil, but require a lot of water. It takes as much as 400 to 2,000 litres of water to grow one kilo of avocados. The environmental impact and water footprint of avocado farming have become a hot topic both internationally and in Finland.

K Group conducted an extensive water risk assessment concerning its avocado purchasing during the spring and summer of 2018. The objective was to identify those regions in the supply chain where water scarcity or pollution are a problem.

K Group to increasingly focus avocado purchasing in areas with the smallest water risk

The results of the assessment enable K Group to focus its purchasing increasingly in areas with the smallest water risk. K Group will no longer purchase avocados from the highly problematic Petorca region in Chile.

“The impacts of avocado farming vary depending on the region. Thanks to our assessment, going forward we can focus our purchasing increasingly in areas with the smallest water risk,” says Matti Kalervo, K Group’s Vice President of Corporate Responsibility.

All avocados purchased by Kesko are GlobalGAP certified. The environmental requirements of a GlobalGAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification include good water use.

“Consumers today are aware and conscientious - our task is to help our customers make smart, sustainable choices. In our global world, the choices of an individual have far reaching consequences beyond national borders. For example, half of Finns’ water footprint comes from outside Finland,” explains Kalervo.

How K Group conducted its avocado water risk assessment

The countries from which avocados are purchased vary depending on season: in the summer, most of the avocados sold in K-food stores come from Peru and South Africa, in the winter from Spain and Chile, for example. As part of the risk assessment, K Group used WWF’s water risk tool to individually examine all the 280 primary producers around the world from which Kesko purchases avocados for K-food stores.

In addition, we used country-specific water situation reports and information obtained from suppliers on, for example, the location of individual farms.

“At K Group, we have identified the growing popularity of avocados and the related water risks as a trend that we as a significant and responsible trading sector operator must address. Among other things, the assessment showed us that water risks may vary considerably within a country or a region. We now know the situation even for individual farms,” says Johanna Teinilä-Kurvinen, K Group’s project manager in charge of the sustainability of own brand products, who was also responsible for the water risk assessment.

The extensive study assessed physical, reputational and regulatory risks. Physical risks include the sufficiency and depletion of water supply, drought, floods and impact on biodiversity. Reputational risks concern water-related cultural and religious issues. Regulatory risks are related to the local legislation governing water and water right statutes.

“The situation is changing constantly, and avocado farming is spreading to new areas in many countries. We now have an excellent tool and abilities to monitor the situation and continue to focus our purchasing in areas with a smaller water risk,” says Teinilä-Kurvinen.

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