For me, Thanksgiving is all about the pumpkin pie and when I think about pumpkin pie, I think Libby’s. Families across America agree, which is why Libby’s Pumpkin has been a household name for over 100 years. For generations, Libby’s has helped families like ours create an unforgettable Thanksgiving by guaranteeing the very best pumpkin pie.
What you may not realize is that the beloved pumpkin brand has been working with many of the same family farms in Morton, Illinois, across those generations — creating canned pumpkin that goes from patch to can in just a few hours.
Libby’s understands that the only way to ensure future traditions and impeccable quality is through sustainability. While Nestlé has been making moves to improve the sustainability of packaging and products across the board, Libby’s has been investing in future pies, future holidays, and future memories by ensuring their pumpkin farming processes are sustainable.
I got the chance to talk to our sustainability experts at Libby’s, here’s how they’re creating a more sustainable pumpkin pie:
Canning pumpkins requires water — you need water to wash and cook pumpkins, to cool down newly formed cans, and to clean the facility after a productive day. Our engineers looked at these processes and realized that rather than using fresh water for each stage, we could reuse it — processes that are expected to reduce our water consumption by about 75,000 gallons per day during the pack season.
First, we use the clean recycled water to wash our pumpkins. To ensure our pumpkins are the cleanest they can be, we wash pumpkins twice — once when they come off the truck from the farm and again, when they’re inside ready to be cooked. We then cook the pumpkins by steaming them with a boiler system. Our engineers realized we could redirect the water we’d used to cool cans down into the boilers to heat the pumpkins up.
This same cooling water is also now being used to clean our facility. Just like in your kitchen, our facility needs a clean-up after we’ve rinsed, cut, chopped and cooked our pumpkins. We use the recycled water in our hoses to give our facility a thorough clean ready for a new batch of pumpkins to be prepared.
Embracing the Power of Pollinators
In addition to reusing and reducing our water usage, we’re also supporting local habitats by increasing the number of pollinators in our community. Pollinators are insects like bees, which spread pollen from one plant to another — this is how plants become fertilized and is essential for the healthy growth of crops like our pumpkins.
Along with our expertise and assistance, we offer our farmers local pollinators for their farms to help pollinate the pumpkins — beehives are delivered directly to the farms, so the bees can get to work out in the fields. “Our farmer relationships are very important to us,” said Mark Pfeifer, Libby’s Agriculture Development Manager, “So when we see that pollinator counts are low on certain farms, we speak to the grower and coordinate the delivery of bees to the farm.” When the bees have done their work, the pollinator teams collect the bees and take them out to their next assignment.
Putting the Full Pumpkin to Work
In addition to reusing water and supporting pollinators, we also found a way to recycle parts of the pumpkin that don’t make it into the can. We only use the very best parts of the pumpkin to make your can of Libby’s. Chad Wurmnest, a lead engineer at Libby’s, told us “only about 3% of our pumpkin tonnage goes unused,” but we don’t want those pumpkin rinds, stems and seeds to go to waste.
Fortunately, there is plenty of value to the whole pumpkin.
Pumpkin rinds and stems are a great fertilizer, so we send this high-value waste to local farmers, helping them bolster the nutrient composition of the soil on their farms to grow the best crops in future seasons. Rinds and stems can also be used to make compost — so some of our waste goes to local compost production.
As for the seeds? We provide them to a local organization that creates squirrel feed, so it’s not just your family enjoying the great nutrients of pumpkin, it’s American wildlife too!
Libby’s is about building on years of experience to create and continue family traditions. We know that in order to continue that tradition, we have to ensure we’re producing your pumpkin sustainably. While we hope we’ll be a part of your holiday this year, we want to ensure that we will be a part of your holidays for years to come.
By investing in our future, we’re promising to help you create more pumpkin pies, more family time and more memories at your Thanksgiving table.