Our latest Marketing in the time of COVID-19 series is an interview with Bryan Martins, Category and Marketing Director of Wessanen UK. Wessanen UK create healthier, sustainable products, empowering people to make better choices both for themselves and for our planet. They are a B Corp® Certified business and very proud of their four pioneering brands in the UK and their positions within expanding market segments:
Clipper Teas is the world’s largest Fairtrade tea brand, producing an extensive variety of organic and Fairtrade teas and coffees, from everyday blends to green tea and infusions
Kallo makes market-leading, organic rice cakes, as well as other savoury snacks, stocks, gravies and cereals
Whole Earth is the UK’s number one peanut butter brand and producer of organic spreads, cereals and drinks
Mrs Crimble’s is a leader in free-from innovation, offering a host of joyfully, wholesome and deliciously gluten-free macaroons, cakes, biscuits and nibbles for all to enjoy.
Can you tell me a bit about yourselves, your business and what you do day to day?
I am a man of many hats. I could go from a morning of brand marketing, to product innovation meetings, to understanding how our categories are performing and the key trends shaping the future opportunities. No two days are the same and that’s what I love about my job. Certified by B Corp, Wessanen UK owns purpose-driven food brands, Kallo, Mrs Crimble’s, Clipper Teas and Whole Earth, so I oversee category management and marketing decision-making across all brands.
Has COVID-19 changed how you are doing your business?
Perhaps the FMCG sector is one of the most impacted sectors, as demand for food has increased. The main change for me is whilst the growth in e-commerce has always been strong, we have seen game changing growth rates. Some people have either chosen to or have needed to avoid supermarkets, and there has been a sharp increase in online food shopping. This is across all demographics, even the over 65s whose online usage grew from 3% to over 24% during lockdown. To meet this demand, we invested significantly in boosting our online presence through methods like sponsored searches.
The B Corp movement has been growing in strength over the last few years and even through this pandemic we have heard of large companies such as WeTransfer achieving the accreditation, can you tell us a bit about why you think it’s so important?
I think B Corp is so important as it allows brands to show consumers the importance of being ethically minded and supporting businesses that act as a driving force for good. For Wessanen UK, connecting to nature and balancing profit with purpose is lived and breathed through our portfolio of brands – it’s in the DNA of what we do and gives consumers the choice to shop for more sustainable choices.
What are your thoughts on the importance of ethics within marketing, especially as causes are becoming seen as more important, and can make or break campaigns and businesses?
I think ethics are one of the most crucial assets in marketing, particularly in the food industry where companies have a responsibility to ensure fair sourcing, sustainable packaging and good quality ingredients. Ethics can also be reliant on the customer. To guide them, brands have an important role to consistently educate and raise awareness of important causes. Take for example Wessanen UK and its commitment to source organic and natural ingredients.
We work closely with the Soil Association to demonstrate why organic is good for you and good for the planet, with involvement in campaigns like Organic September.
Do you think any changes you have made in both your business and marketing will continue after COVID-19?
We will continue to invest in online, e-commerce and digital. This is a move we were making gradually anyway, but it’s safe to say the pace has increased three-fold! I don’t want to give too much away, but we are looking at the best places to be seen by our customers – which will include a shift toward visual and digital platforms, with less focus on outdoor advertising.
This pandemic has changed the way the world does business and specifically how marketing is being done, what do you think is the biggest change and will be the biggest legacy of the pandemic?
The biggest legacy and learning curve for marketers will be the need for agility when things change – adapt or die as they say.
For consumers, new behaviours have been created and customers won or lost. What was known four months ago isn`t the same today, so understanding where you are and what new behaviours your consumers are adopting is key.
This time has resulted in us all connecting with nature more whether that is through gardening, noticing the blue skies or the birds singing. I think the importance of nature and health and how we can all play a role in shaping a better world will continue. Brands need to tap into this and share authentic stories to help consumers make these choices.
Could you tell us something we don’t know about your company and marketing?
You may not know that Wessanen UK is Europe’s first multinational B Corp food business. The underlying current of the brand is to be a force for good and drive ethical and sustainable change, which we do so through our purpose-driven brands.
Do you have a favourite ethical marketing campaign that you would recommend people look at?
Not a specific campaign as such, but I do have my favourite brands that have an engaging and likeable tone of voice. Ben & Jerry’s always get its content spot on. It’s light-hearted, on brand and funny, yet the brand tackle some really hard-hitting and important topics. Also, Tony’s Chocolonely is a fantastic product that highlights slavery which is incredibly important and relevant to the brand. Purpose-led, authentic and genuine branding will always win for me.
Who, both in business and out of business has influenced you?
There isn’t one set person who has influenced me, but instead traits that inspire me. There are a number of ground breaking entrepreneurs who value people and the collective, who strive to challenge the status quo and the norm to make the world a better place. Ethical leaders, such as Craig Sams, founder of Whole Earth, for example.
I like to think this is reflected in Wessanen’s brand DNA. We are very much a portfolio of challenger brands that are spearheading some key movements in industry. Our pioneering Fairtrade tea brand Clipper Teas was the first of its kind to move to plant-based, biodegradable tea bags. Just recently, PG Tips – owned by global giant Unilever – followed in our footsteps, which is pretty amazing.
Lastly, as a passionate ethical marketer, what advice do you have for other businesses looking to expand their marketing and sustainability?
Go deeper than just what you do – explore why you do it and how can you can be a force for good. Brands with purpose come from an authentic place, so explore where you are on that scale, where you want to go and how can you make it happen. Marketing and sustainability is a company strategy, not just promotion, so be sure to engage with finance, sales and operations for all key decision-making.
We really look forward to what comes next! Thanks very much to Bryan Martins for giving us an insight into being a BCorp and how Wessanen UK has been affected by the current pandemic, and telling us a bit more about his thoughts on ethical marketing. To find out more about Wrssanen then please visit their website here.