Imagine opening your kitchen cabinets and finding nothing. No granola bars, no rice, not even a jar of peanut butter past its expiration date.
“We were visiting families, learning about the types of foods that they eat, and we just unexpectedly met a family that had no food,” recalls Chip Heim, Co-Founder and Head of Marketing for The Soulfull Project. “When we left that house, we made a promise to ourselves that we were going to actually fix that, and make a difference.”
At the time, Heim was serving as the Global Design Lead for Breakthrough Innovation at Campbell’s. But other priorities intervened, and nothing happened.
“We got back to our day jobs, went home, and a year later it turned out that we really hadn’t followed up on that promise,” Heim recalls. But Heim and his team got another reminder when a family outside the Campbell’s warehouse in Camden, N.J. came to the door looking for food. “At that point, we actually sat down and worked out the details. We worked on it at night and over the weekends. Then we built the business model.
“The essence of the idea was giving back. Heim’s team wanted to find a way to provide meals to families in need, while giving consumers an opportunity to eat well and feel good about purchases. For every serving of hot cereal purchased, another serving would be donated to a food bank in that region.
Heim and his team pitched this to top executives at the company, including President and CEO Denise Morrison and Mark R. Alexander, President of Simple Meals and Beverages for the Americas. Direct-to-consumer products are rare at Campbell’s. Heim says the seed money that executives allotted to the project gave him the opportunity to test out some of the technical and operational challenges, like taking credit card information and fulfilling small orders quickly.
The team started a test at 14 Wegmans Food Markets and three food banks around Camden, N.J., selling and donating hot cereals with healthy ingredients like quinoa, chia, flax, and oats. Within a few months, Wegmans expanded the project to 64 stores, and Soulfull made donations to 57 area food banks. The cereals can also be purchased online, on the Soulfull website, and now on Amazon. They’ve spurred around 200,000 servings of cereal to be donated to food banks. The team’s next goal? One million servings.
The Soulfull Project is now its own company within Campbell’s, one of two B Corps inside the organization. (B Corps are for-profit companies certified to meet standards related to social and environmental performance and transparency.) Heim says this presents its own benefits and challenges.
“The thing with big companies, especially Campbell’s size, is they’re all about efficiency and trying to make sure that you optimize as much as you possibly can,” says Heim. “Startups really aren’t. They’re more [about] the experimentation—a little bit of money, a little bit of time, make decisions fast, try it and if it doesn’t work then try something else… The cool thing that has come out of the relationship is that the Campbell’s teams are seeing new ways to do things. We experiment with something and if it seems to work, then Campbell’s can implement some of these things.”
In the future, Heim says he sees Soulfull going beyond breakfast to other foods.
“It’s the idea of being able to give back with every purchase, or in your daily activity [when] you buy things,” he says. “If you can give back every time, we think that’s just an amazing experience. It’s something that’s easy to do, and you can have a huge impact.”
Along with helping to develop ideas and spin-out companies like The Soulful Project, the disruptive innovation team at Campbell’s utilizes a variety of other tactics to foster innovation throughout the company. Megan Bozzelli walked us through some of the ways her team works to achieve the company’s innovation goals. Read more »