McVitie’s owner Pladis is to extend its ‘Back to Farm’ direct wheat sourcing initiative.

The business, which also produces Carr’s and Jacob’s products, already sources Group 3 – or biscuit – wheat directly from more than 200 farms in Northumberland and East Anglia.

Farmers in the scheme now supply more than 40% of the 270,000 tonnes of biscuit wheat it uses in a year, and Pladis aims to increase this to around 70% by the end of 2019.

Its latest step is to extend the scheme to a new group of farmers in the south of England.

Back to Farm launched in 2015, said Pladis, and has resulted in a group of farmers in Northumberland working towards developing a bespoke responsible wheat programme focusing on biodiversity, soil health and plastics recycling.

It has also improved supplier relationships and encouraged farmers to plant Group 3 grain.

“Firstly, we have the confidence we’re growing a specific product to meet a valued customer’s needs, rather than risky speculation in an uncertain market,” said Gary Grahamslaw, chairman of Coastal Grains, who has been growing wheat for Pladis’ biscuit flour for more than nine years.

“Secondly, the guaranteed market for the crop with a minimum premium brings a level of stability to the farm business plan. Finally, knowing the crop is part of the supply chain that will be used to produce a specific recognised branded product creates a sense of pride for the farmers.”

The Back to Farm scheme has helped maintain quality, explained Pladis agriculture and ingredients head Richard Plant.

“We don’t simply focus on value and planting; we’ve also started to influence, in a collaborative way, important initiatives like biodiversity and sustainability,” he said. “We truly recognise the value it brings to farmers. They don’t normally receive the personal relationship that we offer through our Back to Farm scheme.”