Unilever unveils six-month 'live social experiment' to fight food waste

Knorr: Unilever brand identified as one that could benefit from company's latest initiative
Knorr: Unilever brand identified as one that could benefit from company's latest initiative

Unilever is launching a novel marketing initiative that will involve families reducing their food bills and household rubbish, with the findings being fed into Unilever's future marketing plans.

Dubbed The Sustain Ability Challenge, the six-month "live social experiment" will feature 12 families reducing their monthly food bills by 15% and their household rubbish by 25%.

Unilever is launching the initiative with The Futures Company, a consultancy firm.

The challenge will address the top three barriers to reducing food waste – food going off quickly, throwing away leftovers, and preparing too much food.

Speaking to Marketing, Nora Costello, brand building director, savoury, dressings and snacking, Unilever, likened the initiative to a "live social experiment" that would "test practical ways for consumers to adapt their daily routines, reduce their impact on the environment and, hopefully, cut their household bills".

The results will be recorded through daily diaries and video recordings, with a final report to be published in 2013. The report will then be shared with the Government, retailers and the relevant organisations in order to share its learnings.

Costello said: "We are trying to break through the myth that sustainable living costs more. We believe that people can save money, and we know is particularly relevant because at the moment, people's household budgets are under pressure.

Research from the Fabian Society shows that more than 60% of adults in the UK recognise that food wastage is a problem that needs to be solved, while 53% said they would waste less food if its could save them money, and 28% would change their habits if they found it easier to do.

The initiative is the latest piece of activity in Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, which aims to halve the company’s environmental footprint.

Costello said: "We know there are stats to suggest the average UK family throws away £680 of uneaten food waste a year. We are open to taking the learnings about how people can avoid food waste, and putting them in touch with our experts, tools, apps and relevant websites to tackle this."

"It is hard at this stage to quantify what exactly will come of it, but my hope is that if we identify the triggers that facilitate a change in consumer behaviour, that we might then build into our marketing campaigns, whether it is on-pack instructions or whether our recipes are relevant for their food waste issues."

Costello identified Unilever’s Knorr brand as one that could benefit from the results of the initiative.

She said: "We see Knorr as a brand with tremendous potential in this area. We have been working globally with Knorr and sustainable sourcing practices [such as] irrigation techniques and sourcing our fruit and vegetables in season and not from glasshouses.

"Now, because food waste is such a big contributor to the environmental footprint, we think there is a great opportunity for Knorr to help minimise that."

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