Robert Sawatzky
Jul 1, 2020

Dole seeks partners to help deliver new brand promises on health, sustainability

In an interview with Campaign, global CMO Rupen Desai unveils major brand pledges and reveals it will be seeking new agency partners in APAC and Europe to help spread the message.

Dole seeks partners to help deliver new brand promises on health, sustainability

Dole Packaged Foods is making some big promises. In a newly launched video (see below) and publicity campaign that is part of its ‘Sunshine For All’ initiative, the food company is making some major pledges to improve global health and sustainability over the next five to ten years.  

By 2025 the FMCG giant is aiming to have zero processed sugars in its products, zero fossil-based plastics in its packaging—including its sizeable fruit cup business—and is working towards zero fruit loss by reusing misshapen fruits and other plant parts. It’s also aiming for carbon neutrality in Dole’s own operations by 2030.

“The best thing brands can do is be purposeful in acts rather than words and ads,” says Dole Packaged Foods global CMO Rupen Desai in an interview with Campaign. “Our purpose in a way has always been to bring great nutrition to as many people around the world as we can. We've now notched it up even moreso, saying good nutrition should be like sunshine—it should be accessible and available for everyone.”

“As a company that believes that sunshine should be for all, we have to go back to our roots. We've always believed that there's a huge interdependence between people, planet and prosperity, and the three of them have to try together rather than the cost of each other,” he added.

While Desai will argue that purpose has been prominent in Dole’s 170-year history, so too have reports of worker mistreatment and environmental harm at the tropical fruit giant’s plantations around the world, which Dole has dutifully refuted

While not referenced in the above ad, Dole is making a sixth promise, one with a specific target for shareholders to increase the value of its business by 50%, and a vague one for sharing some of this value “across the value chain — from farmers, communities, workforce and suppliers to customers.” In its press release, Dole also says it “seeks to advance human rights within the direct operations and supply chains by building a culture of transparency and accountability.”

'Progress over perfection'

Since most of these promises lack specifics, Desai plainly admits, as in the brand film below, that Dole may not have all the answers but is committed to finding them. “We've chosen to prioritise progress over perfection,” he says.

It’s a position that the public is well familiar with under COVID-19, which Desai credits for spurring the 'Sunshine for All' movement into existence earlier than planned, alongside an initiative (together with 47 organisations and growing) to deliver food to frontline workers and those in need.

Desai says this pandemic is a time where most companies might start reprioritising their impact for the planet over profit. Yet recently the world has seen other agendas come to the forefront around racial equality and health and wellness while corporate and public advocacy around sustainability has waned of late.

“We do realise that there is a potential of this being pushed to a lower priority. I think responsible business needs to do exactly the opposite so we’re fighting not the last war but a future one,” Desai says. “To ignore the fact that our children need or deserve a better world would be the most myopic thing to do.”

Creative call-out

Here, Desai references Dole’s brand film (below) titled 'Dear Leaders of the World'. In the video, a young girl reminiscent of Greta Thunberg challenges world powers to do better for the planet.

“We weren't aiming for Greta, though there is a bit of her because she's a face of every child,” Desai explains. “For me it conjures up my eight year old daughter who probably gets more excited when she hears what I'm going to do about plastic than who I met in Cannes.”

The film was created by boutique creative agency Lanfranco & Cordova out of New York City, with assistance from LA-based IPG agency Campbell Ewald along with Golin for PR and Spark Foundry for media. But it’s only the start.

As Dole moves forward with new partnerships to carry out its six brand promises, it will be tapping startups and innovators with help from its US$2 million Sunshine For All Investment Fund. While there will not be campaigns around every initiative, Desai says there will be a need for more marketing and communications—not merely for publicity, but also to educate the public around issues like food waste and sugar intake.

“We are going to be looking for global relationships across creative, PR, and media as we move forward, particularly in Asia-Pacific and Europe,” Desai told Campaign.

Rupen Desai, Global CMO, Dole Packaged Foods

As he works with agencies, Desai, who spent more than two decades in leadership roles in PR and adland as APAC president of Lowe & Partners then AMEA vice-chairman of Edelman, says he has to stop himself from projecting his own agency experience onto others. But there’s no question he now enjoys being on the client end of the table.

“The ability to shape a brand, what it stands for, what it believes in, how purposeful it is, what its responsibility is beyond sales to the people and the planet—in all of that I find a lot more joy," he says. "It's been fun and liberating, I shall not lie.”

Campaign Asia

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