Personal, Ever-Changing, and Packed with Potential: Why Food Has Purpose
Nestlé USA’s Chief Marketing Officer on a Selection of Brands Driven by Passion and Innovation
The way we shop has changed. No longer are we solely focused on price tags or the slickest packaging. More and more we care about where products come from, who makes them, and what impact they have on the planet.
That’s true for me, sparked by my family. My kids are 15 and 20 years old, and I’ve learned a lot from them. They lean in to sustainability focused, purpose-driven brands. Their dinner table insights have made me think more about products with purpose, especially in certain categories. Food, for one, is a part of our daily lives — it’s personal, ever-changing, and packed with potential. It has purpose.
Every day at Nestlé, I see how purpose infuses our brands and products. That’s not a marketing term — it’s about real actions taken by the people behind our products that have a positive impact on our consumers, our communities, and our planet.
I’m originally from Mexico, where I have been consistently amazed by the work Nescafé did with coffee farmers. In some communities, Nescafé has nurtured relationships for three generations, helping with sustainable farming methods and growing practices. But it took us a long time to realize that our consumers cared about our farming partnerships. They do. When we started putting photos of real farmers on Nescafé packaging, it became clear that the brand’s purpose mattered even outside our own walls.
That Nescafé story has been a lesson to me about what purpose really means. Here’s what I’ve learned and how we’re implementing those lessons at Nestlé in three key areas.
Embracing Small to Think Big
Small companies and start-up brands have given us some of the most moving examples of purpose-infused products. The landscape of the food business has shifted, and today we’re adapting to keep up with upstart brands. How? By creating start-ups of our own.
Nestlé has more than 40,000 employees in the United States who are brimming with creativity. One way to leverage their passion and purpose is to make innovation open, not only the job of marketing or R&D. Our internal crowd-sourcing initiative allows employees to pitch their own start-up ideas. Jacked Rabbit — a protein drink invented by a financial analyst with a personal passion for fitness — is the first product to emerge from that program. Similarly, our internal incubators have empowered teams to move fast and channel their purpose.
That came to life with the launch of Outsiders pizza, a pizza created in homage to the cities in which it originated. We’ve challenged ourselves to take on ideas and bring them to the market swiftly. It’s a new way of working, and it requires a lot of courage from our pioneer employees, the teams collaborating to produce their ideas, and our leadership team.
Adding Purposeful Brands to the Family
At Nestlé we’re always excited when we can add innovative brands and teams to our family. More and more, those brands are driven by a clear sense of purpose.
Sweet Earth is one example — I’m inspired by their passion for plant-based foods that are accessible, tasty, and nutritious. As Nestlé moves further into the plant-based space, Sweet Earth pushes our innovation forward. The brand is driven by a clear mission to honor and sustain the land from which it grows its foods, even featuring an eco clock that keeps track of the energy their plant-based protein products save.
When bringing nimble start-ups like Sweet Earth into the family, we use our scale to take their passion to the next level. This dynamic is something we talk about a lot here at Nestlé. We place innovation in the hands of small agile teams, and then bring in our scale to boost their efforts and bring their purpose to life in a way that creates huge impact. Big doesn’t have to mean slow — used right, our scale can ignite the purpose that started as a spark.
Reinvigorating Big Scale Innovation
Nestlé has been serving our consumers for a long time, and we’ve got a lot of iconic brands that people still love today. Driving innovation means taking a fresh look at those brands and finding how we can take their purpose to the modern consumer in new and exciting ways.
Take Lean Cuisine, for example. That team has long committed to supporting women’s wellness, with a nutrition-driven purpose at their core. The brand is always evolving, and there are even Nestlé nutritionists like Rhonda working closely behind the scenes with the culinary team. That partnership ensures that recipes are created with key nutrients for women’s needs in mind.
We’ve also worked with Loop, a program that is bringing back the milkman delivery model for the modern age. Through Loop, our consumers can have Häagen-Dazs ice cream delivered to their door in a reusable, recyclable container. Once you finish a pint, you simply return the container for a wash and refill. Then the ice cream comes back to your door again! Home delivery in this style is not new, but it has new life through a wide range of products in sustainable packaging.
Building brands with purpose is work that will never be complete. It requires us to adapt to a changing market and to have the courage to lead the way, empowering our employees, and challenging the status quo.
As our company changes for the future, our ability to innovate with purpose is how we bring you products you love and can feel good about picking up from the grocery store shelves.
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