- Unilever is launching a new brand of plant-based organic snack foods that will help fund urban farming projects, according to a company press release. Half of the profits of ‘Growing Roots’ coconut and corn snacks will go to urban farming initiatives.
- Four flavors of bites and clusters will be available in the initial launch: Cocoa Chipotle, Pineapple Coconut Rum, Maple Bourbon and Coconut Curry. Bags of the snacks available in 4-ounce sizes will be sold at ShopRite stores in the Northeast later this month with an MSRP of $3.99. Nationwide distribution is expected later this year.
- Unilever has a history of supporting urban farming. In 2015, Unilever joined with the city of New York's Building Healthy Communities initiative and Green City Force to create six urban farms.
Consumer products giant Unilever is making a statement with its first foray into the organic snack space. Its new crunchy treat, called "Growing Roots," is not only organic, gluten-free and vegan, but it also supports the growth and development of urban farming.
The organic snack space is already crowded with similar products, many of which also have a philanthropic element. What sets Growing Roots apart is that the brand is committing a full 50% of profits to supporting its chief cause.
Launching a new brand is a tricky business. Data analytics company Nielsen estimates only 15% of consumer packaged goods launched in the U.S. are still around two years later. A new flavor or ingredient can be enough to warrant some sampling, but in the case of Unilever’s snack, there is nothing outlandish that would make it stand out. Its best hope for success is for Unilever to dig into its deep pockets to market the brand’s commitment to urban farming. Consumers may expect up to 10% of a mission-based product's profits to go toward supporting that cause, but 50% might be enough to not only stir up sampling, but also brand loyalty.
The flavors offered in this initial launch, such as Cocoa Chipotle and Coconut Curry, indicate Unilever is trying to reach millennial consumers’ adventurous palates. This also is a demographic that values mission-based brands while at the same time demanding healthy snack options — a combination that could make Growing Roots even more attractive to this audience. Millennials account for 52% of all organic shoppers, according to research from the Organic Trade Association, which means Unilever's latest launch has a good chance of resonating with this age group.
The timing of this launch also is advantageous. The individual snacking category has reached $33 billion in the U.S., with products touting health claims among the categories experiencing the strongest uptick in sales. Growing Roots will be competing with a wide range of better-for-you snacks, ranging from items such as Kellogg’s newly acquired clean label RXBar, to kid-friendly fare like Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies.
Even if Unilever’s new snack is a hit, the question remains if it can actually make money. Donating half of the brand’s profits to urban farms will help it stand out with consumers, but it may also make Growing Roots a venture that is consistently in the red. That said, Unilever may be anticipating the initial loss and consider it acceptable, considering the positive press the new brand should generate.
When looking for a comparable company that makes philanthropy a cornerstone of its business model, it’s hard not to think of Newman’s Own. Founded in 1982 by actor Paul Newman with a single salad dressing, all of its after-tax profits go to charity. The brand has not only thrived with consumers, it’s also donated more than $500 million to worthy causes.
By comparison, keeping 50% of the brand’s take may make Growing Roots seem downright profitable.