Ever since Dirk Van de Put took over as CEO in November 2017, Mondelez has been aggressivley innovating its portfolio of iconic brands such as Oreo and Ritz while bulking up its snacking portfolio through deals including its purchase of premium cookie maker Tate’s Bake Shop, a majority stake in Perfect Snacks and most recently, its acquisition of clean-label brand Hu.
But the company’s work has extended beyond these brands. In fall 2018, Mondelez started SnackVentures, its innovation and venture hub, which has invested in Israeli-based food-tech incubator The Kitchen; Uplift Food, a startup developing prebiotic foods; and Hu before it was acquired last month. And last week, SnackFutures launched CoLab, a new startup engagement program for early-stage well-being snack brands.
Together, these projects and Sustainable Futures show Mondelez is aware that its future extends beyond its own walls. “Sustainable Futures is our first foray into impact investing and gives us the opportunity to work with others in supporting environmental and social projects that can help drive meaningful, long-term change,” Van de Put said in a statement.
While the investments are unlikely to attract the same attention as a startup like Hu, the platform is central to the company’s efforts to help the environment and local communities. It’s also emblematic of broader changes taking place throughout the food space as companies try to address environment, social and governance issues that increasingly are important to consumers.
According to a 2018 study from Nielsen, almost half of U.S. consumers said they were likely to change what they buy to align with environmental standards. Nestlé announced plans in December to invest 3.2 billion Swiss francs ($3.6 billion) over the next five years as part of its long-term goal to cut in half its emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050. And Coca-Cola is introducing new bottles made from 100% recycled plastic material across its portfolio, a major step in helping the beverage maker achieve its sustainability goals.
A survey conducted by Crestline Custom Promotional Products in 2019 showed more than 68% of American consumers want to support companies that share their social, political and environmental values. Social issues that companies would have avoided in the past are suddenly opportunities for them to take a stand. CPGs of all sizes professed their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement last summer and many suspended political donations in the wake of the violent protests at the U.S. Capitol in January.
For Mondelez, Sustainable Futures is an opportunity to not only take a stand but also enjoy the related benefits, even though they may not come with attention-grabbing headlines. The first ventures that support developing a sustainable, women-owned social enterprise to recycle plastic bottles and agro-entrepreneurs in climate-smart food production are just two examples of the kinds of initatives Mondelez is likely to pursue with Sustainable Futures.