At first glance, urban nutrition, disaster relief, veterans' support, school supplies and animal rescue don't seem to have a lot in common. They do, though: Each is the focus of a cause-marketing program created by a food or beverage processor to serve the greater good.
Cause marketing continues to play a strong role in food and beverage companies' business strategies, with packaging providing an essential communications vehicle for many of the initiatives.
Results of a cause-marketing study by Cone LLC (www.coneinc.com), a Boston-based strategy and communications agency, indicate that altruism is not the sole driver: Cause-marketing programs are effective in building both brand image and sales.
According to the 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study report, "85 percent of consumers have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause they care about." The report also says 80 percent of Americans "are likely to switch brands, about equal in price and quality, to one that supports a cause."
But getting the word out about cause-marketing programs is key. The study found that "90 percent of consumers want companies to tell them the ways they are supporting causes."
Kraft's Triscuit adopted the home farming/urban farming movement by putting a packet of herb seeds on packages.
And that's where packaging comes in — as a point-of-purchase component in the media mix, supporting the campaign's social media, broadcast and print communications.
Triscuit plants urban farms
For Triscuit, a brand of Kraft Foods Inc. (www.kraftfoodscompany.com), Northfield, Ill., packaging expresses the brand's commitment to "Home Farming" with an on-pack gift of seeds. Triscuit launched the Home Farming movement last year in partnership with Urban Farming, a nonprofit organization.
The idea behind the movement is that everybody can grow herbs and vegetables, even if they live in a city. In 2010, Triscuit and Urban Farming planted 50 community-based home farms; this year, they will replant those and add 15 new ones. The farms are in 20 cities, and the food grown goes to the farms' volunteers and local food banks.
Five of the new farms will be planted in low-income housing facilities to address the paucity of healthy food for sale in those communities. These five farms will be in Chicago and Los Angeles; Triscuit and Urban Farming are working with the cities' housing authorities to develop the farms.
The Triscuit carton plays a motivational role in the campaign. "We wanted to make sure the Triscuit packaging reflected our commitment to making it easy for everyone, everywhere to grow their own fresh vegetables and herbs. On eight million packages of Original and Reduced Fat Triscuit, we attached plantable basil and dill herb seed cards so people can immediately begin planting," says Leslie Waller, Triscuit brand manager.
She adds, "We doubled this allotment from the four million seed cards that were provided last year so that we can help even more people across the country begin planting and enjoying fresh culinary herbs."
Text and graphics on the Triscuit cartons include the message "Plant a Seed/Grow a Movement," the Home Farming logo, information about Triscuit's partnership with Urban Farming and directions for planting the seeds. The carton also directs consumers to Triscuit's Facebook page to learn more.
ConAgra targets child hunger
Also in its second year is Child Hunger Ends Here, a program of ConAgra Foods Inc. (www.conagrafoods.com), Omaha, Neb., and the nonprofit organization Feeding America. The program's goal for 2011 is to donate 2.5 million meals to Americans in need, as it did in 2010.
The campaign includes various ways for consumers to contribute, including shopping for ConAgra brands such as Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Marie Callender's, Healthy Choice, Peter Pan, Fresh Mixers and Kid Cuisine. Packaging for these brands displays the Child Hunger Ends Here logo on the package's front panel or label plus a purchase code on the back. At the program's website (www.childhungerendshere.com), the consumer enters the eight-digit purchase code to trigger ConAgra's financial donation to pay for one meal. Feeding America works with local food banks to provide the meals.