"Growing Roots is USLP in action: coupling the USLP with the DRT to improve lives in low income neighbourhoods."

Alfie Vivian
Marketing VP

Growing Roots – Improving lives and driving sales in urban low income neighbourhoods across the U.S.

In a nutshell

Growing Roots, in partnerships with the local government and non-profit organizations that focus on common goals, is making a positive impact in urban low income neighbourhoods across the U.S. by improving access to fresh food and providing education on how to cook with it.

What’s the issue?

Low income communities in American cities are often “food swamps”, which means that while there are some grocery stores that carry fresh produce, there are far more fast food restaurants and bodegas that don’t offer fresh and nutritious options. This poor access to fresh food and lack of education on how to cook with it can contribute to worsening health conditions. For example, compared with the Upper East Side, East Harlem, a low-income neighbourhood a short drive away, has 3 times more cases of diabetes and obesity.

What’s the story?

In New York, Unilever is directly funding one of the 6 urban farms built in public housing developments across the city (Wagner Houses Farm). Each farm will produce an annual average of 1 ton of produce that will be provided free of cost to the public housing residents to inspire cooking at home. Throughout the year, we are teaching the local residents how to cook with these fresh ingredients by leading cooking classes that feature Unilever products and demonstrating our recipes at food festivals and other nutritional events.

Since piloting the project in New York City last year, we have expanded our work to make an impact in three other cities – Miami, LA, and Houston. In each of these cities, we have partnered with Whole Kids Foundation to build 5 school gardens in low-income neighbourhoods to bring under-served kids an edible garden space to learn about how fresh food grows and tastes. We have also partnered with the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture to train high school teachers on a curriculum to inspire their students to become “food citizens”, individuals who understand that their food choices have meaningful impact on themselves, the environment, and their community. Watch the video.


What are the outcomes and impact?

Growing Roots made a positive impact by raising awareness of and access to sustainable nutrition. In face-to-face interviews with over 100 residents at the Wagner Houses, they reported to cook more frequently at home and are more aware of the importance of eating fruits and vegetables every day.

Growing Roots also had an overwhelmingly positive impact on Unilever and the brands involved in the program.
• There was a significant improvement in brand awareness and usage for Hellmann’s, Knorr Sides, and Knorr Bouillon.
• Frequency of consuming spreads, mayonnaise, and bouillon all grew significantly.
• Almost 60% of the residents have seen our in-store displays.

What are the future plans?

Throughout the year, we will reach millions of consumers through event marketing and a radio campaign in all four cities to spread the word about sustainable nutrition. With the Perfect City program, we are leveraging the Growing Roots proposition as a sell-in tool for the Dedicated Retail Team to increase our footprint in independent supermarkets. We have designed and will execute a whole series of In-Store Visibility to communicate our key message to the low-income shoppers at the independent retailers. We have also unlocked unique partnerships with key regional retailers that will allow us to execute custom shopper marketing programs to engage shoppers throughout their consumer journey.

In the New York metro area, we’ve built a program at ShopRite that include a 6-month long custom pallet placement, a digital quiz that let’s shoppers enter a sweepstake to win free produce, monthly ads on grocery and produce pages, and cooking demonstrations with retail dietitians. In addition to reaching shoppers at pre-shop and in store, Wakefern has committed a $100K donation to support the Bay View Houses urban farm in Brooklyn. Our partnership with Wakefern is a perfect example of the work we’re doing to improving the access of fresh food for low-income communities and how we are extending our Growing Roots proposition to higher income shoppers in the traditional retail channel.

In Summary

“It’s probably one of the most exciting programs that we have in our hands now because it’s literally the USLP in action. We are coupling what we’re doing with the USLP with the Direct Retail Team to execute this on a store-by-store level, creating value for the communities where we will be activating the program and creating value for the brands in the Unilever business.” – Alfie Vivian

To learn more, please contact: Tracy Shepard-Rashkin, Tracy.Shepard-Rashkin@unilever.com

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