I have been meaning to write about Hellmann’s Eat Real, Eat Local campaign for quite some time, but didn’t get to it until now. It’s old news now – a multinational launched a campaign this spring in an attempt to brand their mayonnaise as a local product, with the crux of the advertising directing consumers to their Eat Real, Eat Local website. The site did reach a milestone in August, reaching 100,000 “actions” for real food, which means Hellmann’s will donate $25,000 to Evergreen, a national organization that supports community food resources.
The Eat Real, Eat Local website has many noble facets: encouraging discussion surrounding what Canadians eat (particularly around imported products); offering concrete modes of action (e.g. pledging to take action, signing a petition to get grocers to offer more local products); and providing resources for how concerned citizens can redirect their spending habits and make more conscious choices. At the end of the day, the fact that a multinational with money is choosing to raise awareness about this important issue is good news for local organizations who are often running campaigns by the seat of their pants (I remember Jessie Radies explaining to me that the Eat Local First promotion is essentially done out of the back of her car).
That said, the website’s national scope fails to really capture the “local” movements at the root. Nothing says local better than those who live and thrive in the community – in Edmonton’s case, organizations like Slow Food Edmonton, Just Food Edmonton, or resources like the Alberta Farmers’ Market listing, Go Organic, and Eat Local First should have a place somewhere. The Flash design of the website also reduces the ability for users to easily share pages without permalinks.
There is some helpful information on the site, but users will have to dig – the Evergreen-compiled Real Food Guide is a good starter guide for those looking for concrete instructions on how to eat locally and get involved in the local food scene. Even with its Prairie scope, it’s the best thing on the whole website (click on “Learn” at the bottom left of the site, and download the PDF Prairies guide), and should have a more prominent placement. I will admit that there isn’t currently a “one-stop shop” of Edmonton-centric eat local resources in existence, so for the moment, the Real Food Guide isn’t a bad placeholder until something better is developed.
So because of the spotlight on choosing local, does it even matter that the involvement of Hellmann’s is a stretch? That their justification of using Canadian eggs and canola oil is enough to string a whole campaign on? That by pointing to community-based farmers’ markets, they seem to undermine their whole definition of Canada as “local”? If this is the campaign that opens the public’s eyes on what can be done to support local farmers, and Hellmann’s sells more mayonnaise in the process, then so be it. Hellmann’s can do what they want to try to identify themselves as “local”, but hopefully as consumers learn more about eating locally-sourced products, they will realize they can do better than picking up a jar of mayonnaise.