Hellmann’s Eat Real, Eat Local Campaign

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.

7 thoughts on “Hellmann’s Eat Real, Eat Local Campaign

  1. So glad you did a post on this Sharon. I’ve really been turned off by the TV spots – how can such a huge company be considered “local”…surely they don’t produce in every market they sell in.

    I’m glad there is some useful information on their site though and hopefully more people will think about choosing true local products because of the added exposure this campaign provides.

  2. It’s small steps that lead to big change, so I’m going to come out and say bravo, Hellmann’s. Large corporations regularly source the cheapest and easiest ingredients to get in their products. And why not? Most people don’t give a damn and they’re just trying to make a buck.

    Admittedly I haven’t bought jarred mayonnaise in years since my ever-loving boyfriend makes it fresh when we need it. However I would support Hellmann’s even if they are tooting their own horn and championing their own initiative in a distasteful way. It’s nice to think they are supporting Canada, and begs the question of where their ingredients were coming from beforehand.

    Interestingly, I think I read recently that it was Hellmann’s (but maybe Miracle Whip, no time to fact check, sorry) who would create “new recipes” for housewives in the 50’s conveniently centered primarily around heavy use of their new product.

    Is this just local ingredient initiative just a fancy new (but old?) marketing device? Perhaps, but maybe it will stir some change within mass produced supermarket brand names. I believe most consumers reach for what’s easy and known to them. If a small change is on the label of that product noting local products, maybe it will spur people to really consider where their food is coming from.

    It’s my hope anyhow. 😦

  3. I’m with Kelly here. People also seem to forget that companies are made of people. To anyone who’s ever worked in the “corporate world” it’s extremely hard to convince/push through new initiatives or marketing campaigns with social undertones, so the fact it’s even happening is a good sign. And with any corporation, even if they have buy-in there’s a lot of compromises to be had.

    Not saying there isn’t room for criticism, but corporations should be constantly encouraged to create these initiatives. It’s the only way for change on a massive scale. Grassroots can only go so far without a little more buy-in from industry. And so it doesn’t “correctly” or “directly” affect local food industry, but it points people to the right direction.

    Corporations work like this: if there is no money to be had, they don’t care about environmental, moral, or social consequences. But, if we “vote with our dollar” there’s a financial incentive for them to focus efforts towards market demands. Sucky reality, but reality nonetheless.

    I also go into detail about “Vote with your dollar” on another blog post about the mayo campaign: http://ugonnaeatthat.com/2009/05/26/eat-real-eat-local/#comment-2157

  4. Kelly – I’m with you on encouraging discussion. At the end of the day, regardless of whether Hellmann’s makes money from this campaign or not, their contribution to the awareness of the average consumer is priceless.

    Lea – I also agree with you. Local organizations don’t have the money or the reach of a large multionational. I will be interested to see if the petition to grocers or actions that have been pledged result in people “voting with their dollars”.

  5. Interesting critique, but too much emphasis is put on the fact that Hellman’s is sponsoring this PSA, and not enough looking at the actual message, and also understanding that this is not advertising for Hellman’s, but an awareness-raising exercise, which is obviously still making it’s way around 4 years later. It’s a great PSA, and should be spread around. Makes one think twice about shopping for the lowest priced apples and cucumbers at their local Walmart.

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