How Campbell Soup Company Turned Imperfect Peaches into a New Nonprofit Revenue StreamBy Tara Nurin |
Campbell Soup Company and the Food Bank of South Jersey launched Just Peachy salsa made with Jersey-grown peaches. The salsa is expected to raise more than $100,000 for the Food Bank of South Jersey’s 9 hunger relief programs. (Photo via Business Wire)
In a first-of-its-kind partnership that might inspire a cynic to believe in win-win-win situations, the Food Bank of South Jersey (FBSJ) has begun raising money by selling jars of Just Peachy, an all-natural salsa made from slightly imperfect peaches destined for the landfill and manufactured for free by Campbell Soup Company.
Just two weeks after launching the product online, at the Collingswood Farmers’ Market and at the Tortilla Press restaurant in Collingswood, the food bank has already sold between 7,200 and 8,400 jars of its anticipated 52,000 jar run.
“This helps so many people and so many aspects of our community,” says food bank CEO Val Traore. “It shows how effective it is when public and private organizations partner together on how to solve social problems.”
The initiative evolved after food bank staffers met with representatives from Gloucester County’s Eastern ProPak Farmers’ Cooperative and learned that its five member peach farmers pay more than $80,000 per year to dispose of 850,000 pounds of peaches too small or blemished to sell at market.
Struck by all that waste, FBSJ marketing communications and special events director Lydia Cipriani conceived of the idea to convert the peaches into something practical. During an annual meeting with longtime partner and South Jersey neighbor Campbell’s, Traore mentioned they were searching for ways to prepare and package the peaches in order to shelf and sell them.
Amanda Bauman, who heads the charitable arm of the Fortune 500 food company, spotted a unique opportunity and quickly approached the manager of the Campbell’s pilot plant and senior executives with a proposal to salsify those peaches.
“Everyone has been really excited,” Bauman says. “When I asked senior management about it, they had the attitude of ‘Of course we’re doing it.’”
Volunteers clean and label jars of salsa at Campbell’s Soup. (Photo by Emma Lee via NewsWorks)
Matching it with mission
Campbell’s employees from departments as diverse as packaging and governmental affairs joined together in their spare hours to create a recipe (crushed tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, cilantro, garlic and peaches), procure donations from suppliers, schedule six days’ worth of manufacturing time in the pilot plant between July and September, and make salsa. Because the pilot plant, as an internal research and development facility, doesn’t contain a labeler, 150 Campbell’s volunteers are labeling every jar by hand. The total direct monetary cost to Campbell’s, including donations but not including some of the processing and distribution, which the food bank is handling, is estimated at $50,000.
Bauman calls Just Peachy an economical endeavor that’s “easy to say yes to” because it fits perfectly into the Campbell Soup Foundation’s mission, which is based around the theme of “Nourishing.”
“‘Nourishing’ has four platforms,” says Bauman, “and this project fits all four. We’re helping nourish our planet by reducing landfill; we’re nourishing our consumers by creating social impact; this nourishes our employees by giving them an opportunity to leverage their passions and skills; and we’re nourishing our neighbors by helping to support the food bank in a unique way. It’s rare to find a program that does that this.”
Traore also uses numbers to illustrate the project’s efficacy. She says it meets a “triple bottom line.”
“It’s helping struggling South Jersey farmers, it’s reducing landfill, and it’s a sustainable source of funding for nonprofits,” she says, before adding that the farmers are not charging for their peaches.
It’s hard to predict just how much money Just Peachy will generate, as the cost to prep the jars for mail ordering is still being worked out. But food bank employees are supremely grateful for any extra revenue after a year that had them distributing 2 million pounds more food than last year to 175,000 clients in a state where 13% of the population doesn’t always know when or how the next meal will come.
But Traore already knows from where her next projects are coming. She hopes to develop similar nonprofit/private partnerships to package otherwise junked strawberries, blueberries and nectarines into jellies, chutneys and spreads, and she anticipates also working to dehydrate cruciferous vegetables like lettuce, spinach and kale to produce chips.
After Just Peachy’s inaugural manufacturing and sales cycle concludes, Campbell’s will measure its success to determine whether this is the type of project to which they’d like to devote more resources. Despite its generating much enthusiasm in the Camden headquarters, the project wasn’t without its unforeseen challenges.
Workers had to figure out how to process peaches using equipment that was unequipped to do so and, having never worked with an outside entity on this scale, they had to learn how to address regulatory, legal, and liability questions as simultaneously simple and complex as “Whose product is it?”
But Bauman says the project provided the company with an exemplary learning experience. Feeding America, a hunger-relief charity that counts 200 food banks — including South Jersey’s — among its members, has sought out Campbell’s to glean insight that can help the nonprofit identify how to convert a significant quantity of dried black beans into a shelf-stable comestible.
“They want to look at all the avenues for what to do with food waste in the U.S. They caught wind of this project and wanted to learn how we put it together,” says Bauman. “So others are seeing this is a very valuable endeavor.”
Bauman says the partnership has also taught her a valuable lesson that she reflects on each time she shops for produce at the grocery store.
“We all have a tendency to pick the most perfect peach,” she says. “Now knowing that there’s so much that’s wasted, I’m trying to look for the ones others might pass by. It’s a perfectly good piece of fruit.”blog comments powered by Disqus