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Driving shared value in branding: a successful agrifood strategy

21 September 2022 5 min read

Few practices impact our modern world as much as the agricultural production, distribution, and consumption of food (or agrifood). Agrifood is estimated to provide approximately 11 billion tonnes of food annually and one-quarter of all jobs globally. At the same time, it may be responsible for almost a third of all greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the multinational corporations that make our globalised food systems possible have been criticised for environmental, health, labour, and other abuses.

So the question begs, can agrifood evolve from being the source of these problems to a solutions provider along the value chain of farm to fork? Can the sector meet growing demands for food in ways that reduce emissions and pressures on ecosystems, helping restore them for human and planetary health?

With the potential for truly transformative impacts, we believe that the sector can move beyond concepts of protection and reduction. They can embed frameworks such as shared value creation to enhance competitiveness while also advancing regenerative outcomes. To avoid the significant risk of “greenwashing”, agrifood sustainability strategies must be well developed, from purpose to programmes, to advance our food systems at scale.

Embedding shared value framework

One such example is Nestlé. They have long been a leader in the drive to create shared value in agrifood, guided by their purpose of “unlocking the power of food to enhance the quality of life for everyone, today, and for generations to come”.

Over the years, they have dedicated significant effort in the area of health—people’s health and the planet’s health. In turn, this has elevated their brand and helped overcome many interconnected challenges.

While some may still associate the Nestlé brand with less nutritious food, from chocolate ice cream to Maggi’s instant noodles, the company began their pivot to promoting health decades ago. In 1997, then CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, saw potential in the personalised nutrition market and indicated his desire to make Nestlé a leader in “nutrition, health, and wellness”. From that point onwards, Nestlé began a series of campaigns to realise this vision throughout the chain.

Spearheading the nutrition market

From 1998-2000, the company focused on providing clean and healthy drinking water in developing countries and also launched the Sustainable Agricultural Initiative Nestlé (SAIN) to foster and promote collaboration with local farmers. These early efforts helped establish the focus areas of the company’s shared value strategy.

In 2011, the company founded the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences to incubate nutritional research to combat chronic medical conditions. The Institute’s research has helped the company bring innovative products to market that address critical health and wellness challenges. They have since acquired Wyeth Nutrition, Pamlab, Zenpep, Vital Proteins, and Aimmune—all companies that operate within the health sector, helping Nestlé diversify their health and wellness-related offerings.

What's ahead?

Today, Nestlé is taking further steps to reduce the environmental footprint of their supply chain. This would elevate the nutritional profile of their products by either fortifying or reducing salt, fat, and sugar content. By addressing societal health issues, responding to consumer trends towards healthier food options and promoting environmental responsibility in delivering those options, the company exemplifies the benefits of embedding the creation of shared value into brand and sustainability strategies.

As a result, Nestlé have garnered attention for their sustainability leadership and further elevated their reputation as a health and wellness company. With the agrifood industry now more focused on shared value creation—investing in innovative solutions like regenerative agriculture and alternative proteins, or returning to indigenous thinking and techniques—we have a guiding framework that provides a lens to address some of our biggest societal challenges.

In our ongoing agrifood article series, we will discuss the inspiring and impactful solutions guiding the future of farming and food—elevating those brands and their integrated approaches to identifying purpose beyond profits and how they are placing this at the heart of their strategy.

Sedgwick Richardson’s sustainability team has been advising organisations on sustainability strategies, experiences, and reporting to support brand building for over 25 years. Reach out to us to build sustainability into your brand in holistic, actionable, and positively transformational ways.

Louisa Noble
Sustainability Director
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