As the year’s first quarter approaches its close, we are already witnessing significant shifts from major brands that point to 2016 being a banner year for sustainable business. From a food industry giant banning artificial colors to airline brands joining forces in the aviation biofuel development effort, brands worldwide are heeding the need to make purpose a business priority. Let’s interrogate the mass food industry and how two big global companies are committing to big global change, and what that means for their brands.
The industrialized food system has been under fire for a number of years, and 2016 has seen two behemoth brands take bold steps toward addressing prominent challenges of GMO’s and artificial ingredients.
On January 7, Campbell’s announced its support of national GMO labelling as a major milestone in bringing its purpose – Real food that matters for life’s moments – front and center. This voluntary decision signals critical shifts happening worldwide amongst both consumers and industry stakeholders, and the rising pressure to serve the greater good. Even if Campbell’s was persuaded by very apparent marketplace shifts – such as 92% of consumers wanting GMO labeling – it is of benefit to the entire industry at-large for such a massive player to publicly and tangibly recognize the need for change. As Denise Morrison, President and CEO of Campbell’s, explained, “Our Purpose calls for us to acknowledge that consumers appreciate what goes into our food, and why—so they can feel good about the choices they make, for themselves and their loved ones.”
In similar fashion, Mars, Inc. declared it would remove all artificial colors from its 50-plus brand portfolio of chocolate, gum, confection, food and drink businesses. The process for Mars to locate new natural ingredients to replace current synthetic or artificial ones will be less of a quick solve compared to Campbell’s labeling effort, looking approximately five years down the road. Also, following Campbell’s lead, Mars’ decision was a direct response to new consumer demands. As Grant Reid, President and CEO of Mars, Inc., stated, “Our consumers are the boss and we hear them. If it’s the right thing to do for them, it’s the right thing to do for Mars.”
While Campbell’s and Mars’ work on rewiring their business models to better position themselves for purpose, Tillamook, the 107-year-old farmer-owned dairy co-operative, throws the spotlight on its wholesome food heritage as the better alternative to mass, highly processed treats that have become a mainstay of corporate food brands. In a campaign entitled Goodbye Big Food, Hello Real Food, which launched during last week’s Oscar’s, Tillamook dramatizes the harrowing realities of mass food production in stark contrast to the brand’s natural, honest approach to real food.
Some Key Takeaways for Brands – Both Big and Small:
- Proactivity wins over reactivity, though responding nonetheless is critical to ensuring your brand can remain relevant to customers and consumers.
- Get ahead of customers demands by foreseeing their needs, understanding marketplace shifts that will not only influence your business but the everyday lifestyle of your core constituents.
- Reinterpret your brand’s heritage for today’s purpose-driven business climate, and don’t be afraid to share bold claims and communications (as long as they can be substantiated).