6 steps companies can take to “do good” and expand their appeal to modern consumers

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Modern Americans expect much more from food companies today than they did in the past -- now not only do they want food that is better for them, but they want products that also are better for society and the planet.

Buying products that give back to charity, benefit the planet or help local communities is not important to everyone, but it is a key component to the growing millennial-shoppers’ decision-making process, Lisa Hyman, managing partner at the goodDog Agency, told FoodNavigator-USA at FoodVision USA in early November.

“Seventy-nine percent of millennial consumers want to buy ethical brands,” which is a significant number, but also could be a conservative estimate of the total number of shoppers who want to buy brands that they feel good about, Hyman said.

“Brands really need to pay attention to the fact that consumers are actually looking for and staying more loyal to brands that are motivated by positive intentions,” she said.

She explained that the phenomenon of consumers wanting more than a product for themselves really started with companies such as Toms Shoes, which gives a pair of shoes to someone in need for each pair purchased. But since the launch of Toms Shoes ten years ago, the ways in which companies can meet this consumer desire to do good have expanded.

“Today that kind of good-business mentality can mean a lot more than just giving away product or donations,” Hyman said. “It can mean the way the supply chain operates or ethically sourcing materials. It can mean what is in your product -- sort of making sure the content of the product, the ingredients are clean and healthier. It can mean that the way you produce your product and the detritus left behind by your product is sustainable and better for the earth.”

Or more simplistically put, she said, companies can think of the doing good movement as combining people, profit and planet in a way that “coexist together peacefully” and allow consumers to help make a better world with their purchases.

To achieve this delicate balance and engage with modern consumers, Hyman recommends brands that want to do go do so by:

  • Sourcing materials and ingredients from “good places” whether that is fair trade, organic, using a by-product for a more sustainable product or connecting directly with small farmers.
  • Engaging with the B Corp community, which Hyman said “has a ton of resources.” She added these companies have already successfully built brands by doing good and “have a lot of insights and information” about how companies can better weave their missions more deeply into the fabric of their companies.
  • Having an inclusive board “that isn’t just the standard operating procedure of white men,” Hyman said. She advises companies to “have voices from all parts of the business community” not just on the board, but on their staff.
  • Paying fair wages and giving employees the benefits they need for a balanced life, which will demonstrate to consumers a desire for more than just profits, Hyman said.
  • Weaving the company’s mission into all aspects of the business, and communicating that through not just “sexy marketing” but “marketing that is soulful, that tells as story, maybe about the founder and why they decided to start this business, maybe a personal reason,” Hyman said, noting those stories engage consumers on an emotional level.
  • Donating a percentage of profits to charity, and clearly communicating where that money goes and the impact that it has, Hyman said. “If you think about that moment of truth at shelf and someone picks up two products that have a similar price point and have a similar quality and taste profile, they are more motivated to buy a product that has a number on the back that says we are a good brand,” or has copy on the package that explains how the company supports farmers or another subpopulation, Hyman said.

While some of these steps will require capital investment or could tighten margins slightly, they likely are worth it as they will drive higher sales and build loyalty among not just today’s consumers, but future consumers as well, Hyman said.

“As Millennials have kids” they will teach them about the value of healthier products and companies that support the community and planet, she explained. “And so those kids will grow up to be purchasers of products, too, and there will be more of them. So, I think it is certainly a worthwhile investment to make. It is where the world is going and, frankly, where we should want the world to go -- a more generous place where business profit and goodness can co-exist and, frankly, positively affect each other.”

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