Inspiring consumers

People want to trust the brands they use and, increasingly, understand the origins of the ingredients in the food they eat.

Engaging consumers on sustainability

We have a long history of using marketing and market research to promote behaviour change through our brands. In recent years, this has included communicating with our consumers about sustainability.

Our Food Attitudes Survey, conducted across 11 countries in 2013, found that three-quarters of consumers said they would be more likely to purchase a product if they knew it was made from sustainably sourced ingredients.

Our challenge is to gain a better understanding of consumer habits and motivations to enable us to promote awareness of sustainability and help consumers make informed choices.

Our approach

We seek to inspire consumers by engaging them about the sustainably sourced ingredients in our brands. We do this through on-pack messaging, our brand websites, social media, TV and print advertising.

We also engage journalists and bloggers to raise awareness of sustainability. In 2014 for example, we invited a group of journalists to our factory in Pratau, Germany, to see how our Rama margarine is made from farm to fork and in 2015 we invited the media to join a similar day on the farm in Cuenca, Spain to explain how the sunflowers for Flora are grown.

In the UK in 2014, we took food bloggers to College Farm in Cambridgeshire for our #whatmakesflora fun day, to learn about the sustainable rapeseed oil in our margarine and spreads, and take part in a masterclass with Edd Kimber, The Great British Bake Off champion. In Mendoza, Argentina we invited journalists and local NGOs to our Knorr Landmark Farm and processing plant to witness how sustainably sourced ingredients are grown then dried to make our Knorr packet soups.

Sustainable growth for Knorr

Knorr is our biggest brand, and takes a lead role in communicating our commitment to sustainable agriculture.

Knorr’s Tomato and Mascarpone soup was launched in France in 2012, carrying the label ‘Made with sustainably grown tomatoes’. This was the first time we promoted an ingredient as sustainably sourced.

In 2013, to celebrate Knorr’s 175th birthday, we introduced our Knorr Sustainability Partnership logo on-pack. This helps consumers identify products featuring sustainably sourced ingredients. By 2015, 92% of our top 13 vegetables and herbs in our Knorr sauces, soups and seasonings were sourced sustainably.

This is helping to deliver growth. For example, in Spain we reversed a decline in sales in our Knorr wet soups after relaunching them in October 2014 with improved recipes using sustainable ingredients. Our new range delivered incremental turnover of over €1 million between launch and January 2015.

In September 2015, we launched a campaign to communicate the sustainably sourced tomatoes in our Knorr packet soups in Turkey and the care for the land that helps create their great taste. This contributed towards an increase in market share for four consecutive months, showing a significant improvement compared to 2014 sales.

Sustainable sourcing gives Kissan a competitive advantage

In India in 2012, businesswoman Manisha Dhatrak noticed farmers in Nasik throwing away crops by the side of the road. Whilst these rotted, the same produce was being imported. So she set up a processing plant to stop the local crops being wasted and approached Unilever. Her company, Varun Agro, is now one of our ‘Partner to Win’ strategic suppliers. Manisha sources from many smallholder farmers, training them with our help in sustainable agriculture practices to improve their yields and crops. These farmers now provide 100% of the tomatoes that go into our Kissan ketchup.

Building a local supply chain for tomatoes in India and using sustainability as a competitive advantage have fuelled Kissan’s growth. Kissan is now the biggest selling brand in its category and in our Indian foods business, with over 20% growth in two consecutive years.

Hellmann’s Grow with Us

In November 2014, we launched our Hellmann’s Grow with Us digital campaign in Latin America. Over two weeks, we opened up a farm which supplies tomatoes to Hellmann’s and Fruco. Consumers could visit it virtually and view activities through cameras placed around the farm, and even on the farmers’ hats. And they could select songs from Spotify to play on the fields while the farmers worked. People were able to interact with farmers to understand their working life and how the tomatoes are grown.

Ian Busch, our Global Brand Director for Dressings, says: “As consumers become more interested in the origins of the products they buy and the sustainability of supply chains, this was a fun and educational way to show mums and kids that Unilever ketchup brands are made with 100% real sustainable tomatoes.”

Grow with Us attracted around 80 million interactions with consumers. Surveying a sample of participants, we saw an increase of 47% of people believing that Hellmann’s ketchup comes from natural sources.

Cage-free eggs add to Hellmann’s appeal

Eggs are used in many of our well-known products from dressings, sauces and ice cream to mayonnaise, including Hellmann’s, the world’s number one mayonnaise brand sold in over 75 countries. However, the conditions in which eggs are produced vary widely across the world. We are committed to moving to 100% cage-free eggs for all our products.

Our research shows that the use of cage-free eggs increases consumer appeal considerably. Hellmann’s in Europe has used 100% cage-free eggs since 2009 and we are making steady progress in making our US supply chain cage-free.

Explaining the story of sustainable tea

In 2014, our Lipton team found a unique way to explain its sustainability story to consumers– by setting up a choir featuring Lipton’s women farmers from the Black Sea region of Turkey, and singing about our tea. To follow this, in 2015, Lipton commissioned Turkey’s leading female pop singer, Sezen Aksu, to perform a new song, ‘Eksik Olma’ meaning ‘may you live long’ - a suitable aspiration for sustainable tea farming. The song received 12 million views on digital channels alone and we invited people to sign a petition to make sustainable tea farming common practice in Turkey.

To celebrate Lipton’s achievement of sourcing 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified™ tea for its tea bags, in 2016 the brand released four films celebrating Lipton’s tea pickers and farmers. The films bring to life the stories of smallholder farmers and employees from the Unilever Tea Estate and surrounding farms in Kericho, Kenya.

Sustainability for ice cream lovers

We are increasingly telling consumers about the sustainable ingredients in our ice cream. Our leading ice cream brand Magnum explains on-pack and online why we have teamed up with the Rainforest Alliance to source sustainable cocoa, and our popular Cornetto brand has started using cocoa from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms too. Our first European Cornetto’s started displaying the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal in 2014, and it will be used globally by 2020.

Breyers ice cream has used only natural ingredients since its founding in 1866. In 2015, we began to use only vanilla from Rainforest Alliance Certified sources in Madagascar. We were recognised for this move by the Rainforest Alliance in May 2015 when Breyers won the Sustainable Standard-Setter Award for working diligently to meet rigorous sustainability standards.

Fruttare consumers care about sustainability

Our Fruttare consumers actively care about sustainability, according to a survey conducted by marketing agency Affinova in November 2013. This is backed up by our research, which shows that sustainably sourced fruit drives higher purchase intent amongst consumers.

In January 2015, Fruttare became the first frozen fruit novelty bar to show a sustainably farmed logo for its fruit. Fruttare’s unique sustainability logo appears on packaging, in print and TV advertising, and in digital and social communications. In 2016, our entire range of Fruttare bars will contain 100% sustainably sourced fruit.

Helping Dutch consumers enjoy eating sustainably

In 2014 we began a three year partnership with Albert Heijn (AH), the largest Dutch retailer and the National Postcode Lottery (NPL) in the Netherlands. Our aim is to run an annual three week ‘Enjoy eating more sustainably campaign’ to show consumers how easy, normal and tasty eating more sustainably is.

In October 2015, the second large print and TV campaign was launched, supported by in-store communications and a joint website with a wealth of recipes to inspire people to cook a meal with our products.

NPL members were sent a letter, a booklet with inspiring recipes and farmer stories and a €12.50 voucher to spend on cooking a more sustainable meal for four. People could choose from over 1,400 products which included Albert Heijn Organic brands and all our brands with an independent sustainability certification - such as Rainforest Alliance Certified Lipton tea and our savoury products including Knorr, Bertolli and Unox which are sustainably grown according to our Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Code. A dedicated website provides a wealth of information including recipes, background and interviews.

Almost 1.5 million households took part and results showed a clear uplift in consumer awareness of sustainable food following the campaign.

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