As a B Corp, KeHE weighs brands’ philanthropic ‘fit’ when evaluating partnerships, predicting success

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Expo west KeHE b corporation

In recent years the idea of doing well by doing good has grown beyond a few niche brands with pet projects to become a must-have for startups and established companies alike as consumers increasingly shop based on their values.

“About 60% of consumers now are looking for the source, the derivation of [products] and beyond that they look for what kind of philanthropic angles there are to a product and they are looking for the authenticity of it,”​ and then voting with their dollars based on what they find, Ari Goldsmith, executive director of marketing for KeHE Distributors, told FoodNavigator-USA.

She explained at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim that consumer preference for companies that do good started with the millennial generation but “now has transcended beyond just millennials in terms of significance and importance.”

At Expo WEst, the full potential of this trend’s generosity and marketing power was on display when KeHE Cares, the charitable arm of the natural and organic distributor KeHE, and brands such as This Saves Lives, Annie’s Homegrown, Peeled Snacks and others provided the means to pack 100,000 meals of food to be distributed to those in need by the Children’s Hunger Fund. Attendees of the show worked alongside employees from KeHE and its partners to fill the boxes, which were donated to the LA County.

“When we came to Expo West, we have been coming for years, and we though how can we really match inside [the expo halls] with the opulence and abundance of food, with our core purpose and our authentic values that we have at KeHE, which is to serve to make lives better,”​ Goldsmith said. “And so we developed this idea in partnership with the Children’s Hunger Fund to create meal kits for the surrounding area children.”

She explained that in LA County along there are 1.9 million people who live below the poverty line and 40% of those are children.

“We had great supplier partners that have joined ranks with us, including [This Saves Lives] as well as several other supplier partners in contributing actual supplies to the boxes. And then anything we weren’t able to get through our supplier partners, we purchased through the Children’s Hunger Fund,”​ Goldsmith explained.

Doing good is good for business

Doing good does more for business than give employees a warm fuzzy feeling, it also generates opportunities for expanded distribution and consumer loyalty – both of which can translate to higher sales and higher profits, Goldsmith explained.

For example, through KeHE’s CAREtrade initiative, the distributor helps a subset of like-minded product manufacturers get on more store shelves and boost consumer awareness.  

“We not only hold ourselves to a high standard by being a B Corp and donating 10% of our profits, but we also have CAREtrade,”​ which every year works with five manufacturers that have a strong sense of purpose and giving, Goldsmith said.

KeHE gives the highly vetted companies additional support telling their stories at retailers, providing them with signage, making sure they are highlighted at trade shows and really allowing them to shine, she said.

This year’s partners include Bhakti, World Centric, The Soulfull Project, NuttZo and This Saves Lives – each of which were selected through a rigorous application process in which they were selected based on their products, how it will develop at the store level and their philanthropic efforts, Goldsmith said.

“When we look at conscious consumerism, we really have to look at how consumers are voting and it is with their dollars,”​ she noted, adding, “if they are willing to get behind your product and what you stand for, that often has a lot to do with where your philanthropic dollars are and how charitably minded you. And it creates a sense of loyalty and belonging and connectedness that otherwise might not be there in a specific brand.”

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