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How Ben and Jerry’s was built on green credentials

How Ben and Jerry’s was built on green credentials

By UTalkMarketing Founding Editor, Clark Turner.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the buzz word of the day as big business tries to jump on the green bandwagon.

In the age of it’s ‘not what what you say, but what you do’, brands are either desperately promoting, or trying to secure, enviromentally friendly credentials.

When an FMCG company was formed in the late-1970s, basing its principles on “promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the Environment” might have been the laughing stock of many a hard core capitalist. Some 30 years later, the tables have turned and the laughs are on them!

This is the lucky positon that ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s finds itself in as it celebrates its 30th Birthday this year.

The total ice cream market is now worth £750m year on year with 87% of households buying once a month on average, according to IRI/TNS. Dessert Ice Cream as a category has risen by 1.8%, the increase having been driven by Luxury.

More than one-in-10 households have bought Ben & Jerry’s in the last year, with household penetration having risen from 7% in Jan 2007 to 11.1% by the end of the year.

“The philosophy of the brand and our mission to make the best ice cream in the nicest possible way for the planet has been central to our success, explained Brand Manager for Ben & Jerry’s, Caroline Simpson (pictured). “It’s been part of our DNA from the word dot.”

The brand operates globally, with world marketing directed from the US HQ with concepts, initiatives and key messages. But differing market approaches in local markets are led on the back of local insight.

Ben & Jerry’s have traditionally shunned traditional TV advertising in the UK in favour of cinema and a strong emphasis on PR to reach its 18-35 ABC1 market. But its first ever UK TV ad, created by Fallon, was recently screened in a tactical drive to push it’s frozen yoghurt products.

Simpson said, “A homespun grassroots approach works well for us in sitting with the brand and its values. We’re much more PR than advertising led, using word of mouth and engagement to champion the brand.”

That engagement includes interaction via the 200 scoop shops in the UK where key brand messages and social mission programmes can be communicated. The Ben & Jerry’s is also championed independently on Facebook where around 58 fan club groups discuss their favourite flavours.

The company’s green credentials include becoming the world’s first climate neutral ice cream in 2007, addressing the needs of people, cows and planet and investing a minimum of €2.4million over five years to cut emissions by 10% from cow to cone.

Its Netherlands-based factory uses green energy, while a sustainable Caring Dairy programme balances the needs of the manufacturer’s cows, farmers and the planet.

In 2006, the brand also launched the word’s first Fairtrade vanilla ice cream, while the Ben & Jerry’s Foudation is a charitable trust that donates over $1 million every year to “make the world a better place”.

Funds are allocated to the companies “employees to use available resources to support and encourage organizations that are working towards eliminating the underlying causes of environmental and social problems.”

The company’s international Climate Change College programme gives 18-30 year olds the opportunity to train to be environmental ambassadors online.

One of the company’s key social engagement events is the Ben & Jerry’s Sundae, an annual music festival to be held for the fourth summer in South London this year.

“It’s a great fun and a showcase of what we stand for,” explained Simpson. “We encourage sampling to introduce new flavours to an audience of 20,000 over the weekend.

“It’s important to be true to your brand’s heritage and values and the flavours we offer consumers incorporate this. So, for example we use free range eggs and our brownies come from a bakery in New York which seeks to train and counsel the homeless.”

She added, “The result combines a homely feel appropriate to the brand, with a great experience.”

Stall partners are also carefully chosen to highlight our message – such as the Energy Saving Trust and a city farm to communicate our use of free range eggs.”

Another engagement programme is ‘National Free Cone Day’ where scoop shops give away free ice cream to customers one day every year as a thank you for their custom.

This year the day will be used to communicate a special 30th birthday message, a fact that is also being communicated with a special limited edition ‘Cookie Dough’ tub featuring a red ribbon.

A new flavour is also to be launched in March. ‘Baked Alaska’ will consist of vanilla ice cream, marshmallows and white chocolate polar bears. It’s nod to the issue of global warming and the threat of extinction to the bears is obvious.

“We never strived to be a ‘cool’ brand, it’s just that what we’ve always done has never been so relevant to consumers and ticks their boxes,” Simpson concluded. “We want what we’re doing to resonate with consumers and be more than simply a product.

“Our driver is in delivering our mission and messages, as well as doing things that are relevant to the fun and irreverent ethos of the brand.”

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