Morals with your Marmite? Unilever banks on ‘purpose-led brands’

World

Morals with your Marmite? Unilever banks on ‘purpose-led brands’

A change in leadership at the consumer goods giant has fuelled its drive to lure picky Gen Z consumers

Hannah Uttley

One Friday last month, climate activists walked out of workplaces and schools around the world demanding immediate action from global leaders to address what they describe as a climate “emergency”.

Among those taking to the streets were employees from Ben & Jerry’s, a brand best known for making tubs of ice cream in flavours including Phish Food and Chunky Monkey. Ben & Jerry’s has campaigned on causes ranging from LGBTQ+ rights to supporting the resettlement of refugees since it was set up by founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in 1978. And now its owner, Unilever, one of the largest consumer goods companies in the world, wants its entire stable of brands from Marmite to Magnum to follow suit.

Setting out his stall as Unilever’s new chief executive in June, Alan Jope pledged to sell off brands that “are not able to stand for something more important than just making your hair shiny, your skin soft, your clothes whiter or your food tastier”. These so-called purpose-led brands are what Jope hopes will set Unilever apart from its rivals and entice fickle younger customers who are increasingly conscious about what they buy and where it comes from. Almost two-thirds of “Generation Z” consumers, typically those shoppers born between 1995 and 2010, research the origins of a product before deciding whether to buy it or not, according to data experts Kantar...

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