Mayonnaise – how Hellmann’s became synonymous with giving new life to food

Hellmann’s, Unilever’s line of condiments, position themselves as solving a problem, not selling a product. Most food & beverage brands differentiate themselves from competition on taste & quality/use of ingredients. In the world of condiments, this is difficult as most consumers perceive this segment to be functional.
The Hellmann’s unique marketing strategy team at Unilever understood this and have long positioned their brand as one that encourages creativity in cooking and food. Over the last 3 or so years, they have been championing solving the food waste problem at home using Hellmann’s mayonnaise.

Bring out the best

In 2019, Unilever launched the ‘Bring out the best’ campaign in UK. The campaign by  Ogilvy UK & Unilever asked people to get leftovers from their fridge for Hellmann’s to transform into ‘new’ meals using their range. David Hertz, a celebrity Chef, transformed people’s leftovers into five-star meals using the Hellmann’s range.

Bring our the Best Campaign in the UK, 2019

This campaign is a great example of embedded marketing, where the potential of the product is incorporated into a strong social message. Not only did it receive organic coverage from news outlets, it was popular on social media too.

Previous success

Ogilvy and Hellmann’s had previously done a similar campaign in Canada in 2018, which informed Canadians that they waste enough food every minute to feed a stadium. In the advert, they showcased feeding a stadium full of people with food waste from grocery stores.

Delivering a fully integrated campaign pinned on the message, ‘more real food for real people’, the brand created a mini digital site where people can find food rescue tips, recipes and facts on food waste.

Feed a stadium campaign – Canada, 2018

The campaign earned 13.5MM+ impressions & influencer content achieved 2MM+ organic impressions (3.5x the industry benchmark). Their mini digital site with educational tips on reducing food waste had a view-through rate of +80% above industry benchmarks.

2020

Based on the success of their campaign in Canada and also the ‘Bring out the Best’ campaign in the UK, they launched the ‘Turn nothing into something’ campaign in Canada in 2020 and the Fairy Godmayo ad in the US in time for Super Bowl.

Turn Nothing into Something ad in Canada
Fairy Godmayo ad in the US – launched in time for Super Bowl, 2020

In 2020, as an initial step towards the larger vision to reduce food waste, the brand started the Hellmann’s Food Relief Fund. This has already saved 1.2 million pounds of food waste from farms and redistributed this food to communities in need. 

Embedding sustainability in the brand’s DNA

The Hellmann’s initiative, “Make Taste, Not Waste”, is part of Unilever’s “Future Foods” ambition, which launched globally in 2020 with two key objectives: to help people transition towards healthier diets and to help reduce the environmental impact of the global food chain. One of the key “Future Foods” commitments is to halve food waste in Unilever’s direct global operations from factory to shelf by 2025.

This initiative was also lauded by Daniel Balaban, Director of UN in Brazil who mentioned, “The idea is an extremely important wake-up call on food waste”.

Not only does Hellmann’s have a focus on food waste but they are leading the way in terms of how they are sourcing the plastic used in their bottles and caps. In 2018, they started making their bottles 100% recyclable.

Embedding the food waste cause deep into the brand’s image, has helped Unilever breathe life into what is otherwise a commoditised condiment. They have tapped into a segment of consumers who will stay loyal to the brand due to the causes the brand stands for, which is crucial for the year ahead.

Recent regulations in the FMCG sector

Increasingly, consumers are demanding products which minimise harm to, or have a positive effect on, the environment. As a result, there has been a proliferation of brands and products which claim to meet that demand. Thus, there have been an increasing number of regulations in the FMCG sector addressing health and environmental impacts , especially food & beverages in the last 2 or so years. And still more to come.

Two of the key ones are around the plastic straw ban, in place in several countries and pending in several more, and around HFSS (high in fat, sugar and salt).

HFSS regulations

Legislation around HFSS (to be implemented from October 2022) in the UK has been the topic of discussion for a few months now. Companies have been scrambling to reduce the fat, salt and sugar content in foods to avoid being subject to advertising and promotional restrictions.

Brands that fall under the HFSS category will face restrictions on how they can advertise their products and also what promotional mechanics they can use. For example, volume promotions like ‘Buy one get one free’, ‘Half price’ and ‘Buy 2 get one free’ will no longer be allowed for this category. Also, they will no longer be able to display them in shelves at end of aisle, check out or near the entrance. Europe has also mandated restrictions(but not as stringent as those in the UK) on HFSS products in its ‘Farm to fork’ strategy.

A report by Access to Nutrition Initiative shows that in the UK, 71% of sales at the largest food & beverage companies here are generated by brands that fall into the ‘unhealthy’ category. So it goes without saying that there is expected to be a significant impact on revenues of these companies. To the extent that The Kelloggs Company is taking the UK Government to court over the HFSS regulations.

According to IRI, a big data and analytics company in the sector, the changes place £1.1bn of sales at risk in the UK. This number raises the question of how much of the packaged/processed foods we buy fall into the HFSS category.

Expected loss of sales by category. Source: Barclays IRI research

There are several ‘healthy’ low fat products that also fall into this category. This is because, very often, with low fat brands, they are reformulated with hidden sugars to improve the flavour. Case in point is low fat or no fat natural yogurt. As they are not flavoured, you assume the yogurt has no sugar as it does not taste sweet. However, there are ‘hidden’ sugars to make it taste better without the added fat. How can hidden sugars make food taste better? Probably the subject of a separate blog.

Some companies like PepsiCo (Walkers snacks business unit in particular) have been proactive and launched HFSS compliant versions of their most popular flavours and SKUs.

Others like Mondelez (confectionery), have decided to stay the course. As all companies and brands in the confectionery sector face the same regulations, they expect that they may even benefit from the strong established brands they have in their portfolio. They feel they are less likely to lose share to new entrants due to the new regulations.

Plastic straw ban

Another piece of (impending) regulation that has a major impact on the FMCG sector is the one around plastic straws.

According to a BBC report in 2020, when England banned single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, an estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds were used in England every year.

Scotland has new laws around single use plastics, including straws coming into place in 2022.

Source: www.zerowastescotland.org.uk

Canada is aiming to ban single use plastics including straws by end of 2022 and China has also banned plastic straw use and sale in restaurants.

While there is no federal ban of single use plastic straws in the US, cities that have a plastic straw ban in place include Miami Beach in Florida, Seattle in Washington and Malibu in California. India is now implementing a strict nation-wide ban on single use plastic straws.

While a ban on single use plastic straw may feel daunting for several companies, what we need to remember is that paper straws preceded plastic ones. And natural rye grass straws preceded paper ones.

The earliest known use of straws is by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia. They used straws to drink beer that they brewed in large vats (too heavy to lift and pass around or pour into smaller containers). So they drank from long straws together.

In 1888, Marvin Stone filed a patent for drinking straws made of manila paper and in 1937, Joseph Friedman creates the worlds first bendable straw by inserting a screw in the straw and winding floss around the thread of the screw to create grooves. Upon removing the screw, the straw could now bend.

It was only in the 1960s that plastic straws replaced paper straws. But by 2020, an estimated 500million single use plastic straws were being used every day. In Europe, 25.3billion single use plastic straws were being used every year.

So what alternatives are available?

Paper straws – We used them once before and the technology exists. However these do have a large environmental footprint when compared to re-usable alternatives.

Bamboo straws – These are becoming increasingly popular and several start-ups are now making and selling bamboo straws. (Side note: If anyone is looking for bamboo straw suppliers, feel free to contact us and we can put you in touch with a few)

Metal straws – Metal straws are now more popular than bamboo ones, as consumers can clean and use them again.

Re-usable plastic straws – While these reduce the number of plastic straws thrown away, this is still plastic and we are just ‘kicking the can down the lane’.

While banning single use plastic straws are a great step toward reducing plastic pollution, FMCG companies should also view this as meeting consumer demand as on average, 8 in 10 consumers are looking to reduce plastic consumption.

For those interested, below is a video by the National Geographic on the history of plastic use globally.

What else do you think FMCG companies should do to reduce single use plastic? Do you think there should be more done to make packaged food & beverages healthier? Send us your thoughts by commenting on the blog or on our posts on social media.