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Purpose, product and innovation: Hellmann’s recipe for success


What does it take for a billion-euro brand to achieve double-digit growth multiple years in a row? Hellmann’s recipe for success includes a meaningful purpose, pop culture appeal, relevant innovation and, above all, a great-tasting superior product.

Hellmann's - Make Taste, Not Waste

10% growth in 2020. 11% in 2021. 15% in the first quarter of 2022. One thousand products sold globally every minute.

These are just some of the statistics that have made Hellmann’s not only the world’s No.1 mayonnaise but also one of Unilever’s best-performing brands.

So what is driving this growth? Is it product? Purpose? Innovation?

For Hanneke Faber, President, Unilever Foods & Refreshment, the secret to Hellmann’s growing success story is anchored in ‘all of the above’.

11%growth in 2021

“Hellmann’s is a great example of purpose accelerating growth when it complements a superior product,” she says.“Hellmann’s wins on taste among consumers and on being better for our planet. For example, it is the only leading Dressings brand in North America and Europe that uses 100% recycled plastic packaging, and 100% cage-free or free-range eggs.

“In addition, Hellmann’s purpose – fighting food waste – has grown brand power, and brand power drives market share and in turn growth,” Hanneke continues. “But purpose is the icing on the cake, it’s not the cake itself.”

And success depends on choosing the right icing. “Brands must find their purpose by staying true to their product truth and category benefits. Only then can they take action and speak up on the issues that matter to their consumers,” she explains.

Hanneke Faber smiling in front of yellow flowers

Hellmann’s is a great example of purpose accelerating growth when it complements a fantastic quality product, outstanding innovations, the right channels and the right value.

Hanneke Faber, President, Unilever Foods & Refreshment

Leading the fight against household food waste

60%of all food waste happens in the home

From high-profile Super Bowl ads to creating online recipe resources to help home cooks make the most of the leftover food in their fridges, Hellmann’s mission to end food waste is a shining example of a perfect product–purpose match. 

Having helped people turn even the simplest ingredients into delicious meals for over a century, and as the world’s No.1 bestselling mayonnaise available in 65 countries, the brand has both the authority and the reach to drive change at scale.

“We know nobody sets out to throw good food away – food waste is an unintended outcome of people lacking the confidence, time or skills to make the most of the food they have on hand,” says Christina Bauer-Plank, Global Vice President of Hellmann’s and Dressings.

“Globally, one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted (FAO) and with 61% of food waste occurring in the home (WEF), we knew it was there that we needed to direct our action,” she adds.

Using science to power behaviour change

To this end, Hellmann’s has set its mission to inspire and enable 100 million people around the world every year to be more resourceful with their food so that they waste less as part of Unilever’s larger commitment to help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030.

In 2020 and 2021, the brand partnered with behavioral scientists BEworks and other leading global experts to conduct one of the longest and largest consumer behaviour intervention studies on household food waste.

“We embarked on an ambitious study to uncover simple solutions that people could use at home to reduce their food waste – without sacrificing the enjoyment that comes from preparing a quick and tasty meal,” explains Christina. “We have used our learnings to shape a series of programmes aimed at helping people be more resourceful with the food they have in their home.” (See the case studies below.)

Christina Bauer-Plank, VP of Hellmann’s

Globally, one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted (FAO) and with 61% of food waste occurring in the home (WEF), we knew it was there that we needed to direct our action.

Christina Bauer-Plank, VP, Hellmann’s

The power of purpose

46%reduction of household food waste over a four-week period

The results are impressive. In both Canada and the US, the pilot studies of Hellmann’s behaviour change programmes showed that simple interventions like adopting a weekly Use-Up Day, or using Hellmann’s Flexipes (flexible recipes aimed at using up the most wasted ingredients) led to up to a 46% reduction of household food waste over a four-week period.

In 2021 alone, Hellmann’s Make Taste Not Waste campaign inspired more than 200 million people across the US, Canada and the UK to waste less food. In 2022 the brand returned to the Super Bowl to continue to drive awareness and make an impact on the important issue of food waste during one of America’s largest food holidays. This is all compelling evidence that Hellmann’s is probably the biggest voice in the world speaking to consumers about food waste.

“The success that we have achieved with our programmes, combined with our double-digit growth, provides a compelling argument that doing good supports business growth,” concludes Christina. The marketing consultancy, Kantar supports her view. Brands recognised for their commitment to purpose, it says, have grown at twice the rate of others.

Product quality and innovation

Hanneke Faber recognises that other factors have also fed into Hellmann’s rising growth figures. Product innovation has played a critical role, particularly as regards the growing market demand for plant-based alternatives.

Powered by a variety of concerns, including health, the environment and animal welfare, the plant-based food trend is increasingly shaping the market, with Bloomberg Intelligence predicting that it could swell to $162 billion in the next decade from $29.4 billion in 2020.

Thanks to the dedicated teams researching plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy at Unilever’s food research centre Hive in Wageningen, Unilever is well positioned to make the most of this growing market. One of its recent success stories is Hellmann’s Vegan Mayo.Since its launch in 2016, it has become the leading vegan mayonnaise in many markets, with sales doubling year after year.

“As part of our Future Foods commitments, we have pledged to deliver more plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, and Hellmann’s vegan mayonnaise is testimony to the fact that this can be achieved without sacrificing taste,” says Hanneke. “It is just one example of the advantages of having a future fit portfolio that supports consumers’ needs for their own health as well as the health of the planet.”

A question of taste

Christina Bauer-Plank is quick to point out, however, that no amount of brand awareness or product innovation could drive growth if the product failed to meet up to consumers’ taste expectations. Research shows that Hellmann’s products are repeatedly preferred by consumers for their unmistakable taste and creaminess and the fact that they are made with sustainable ingredients and in recyclable packaging.

“People accept that eating a plant-based diet is better for our health and the health of the planet, but the key barrier to their making the switch is taste. This was why our priority was to make a vegan mayo that would surprise consumers by having the same great taste, just 100% plant based,” she says.

UK market consumer reviews indicate that they have succeeded… perhaps even enough to challenge the blue ribbon original. “People are rating Hellmann’s Vegan to be perhaps the best mayo we have ever made,” says Christina. “We cannot ask for more than that.”

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