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Hellmann's Drives Food Waste Awareness, Policy Change for Date Labeling and Standardization

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Super Bowl LVI took place on Feb. 13, 2022 to a stadium of 70,000 fans elated to watch the Los Angeles Rams defeat the Cincinnati Bengals in a narrow victory. While some celebrated the game, others awaited the multi-million dollar powerhouse of commercial ads at every break. Waste360 caught up with Ben Crook, Country Category Business Lead, Dressings & Condiments at Unilever to learn more about this year's celebrity partnership with Jerod Mayo, the company's stance on standardized date labeling and some food waste reduction tips.

Last year, Waste360 profiled Hellmann's/Unilever's partnership with comedian Amy Schumer, highlighting the company's impetus behind its drive to educate consumers about food waste.

Super Bowl LVI took place on Feb. 13, 2022 to a stadium of 70,000 fans elated to watch the Los Angeles Rams defeat the Cincinnati Bengals in a narrow victory. While some celebrated the game, others awaited the multi-million dollar powerhouse of commercial ads at every break. Hellmann's joined the mix once again this year, this time with former New England Patriots linebacker and current coach Jerod Mayo.

"As a long-time fan and fellow 'mayo,' I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to partner with Hellmann's to raise awareness for such an important issue," said Jerod Mayo, in a statement. "Food waste in the U.S. is something we must tackle together. At home, my wife Chantel and I always try to use leftover ingredients in our pantry or fridge to reduce food waste and we hope this spot encourages people to do the same."

Waste360 caught up with Ben Crook, Country Category Business Lead, Dressings & Condiments at Unilever to learn more about this year's celebrity partnership with Jerod Mayo, the company's stance on standardized date labeling and some food waste reduction tips.

Waste360: How do partnerships with celebrities such as Jerod Mayo during large-scale events such as the Super Bowl help Hellmann’s/Unilever with food waste awareness?

Ben Crook: The Big Game is one of American’s biggest food holidays, which often comes with overbuying and eventual food waste. And it’s not just on that day that Americans are wasting food – approximately 40 percent of all food in the US is wasted each year and approximately 40 percent of that food waste happens at the consumer level both in the home and at restaurant establishments. (ReFed, Insights Engine 1, Insights Engine 2, Insights Engine 3, 2019)

One way Hellmann's is educating people on how they can help reduce food waste is through the new behavior change program called Fridge Night, which is a four-week program that is scientifically proven to help people reduce their food waste at home. 

The program, which is offered as a free app available for download in iOS and Android app stores and as an e-book available on our website, is designed to inspire and guide people on how they can be more resourceful with food at home and provides tangible solutions such as weekly challenges and ‘Flexipes’ (Flexipes are flexible recipes that turn left-behind ingredients into easy-to-prepare meals), incentivizing them with small rewards (coupons and donations to Feeding America), and repeating the challenges over four-weeks to make each behavior a habit.

A Fridge Night Spanish version will also be available for download in 2022, exact date to be announced.

Hellmann’s and Jerod Mayo raised awareness around the issue of food waste during the Big Game with Hellmann’s second Big Game TV spot [the Mayo x Mayo campaign] and a live Hellmann’s Food Waste Tackle activation. The spot encouraged people to get creative and join us to (quite literally) use mayo, and other ingredients, to “tackle food waste” in their own home.

Waste360: Why is the Super Bowl such an opportune time for the company to address the food waste crisis?

Crook: This moment is a huge opportunity to shed light on an important issue that we think all people should be aware of. We felt a more comedic approach to our spot would help engage people with the issue and inspire them to take real action towards reducing food waste at home. This commercial is another push in our effort to inspire and enable 100 million people around the world every year to be more resourceful with their food, so they waste less. This is part of a larger commitment to help achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030.

Waste360: What has Hellmann’s/Unilever accomplished in the past year in terms of food waste efforts? What are its goals for 2022?

Crook: As part of a larger commitment to help achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030, Hellmann’s continues to drive change. In 2020, as an initial step towards this larger vision, the brand started the Hellmann’s Food Relief Fund, which saved 1.2 million pounds of food from farms that would have otherwise gone to waste and redistributed this food to communities in need. In addition to raising awareness around the issue, Hellmann’s has also provided a grant to ReFED, the leading national nonprofit to continue their work to reduce U.S. food waste by providing data and solutions spanning over a two-year partnership.

For over a year, Hellmann’s has been working with The Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic to facilitate shared knowledge on Date Labelling and create an impetus to implement federal legislation on standardized date labelling. Date labels are not currently standardized or federally regulated and they are one of the most common drivers of at-home waste. In 2022, Hellmann’s will continue to garner Congressional support to get the Bill passed. And as part of this initiative, we will develop a coalition of like-minded brands, retailers and nonprofits to signal strong industry support. Once the Bill is signed into law, it’s our ambition to lead the charge on the necessary consumer education campaigns needed to educate the public on this important food label change.

Q: How does this food waste awareness campaign fit in with Unilever’s ESG goals?

Crook: Unilever is a company of brands and people with a big purpose: to make sustainable living commonplace. Today’s “throwaway culture” must end. We’re committed to being on the front line against food waste- both in our factories and on people’s plates. One of Unilever’s commitments to improving the health of the planet is to halve food waste in its operations by 2025.

Hellmann’s is Unilever’s leader when it comes to raising awareness about the impacts of food waste, inspiring consumers to rethink their relationship with leftover food, and partnering with others for global reform of the food system. As a brand, we are on a mission to inspire people to be more resourceful with their food, turning ingredients they already have into delicious meals so they waste less.

The Mayo x Mayo campaign works hand-in-hand with Unilever’s larger mission to fight food waste. On a day that brings about so much avoidable food waste across the country, it only made sense to lean into that moment and challenge consumers to join in the fight against waste.

Waste360: What challenges do Americans face when it comes to reducing food waste – especially in reference to dressings or condiments?

Crook: Good food – like dressings and condiments –  can get thrown away simply because date labels on food packaging are unclear. Inconsistent date labels lead to consumer confusion, resulting in waste of quality food at home as well as at the retail level. Ultimately, this often restricts or limits the amount of safe, quality foods that can be donated to food banks and go to those in need.

On Dec. 7, 2021, Hellmann’s backed a bill introduction for the importance of standardizing date labeling to further the efforts to enact this policy change. We understand this is a big task to take on, but we feel strongly that we can accomplish this imperative step, especially because the issue of wasted food garners bipartisan support. No matter your politics, no one wants to waste food.

A nationally standardized dual date labeling system – “use by” or “best if used by” when fully implemented, would help put $2.41 billion annually back in the pockets of American consumers by diverting 582,000 tons of wasted food. (ReFed, Insights Engine: Standardized Date Labels, 2021)

Waste360: What has Hellmann’s/Unilever researched/observed about the state of food waste in America?

Crook: Approximately 40% of all food in in the US is wasted each year and approximately 40% of that food waste happens at home. (ReFed, Insights Engine 1, Insights Engine 2, Insights Engine 3, 2019)

At Hellmann's we believe food is too good to be wasted and to help reduce household food waste, Hellmann’s partnered with behavioural scientists BEworks and other global experts to conduct one of the longest and largest consumer behaviour intervention studies on household food waste. Hellmann’s partnered with BEworks in 2021 to get to the bottom of why so much household food is wasted, in one of the longest and largest studies of its kind.

The study followed more than 1,000 families in Canada and the US for eight weeks as participants tracked their weekly food waste. The program was developed together with leading behavior scientist and is proven through large scale scientific studies to help reduce household food waste by 46%.

Results showed most food is wasted because it’s easy to forget what’s in the fridge, freezer or cupboard, and many people find it hard to create tasty meals from seemingly unrelated ingredients.

Waste360: What are some tips/tricks Americans can use to reduce food waste?

Crook: Our Fridge Night program includes many tips and tricks to help reduce food waste on game day and any day of the year. One in particular that we’re really excited about are our ‘Flexipes’, which are flexible recipes that turn left-behind ingredients into easy-to-prepare meals. You can check out some Flexipes on our website and learn more through Fridge Night.

A few other practical tips include:

- Plan Your Menu For the Week: Setting aside an hour or two on Saturday or Sunday to set a weekly menu will help tremendously during the week. Search on Pinterest, flip through magazines, or review our website for recipes. Once you have some recipe information, write a grocery list and go shopping.
- Always go to the grocery store with a list, NOT a hungry stomach! You’re much more likely to buy only what you need.
- Purchase the uglies – don’t be afraid to purchase the wonky, the dented, the bruised foods in the grocery store. They are the most likely to go to waste.
- Learn how to store foods properly and make sure your fridge and freezer are set to the correct temperatures. Often people’s fridges are set too warm. 
- Get Creative with Leftovers:
There’s no reason not to have Sunday’s dinner as Monday’s lunch!

Make the Freezer Your Friend:

- Freeze Batches of Dinner Soups and Sauces: Keep your freezer stocked with items like pasta sauce, chili and soup. A well-stocked freezer will save you from that dreaded 5 p.m. scramble of trying to decide if you can piece together a meal or if you should order in.
- Freeze Your Breakfast Favorites: Breakfast is an important meal of the day. For breakfast, the freezer can save you all (or most of) the time. Make waffles from scratch and freeze them. Next morning pop them in your toaster oven and you are all set. You can also make hard-boiled eggs the night before and store them in the fridge.
- Compost Leftovers: You can compost virtually any foods – including rice and other grains, breads, beans, pastas, sauces, soups, casseroles, eggs and so on. Check your local municipality or town website to learn about what composting services are available in your area.

 

Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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