Hellmann’s tackles food deserts

No, we're not talking desserts. The brand is shifting its attention to food access, undertaking its first lobbying efforts.

Hellmanns_stills_000001[1]How much would you pay for fresh tomatoes? In northern Canada, it can cost as much as $17.99/kilogram.

This challenge is among the issues consumers can have when trying to access healthy food, which is at the heart of a new program from Hellmann’s, and the latest evolution of its “Real Food Movement.”

Food deserts, defined by the brand as an area where accessing affordable, fresh and nutritious food is hard, have become an increasingly prevalent topic, says Gina Kiroff, marketing manager, dressings and savoury at Unilever. And it was a natural fit for the “Real Food Movement,” which has encouraged consumers to eat more nutritious food and has taken various creative angles since 2007 (including inciting consumers to grow vegetables and providing grants to communities and leaders who addressed how they would use it to “eat real,” resulting in education and in-school activity.)

“We realized if we are going to be a ‘Real Food Movement’ and execute our mission of helping others enjoy real food and education around why it’s important, there’s this bigger issue in Canada, that folks don’t have access to real food,” she says. “And that felt like a place where we could make a material difference.”

The brand aims to stir conversation around the issue and raise awareness through a number of channels (according to its research, one in five Canadians live in a food desert, while the term is only known to half the population). In light of this, education was deemed to be a significant part of the solution, so Hellmann’s is encouraging consumers to post a photo of a tomato and if they choose, its cost per kilogram, with the hashtag #MyTomato on social media.

“This will illustrate the differences between what a tomato would cost within an urban centre versus a food desert,” Kiroff says. “The differences can be astronomical.”

However, Hellmann’s set its sights on making a tangible impact as well, so it partnered with the Northern Farm Training Institute and donated $75,000 to create a training greenhouse to generate food for those in need (food inaccessibility affects northern communities the most), which will become part of the school’s curriculum. The brand has also undertaken lobbying efforts for the first time and is encouraging consumers to sign a petition that Unilever will bring to the Canadian Food Summit in October, in which they express their support for sustainable solutions.

Other campaign elements include a broadcast and print partnership with Rogers for a 15-second TV spot driving consumers to RealFoodMovement.ca to sign the petition, as well as paid editorial to further delve into the issue of food deserts. A longer video is available online and was conceived by creative agency Ogilvy, and produced by AOL. The campaign also features a digital buy and a partnership with celebrity chef Lynn Crawford (with whom the brand has partnered before) for media and PR support. The brand also worked with its media agency, Mindshare, and Harbinger on influencer and media relations.