Hellmann’s keeps on trucking with its food waste reduction message

Who: Unilever Canada (Hellmann’s Mayonnaise brand) with Ogilvy Canada for creative, Edelman for PR, and the Ontario city of Peterborough as its media partner.

What: A new out-of-home advertising program that puts messaging around food waste on five of the city’s garbage trucks, continuing Hellmann’s efforts around food waste reduction.

When & Where: Launched to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Waste Reduction Week, the branded garbage trucks will be rolling through Peterborough for the next three months. There’s also a hope that the program could be extended to other municipalities, said Gina Kiroff, category marketing director, foods and refreshments (tea) and wellbeing, withUnilever. The branded trucks are part of a pre-launch campaign for a new Hellmann’s branded app called “Fridge Night” aimed at tackling food waste in the home (see more below).

Why: Hellmann’s efforts around food waste have been central to its marketing for a while: It turned food destined for landfill into free food that fed a crowd at a Toronto F.C. game, and created a dedicated Hellmann’s Island in the Nintendo game Animal Crossing that invited people to donate their spoiled turnips (a core part of the game’s play), which were then turned into 25,000 actual meals from Second Harvest

“We’ve been doing purposeful work on Hellmann’s for over a decade, but not until the stadium work did we make a consistent, concentrated effort around food waste specifically,” said Kiroff. “We really gravitated to the reduction of food waste as our passionate cause. It’s at the core of who we are as a brand.”

Kiroff previously worked with Unilever’s Dove brand and saw how its efforts around self-esteem transformed it from a minor factor in purchase decisions to a leading driver—not just for the brand itself, but for the personal care category as a whole.

She sees the company’s efforts around food waste taking on similar importance. “Does Hellmann’s own it? Not right now,” she said. “Are we the ones investing heavily to bring it to the surface and have the category rally around it? I would say yes. It’s always good to have lofty aspirations.”

How: For the next three months, five of Peterborough’s fleet of garbage trucks will feature Hellmann’s branding, accompanied by the message “This is Canada’s most popular food truck. Unfortunately. 58% of food produced in Canada gets thrown out.” The idea came from Hellmann’s brand manager Ben Graham, who was looking out of his window during garbage pick-up day and started thinking about the practicality of using garbage trucks to deliver a message about food waste.

The Fridge Night app: An estimated 58% of the food produced in Canada—about 35.5 million tonnes—is wasted each year, and households are the primary culprit. That waste carries not only a significant economic cost ($49 billion) but an environmental cost, with food waste accounting for about 56.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions each year.

A study conducted by Hellmann’s and BEWorks earlier this year found that Canadian households saw a significant reduction in food waste by committing to just one “use-up day” per week in which they prepared a meal using ingredients already in their pantry or refrigerator.

“It’s about habit formation as well as inspiration and education about being able to use what’s in their fridge,” said Kiroff. “A lot of people will open their fridge and have what we call ‘fridge blindness’ where they can’t connect the dots. Hellmann’s is there to say ‘If you put vegetable X with Y starch, you can create Z meal.'”

The app is launching in Canada with plans to eventually roll it out in the U.S. and possibly other international markets.

And we quote: “As a food marketer you never say garbage and food in the same sentence. [The campaign] is an awareness driver because half of the battle is just being cognizant of what’s happening.” — Gina Kiroff, category marketing director, foods and refreshments (tea) and wellbeing, Unilever Canada

Chris Powell