How sustainability is key to Nestlé’s growth
How does one of the most established food brands continue to innovate and grow? According to Nestlé Global CMO Aude Gandon, it’s all about focusing on sustainability, as she tells Andrew Rea, the YouTube creator behind the Binging with Babish food channel.
Andrew Rea: So, Aude, we have two things in common. First and foremost is our appreciation of food and the fact that we both have neck tattoos.
Aude Gandon: (laughs)
Andrew Rea: Hi, I'm Aude, the Global Chief Marketing Officer at Nestlé, and I'm delighted to be here today with Andrew Rea the YouTube creator from Binging with Babish.
Aude Gandon: Hey guys my name is Andrew Rea, I'm a YouTube creator, and today I'm very excited to be speaking with Aude Gandon.
Andrew Rea: I am really excited to be having this exchange with Andrew so we can really learn, you know, what is this formula to be meeting such a special bond he has with his audience so I can apply them to Nestlé and to our brands.
Aude Gandon: So Andrew how did you get introduced to Nestlé, and what is your favorite product?
Andrew Rea: Nestlé might be my earliest food memory. I got two words for you, Toll House.
Aude Gandon: (laughs)
Andrew Rea: (laughs) It was definitely the first recipe that my mom taught me was chocolate chip cookies, right off the back of the bag. That is one of my earliest and fondest food memories, so Nestlé holds a special place in my heart. Aude, as the CMO of Nestlé, I'm curious what is your biggest business challenge? And I know that's kind of a big, crazy question, but what's the first thing that comes to mind? (laughing)
Aude Gandon: It's, uh, it's making sure that we actually always have the right product, and that they are adapted to the local kind of need, and it's not just the local need in terms of taste, but it's also the local need, for example, in terms of micronutrients. Something that most people don't know is we adapt our recipes to the to the different countries depending on what a population lack in terms of nutrients.
Andrew Rea: As Nestlé products are consumed by millions of people a day, where do you see Nestlé's place in serving communities?
Aude Gandon: We work with 650,000 farmers for example, so we do have also a very special relationship with the people who actually make, you know, the materials and ingredients to actually make the food. When we look at serving communities, what we are really focusing on right now is what is coming up and what is the future, you know by 2050 there will be nine billion people on the planet and so making sure that we actually manage the food system properly so these nine billion people can have food which is nutritious and available is very important for us. You serve your community in a very different way. Can you tell me about how it started?
Andrew Rea: Well, it's kind of an odd answer to that question, which is that I was very depressed (laughs). But, that's, mental health is an issue that I try to push on my channel as often as I can because it's something that I've struggled with and I think it's something we can find answers in through nutrition and through healthy and positive practices. And my positive practice was finding a new creative outlet, making a show, setting up cameras in my kitchen, and putting my, my film degree to good use. And I was lucky enough to find an audience and it just sort of snowballed the viewership, and the subscribership, and eventually I was able to quit my day job, and now here I am speaking with the CMO of Nestlé (laughing) but it's been a wild five years.
Aude Gandon: So Andrew, with your global reach, what positive effects do you want to have on your community, and, you know, how do you want to communicate these goals to them?
Andrew Rea: My loftiest goal that this channel could have, uh, would be to show people that it's okay to make mistakes. I know that that is a really lofty goal but that is what is at the core of what I do is that I want to people to see mistakes as learning opportunities not as things to be ashamed of or things to push away but things to embrace and so I've tried to show, uh, how wonderful YouTube and my audience have made my life but also not been afraid to share struggles. I have to continue to remind myself to do that but on a smaller scale I want to try to encourage people who have never cooked before to try cooking for themselves. That's actually why I have this tattoo of pasta aglio e olio from, uh, the movie Chef because it is a recipe that contains seven ingredients, eight if you include boiling water, and, um, uh, I've been tagged in hundreds if not thousands of Instagram posts of people saying, "I just tried cooking for the first time, this is so good, I'm going to try making X, I'm going to try making a burger next." And that has been one of the most exciting aspects of making the show for me is that it's actually getting people in the kitchen, actually getting people cooking so that's that's been, that's been one of the things that's kept me going for the past five years. In the discussions around climate change, I've heard a great deal about "green washing." Can you explain what green washing is, and how Nestlé is avoiding it?
Aude Gandon: (laughs) Yeah, green washing I think is a problem for, in our business. It is becoming a marketing tool. You have a lot of claims, very often they're not really backed up by anything, and they can be pretty misleading. Nestlé is a company which is very show then tell, so we always very discreet. There's a lot of work happening, and we only happy to go out and to start to talk about this when we know that we've done our work, that we have all, all the stories, all the numbers, and so on. We always try to use the back of the pack to try to give a bit more information to educate, so consumers can start to also look at the claims and really understand, you know, "Oh, what exactly does it mean?" Like, "Is it a marketing claim or is it something, or is it actually something which is very real?" Sometimes we are waiting too much to reach perfection to be able to go out and tell the story, and I think on this subject, we all learning together, because it's a journey, because a transformation is going to take time, and I actually think listening to you, you know, people are eager to be part of this journey and to learn and to discover the same time as we do.
Andrew Rea: It's one thing to market sustainability; it's another thing to truly embody it so, hats off. So in those communities, something that can be difficult to circumvent are traditions and memories, and these can actually be obstacles in the future of nutrition. How as a company do you navigate that as you try to shift the world to more sustainable ideas and practices?
Aude Gandon: There's a lot of things we do which are really kind of helping and transforming to more kind of sustainable practices that actually consumers don't even see. Now 73% of our material, of the material we source to actually produce the food is sustainably sourced. And we've been really investing in innovation on plant-based product, between brands like Sweet Earth and Garden Gourmet and so, you know, it really helps people to start to discover what is kind of plant-based food. Obviously, consumers are very happy as well to continue to eat meat and fish, but they want to start to eat a bit of less of it, but keep the conception of it. You know, you can absolutely now have great plant-based products which don't ask you to make a lot of shift from your eating habits.
Andrew Rea: There was one thing about managing your consumers’ nutrition, if there was one fact that you could convey to them, what would that be about managing ones own nutrition?
Aude Gandon: I think, you know, there's not really bad food, there's bad diets. And I think sometimes, you know, people struggle because they keep hearing that they need to cut so many things to be healthy. I think it's all a question of balance, and it's all a question of understanding what the different type of food are going to provide you. It's really something that I would love, to be able to make sure that this message come across more and more and we educate on. At Nestlé, we have to educate on a lot of very kind of different, complex kind of subject on nutrition. And you very often also have to kind of explain and break down complexity of recipes, and also like the ingredients and in which order or how to kind of look after the ingredients and so on, to simplify for your audience. So what is your secret to make it as simple and easy to understand for everybody?
Andrew Rea: Well, uh, one step at a time. My show, you know, just shows my torso really, it keeps the focus on the food and the joke that is not a joke, that is actually very much a fact, that is if you turn the camera 30 degrees left or the right, you'll see the cacophony of things, the absolute mess that is my kitchen. And I try to present things in as clean and as simple and unambiguous a way as I possibly can. But the reality is, you know, things are a mess and the kitchen is a mess. There's no perfectly clean kitchen and I try to show that as well. I have a new show called Botched by Babish, where the cameras are just rolling on me cooking, and you see the madness that actually occurs in the kitchen so it's half trying to present things as cleanly and as simply as possible, while also not trying to hide the madness.
Aude Gandon: How can Nestlé better utilize YouTube to tell our story on how we're taking action on health, nutrition, and sustainability?
Andrew Rea: Well, one mistake that I think a lot of brands make is they make a video about their sustainability initiatives, it gets a thousands views, end of story. I think that maybe your most powerful tool that you could utilize is YouTube creators. We love working with corporate sponsors not only because, you know, it's an opportunity to make robust customized ads and, as somebody who was formerly in advertising that's my bread and butter. Also because it presents an opportunity for you guys to share your messaging more than just pushing new products, instead sharing your ideas and sharing your initiatives using YouTube creators that have a captive audience. They're going to take them at their word and then you can use that advertising to point to your videos further explaining these new initiatives. I think working with YouTube creators would be a very powerful tool for you guys.
Aude Gandon: I absolutely agree with you. I think it's something that we need to do a lot more, and in listening to you and discussing with you the power of YouTube creators, I think is something that is we have not tapped into and we need to.
Andrew Rea: The difference between YouTube creators and traditional public figures or companies is that I think illustrated is when I walk down the street. If a traditional television actor walks down the street, nobody's gonna really go up and talk to them or bother them. If I walk down the street, people are gonna come up and shake my hand and say, "Hey, love your show." Because they feel a personal connection with me, because everything that my channel is is just me, it's just me putting myself out there in my basement, you know, just doing my thing. So they feel a personal connection that we've engendered over the years, because they've had sort of a glimpse into my life, and that's the story with so many YouTube creators, which is why there's this trust in our conversations together. So, I do think, yeah, that YouTubers and smaller creators would be a very robust tool in Nestlé's advertising belt, tool belt.
Aude Gandon: Yeah. Thank you. Completely agree, and I think it's also right for Nestlé, you know, our brand. I usually kind of, people have kind of grown up with our brands, so there's a relationship there, there's a history, and I don't think we nurture enough, that kind of personal relationship, and this is what you have as a YouTube creator: You have this relationship, because you are who you are and that's what, that's why people kind of follow you and subscribe to your channel.
Andrew Rea: So that was a very enlightening conversation. I learned a lot about Nestlé. The most important thing that I think I learned is that they care about food (laughs). I knew that they cared about food, because they make food and they sell food but that they actually care about food and nutrition, and about the effect that food has on people and communities. I think that that's a very powerful message, and I hope that they are able to continue to share it to a larger and larger audience.
Aude Gandon: Wow. I will remember a few things. The first one is, you know, be genuine. Stick to your guns, and stay who you are, you know, don't try to change, don't try to kind of, you know, don't follow some of the pressure. Tell your story, as well, in a very kind of simple manner. I think the simplicity, you know, is coming so clearly in what Andrew was telling me, the understanding of your community and building this relationship and this exchange. And definitely the power of the YouTube creator that I'm really, really looking forward to continue to be discovering and developing for our brand and our businesses.