Non-profit FairWild ensures the equitable and ecologically sustainable harvesting of wild plants often containing ingredients found in everyday food and drink products.
A recent report produced in collaboration with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Traffic, a non-profit working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in biodiversity, notes that wild-harvested plants often come from the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. According to the report, demand for wild plant ingredients is growing rapidly and despite their importance are often obscured from consumers.
The potential that exists in nature is limitless and protecting wild plants is critical to mitigating biodiversity loss, according to Vorhies, speaking as part of her talk, Open-Source Biodiversity: Protecting the Wild, at the Sustainability Resource Centre at Vitafoods Europe this week.
“FairWild’s mission is to protect plants, people, and the planet through the responsible and sustainable collection of wild plants. We believe in a world where biodiversity, people and business can thrive through a positive symbiotic relationship wherein everyone has a role to play and can contribute – that's open source,” said Vorhies.
Demystifying wild plants and trending ingredients
Similar to the FairTrade initiative, FairWild is a sustainability label that protects wild plants and those who collect and trade in them, also ensuring local collectors enjoy fair working conditions. A certification, termed the FairWild Standard, assures businesses and consumers that products are legally and sustainably sourced and produced. It is a third-party audited system, requiring regular onsite visits by authorised certification bodies.
With over 45 species, FairWild’s certified ingredients include juniper used widely for gin manufacturing; baobab found in superfruit powders; wild garlic for flavourings; and Brazil nuts in chocolate. Over 3,000 tonnes of certified ingredients are collected across the globe annually with 500 collectors benefiting from fair trade conditions.
Discussing trends and emerging ingredients of interest from wild plants, Vorhies referred to fungi and seaweed. Fungi has been identified as a rising ingredient for the past few years for functional food and drink products as well as everyday coffee, tea, crisps, and chocolate. Associate director of global food science at Mintel, Emma Scholfield reported on “sea vegetables” last year, citing seaweed as underexplored in Europe and holding potential as a regenerative ingredient.
Future targets to tackle biodiversity loss
Last year, governments from around the world gathered in Montreal, Canada for the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) to discuss biodiversity loss and how to halt its devasting impact on the planet. At the conference, clear targets were issued to address key global challenges and discuss the adoption of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. This framework outlines a strategic vision for the conservation, protection, and sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems for the next decade.