Rabobank Award Winners for Innovation, Sustainability and Leadership Show What It Takes to Support Long-Term Growth in Food and Agriculture

NEW YORK (December 9, 2014) – For achievements that ranged from expanding the coffee industry in Nicaragua to pioneering new technology to harvest seafood and exponentially growing packaged goods brands, Rabobank North America Wholesale recognized three leading food and agriculture companies on Thursday, December 4th at its annual Client Week event in New York City.

Competing companies were assessed on their ability to drive meaningful innovation, expand into new markets, impact industry dynamics, impact consumers, and build upon sustainability and social responsibility efforts within the last 18 months.

The winners included: Nicaragua’s Mercon Coffee Group, which received the Rabobank Sustainability Award; Canadian-based Clearwater Seafoods Incorporated, which won the Rabobank Innovation Award; and The WhiteWave Foods Company headquartered in Colorado, which earned the marquee award of the night – the Rabobank Award for Leadership & Excellence. Mercon COO Juan Pablo Ibarra, Clearwater CEO Ian Smith and WhiteWave CFO Kelly Haecker accepted the awards at the event.

“We created these three awards based on our beliefs around what food and agriculture companies must do to be competitive in the long run,” said Rajiv Singh, CEO, Rabobank North America Wholesale. “It is a cycle of knowing how to be innovative in their space, assessing their business models to see how they can be sustainable – both in terms of growing their business and protecting the environment, smart investment decisions keep this cycle going.”

“This perspective ties directly to Rabobank’s ‘Banking for Food’ vision that aims to help feed the world sustainably. With an estimated population of nine billion by 2050, companies from all parts of the global food chain will have to help feed more people by producing more with less impact on the earth’s resources. We value innovation, sustainability and leadership qualities because they will ensure food and agriculture companies will be there in the future, making a difference. I want to congratulate Mercon, Clearwater and WhiteWave on their extraordinary achievements; we are proud to finance these leaders and thrilled to present them with these awards.”

Winner Achievements

Mercon Coffee Group: Rabobank Sustainability Award
Mercon, which ranks among the top 10 global coffee traders, has supported the research and development of coffee variety clones that both protect against crop-specific diseases / pests and increase necessary diversification in grow-areas. Recently, Mercon introduced the more pest-resistant Robusta coffees to entirely new regions of the traditional Arabica-growing country in Nicaragua. This will help eliminate the risk of diminishing coffee crops, which are also an important source of production and employment for the growers and people living in Nicaragua, helping them sustain a living.

“The Robusta crops are an important piece of Mercon´s legacy to Nicaragua, and we have worked very hard over the last ten years to prove that the production in Nicaragua will benefit the coffee industry and the country’s national economy,” said J. Antonio Baltodano, Chairman, Mercon Coffee Group. “Our main driver has been to create a sustainable working model that promotes the development of our clients, communities, environment and our people. While these initiatives have boosted our growth, our main goal has been to create a model that will benefit everyone and last through time. We are very proud of that.”

Clearwater Seafoods Incorporated: Rabobank Innovation Award
Clearwater is one of North America’s largest vertically-integrated harvesters, processors and distributors of premium shellfish. It is known in the industry for pioneering cutting-edge technologies and practices, including methods to optimize clam harvesting and processing, growing its product base in a more efficient way. Clearwater’s new Scallops & Sauce won best new product at the 21st Canadian Grand Prix New Products Award Gala, and it offers the widest selection of wild-caught Marine Stewardship Council-certified species in the world. These developments have all helped Clearwater broaden its product suite, appeal to consumers, and expand into Chinese, Japanese, South Korean, Canadian and U.S. markets.

“With a limited supply of wild, sustainably-harvested seafood available, Clearwater works hard to constantly look for growth opportunities by expanding our access to supply,” said Ian Smith, Clearwater CEO. “We have continually done this by investing in new equipment and processing technology. We have also invested in the long-term health of the oceans and its bounty so we can provide wild and sustainable seafood options for consumers seeking seafood products from sustainable sources, something that is core to our philosophy.”

The WhiteWave Foods Company: Rabobank Leadership & Excellence Award
WhiteWave Foods is a leading consumer packaged food and beverage company that is working to change the way the world eats for the better by providing consumers with the innovative, flavorful and sustainably-sourced and produced products they want and need. The company is not only defined by its growth and financial performance, but by its ability to leverage the scale of the business to give back. It is consistently recognized for reducing its impact on the environment and improving responsible sourcing and sustainable packaging, while supporting America’s farmers and promoting the benefits of sustainable agriculture.

WhiteWave’s Silk, Alpro and So Delicious brands drove the creation of plant-based foods and beverages, while Horizon Organic pioneered premium organic dairy and is now entering new categories like better-for-you snacks and macaroni and cheese. International Delight and Land O Lakes are among the leaders in the refrigerated flavored creamer category. In 2014, WhiteWave acquired Earthbound Farm, the largest organic produce brand in North America, and entered into a joint venture with Mengniu Dairy Company to manufacture and distribute plant-based products in China.

“We are thrilled that the leading agribusiness bank in North America has recognized The WhiteWave Foods Company for our leadership in the food industry,” said Gregg Engles, chairman and chief executive officer. “We are proud to bring plant-based foods and beverages to new markets around the world, while also growing our premium dairy, coffee creamers and organic greens categories in North America through innovation and acquisition. The Rabobank Award for Leadership and Excellence further motivates our quest to provide great-tasting, better-for-you foods and beverages that align with the enduring consumer trends for healthier food choices.”

Winners’ Tips for Success

When it comes to future success and growth, Mercon, Clearwater and Whitewave suggest that companies:
• Look within themselves for growth opportunities and explore all available venues to grow organically.
• Focus on what they know and do best.
• Look for ways to differentiate their business with a unique value proposition that will help build relevance with consumers and customers.
• Recognize all the strategic partners and entities needed for collaboration to identify and understand needs before making a project or venture investment.
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