Don't tell me how sustainable you are; Help me be more sustainable.

2470x990 Benjamin Crook

A Q+A with Unilever's Benjamin Crook.

Consumers are telling us that they want brands to help them live more sustainably. How is this impacting how you market your products?

In the U.S., more than 40% of food waste happens in the home. Through our “Make Taste, Not Waste” campaign, we aim to inspire people to get creative in the kitchen by showing how Hellmann’s, as a pantry staple, can help bring meals together from on-hand ingredients that consumers have in their fridge or their cupboards.

As consumers face harder economic times and look to do more with the food they have, we address this massive issue of food waste — all these issues come together. We’re on this mission to solve the countless implications of food waste. We aim to inspire and enable 100 million people globally to be more resourceful with their food, so they waste less. This is part of our support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 2 Zero Hunger) to eliminate or halve food waste by 2030.

What are some key consumer insights you have learned through the campaign?

If you talk about food waste and you apply guilt to that, it’s quite demotivating. Instead, we want to celebrate what food can be and show how easy it can be to create delicious food quickly, simply, and in an affordable manner. When you address a serious issue in a way where people are brought into a conversation with a precise kind of benefit, you entertain them through the process, the message hopefully lands in a more meaningful way.

How have you brought your brand purpose to life through activation?

There are three pillars to our campaign. First is awareness, which we achieved through our Superbowl ads, which this (last) year, featured legendary linebacker turned professional football coach Jerod Mayo and focused on moments of food waste. This year’s spot reached an audience of 112 million people! And our “See More in Your Fridge” ad campaign in Times Square this Spring highlighted that the average American throws around $1,600 of food away a year.

The second pillar is education. Our Fridge Night behavior change program was designed to inspire and guide people on how they can be more resourceful with food at home. To develop the program, which is available as an app or downloadable e-book, we conducted a large-scale scientific pilot study (2021) and found that our program helped to reduce the amount of food thrown away by 46%, which is an incredible stat! Download the app and try it for yourself!

The third and final piece is driving systemic change on a national, and federal level. One way we’re doing this is through our advocacy work and support of the Food Date Labeling Act. In the U.S., there is no federal regulation around food date labeling. The regulations are set at the state level, which in turn, is very confusing and increases food waste. What we are advocating for is much clearer food date labeling, where it’s very clear in terms of if there’s an expiration date, and after that date, food is no good. The bill will help to divert approximately 583,000 tons of food waste and put $2 billion back in the pockets of American consumers.

How has purpose helped grow your business? Do you have any specific metrics or measurements that align purpose with business growth?

Executing purpose campaigns well has an immediate impact on market shares and sales, and will drive brand power increases (brand equity health metric) — which, we believe, will also lead to sustained brand growth over time. We are proud to say we’ve been doing well on all those metrics over the last two or three years with this campaign. This is a very linear process where, if we do our job well, if we inspire consumers, show them the possibility of food, and excite them about what food can be, then the downstream effect will help us achieve our UN Sustainable Goal of trying to reduce food waste by half by 2030.

This conversation originally appeared in the 2022 Purpose Up report. To read more about how and why to double down in tough times click on the report download link below.

Download The Purpose Up Report.

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