Mission-driven products appeal to consumers

More food products have added a charitable element to differentiate.

More products that appeal to consumers’ philanthropic side have been appearing on retailers’ shelves lately. Companies like Project 7 make their missions plain on the side of their containers. Each can of Project 7 coffee sold provides assistance to a non-profit cause: offering meals for the hungry, shelter for orphans, medical treatment, help for war-torn regions, schooling, clean water, and tree plantings. 

The Costa Mesa, California-based company’s coffees, gums, mints, and other products are now sold at 7,000 coffee shops and stores including Target and Wal-Mart. Project 7 rotates its partnerships with non-profits to raise funds and monitors progress in its giving report.

Two Degrees also partners with non-profits to reach its goal of feeding the hungry. For each snack bar sold (at Whole Foods and other select retailers), the San Francisco-based company donates a meal to a needy child.  

Of course, the concept has been around for a while. Newman’s Own was an early pioneer of raising funds for charity through selling packaged food. The company, founded by actor Paul Newman in 1982, sells products such as salad dressing, popcorn, pizza, and pasta sauce. The company has raised more than $350 million to date by donating all after-tax profits and royalties from the sales of products to its charities.

Other consumer goods companies are also in the business of giving. Footwear manufacturer TOMS, which donates a pair of shoes to a child for every pair of shoes sold, has garnered a lot of celebrity support. TOMS also has an eyewear program that provides glasses, surgery, or vision care for every pair of glasses purchased. Sneaker company Skechers started a program called BOBS that donates a pair of children’s shoes for every BOBS pair purchased.

While some critics call these purchases less effective than a direct donation and more of an ego boost for guilty shoppers, others see the charity-linked products as a convenient way to incorporate giving into their shopping trips.

Interested in more charity-linked products? This story lists more businesses that follow the “buy one give one” model.

Linnea Kirgan

Linnea Kirgan is an industry editor for First Research/Hoover's, covering retail and consumer topics. Follow her on Twitter.

Read more articles by Linnea Kirgan.

Comments

  1. Rebecca Mallett Rebecca Mallett says:

    Great post, Linnea. I think these types of philanthropic business models are brilliant, from a business and charity perspective. It may not be as good as a direct donation, but if you’re going to buy pasta sauce or coffee anyway, why not buy the one that gives to charity? It’s not necessarily in competition with direct charitable giving, in my opinion. I agree that it is a convenient way to incorporate more giving in your routine. I see it as win-win!

  2. Catherine Colbert Catherine Colbert says:

    I agree! When consumers purchase products, it’s their vote of confidence in the quality of the item and in the company that makes and markets it. When there’s also a cause in the mix, such as with Seventh Generation’s long-standing focus, buying these products offers consumers a deeper connection with the company and its mission. Nice post, Linnea.

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