What does yogurt have to do with teachers? At first blush, not much. But as companies embrace the notion that doing good is good business, brands like Chobani are trying to tie issues they believe in to causes their consumers believe in.
For Chobani, the ideas of a strong community, improving childhood nutrition and wellness, and charity are all intertwined. So the yogurt brand, in honor of National Teacher Appreciation Month, is recognizing and rewarding teachers that embody the brand’s mission that wellness should be universal.
“Chobani is all about giving back to our communities,” said Eddie Revis, vp of brand, marketing and media. “And it’s something we think about every day. As a brand, when we’re thinking about cultural moments or relevant events or big things coming up in the world, we always look at through the lens of saying … ‘How can Chobani step in and help a little bit in what we do?'”
From May 7 until May 19, Chobani is asking people to nominate their favorite K-8th grade teacher at a special website, where there are three prizes worth up to $5,000 each for three deserving teachers.
The company is looking for nominees who have created a positive impact in their students’ lives through art, food, or wellness education, and is pushing the idea across all Chobani channels as well as with key partners. The company has partnered with Blick Art Materials, Nutritower and US Sports on the prizes and with ClassTag to amplify the idea to reach almost 400,000 teachers and parents in their network.
To make this idea come to life, the company’s Demand Team, made up of in-house marketers and strategists, sits side by side with in-house producers and creatives to take an initial idea all the way through to execution. The marketing team works closely with its sales team, category teams, insight teams, product teams and creative teams in one model that can impact the business, the brand, the community and consumer in the most relevant ways. The organization is structured so that all these teams work together on the same missions and don’t silo them into separate functions. The Demand Team is like a little council within the organization to come up with and push ideas that align the business imperative with the bigger idea.
Revis said that it took about eight weeks to go from ideation to implementation.
“We’re able to move quickly once we have the idea solidified,” he said “Because we have creative functions in-house working alongside the sales teams and the comms teams and the insight teams and the category teams and the shopper teams, we’re able to pivot and make decisions very quickly.”
In another example of the Demand Team’s actions, last week it stepped in to pay off $47,650 of the $77,000 unpaid school lunch debt for low-income students attending the Warwick Public Schools district in Rhode Island. This was the district that decided it was better to shame poor students by giving them sun butter and jelly sandwiches instead of a hot lunch.
This isn’t the first time the yogurt brand aligned itself with teachers. Last year, for example, the company created the Chobani Scholars program, a multiyear scholarship aimed to support students who have a family connection to dairy farming and plan to pursue their own career in the dairy farming industry and committed $320,000 in total to two universities to fund these applications—the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Additionally, the Chobani Foundation teamed up with Ellen DeGeneres last year to donate $100,000 to a school in North Carolina.
Throughout the year—in non-Teacher Appreciation months—the company makes healthy food more accessible, especially to youth and underserved communities. It partnered with Wholesome Wave to provide free fresh fruit, vegetables and yogurt to families in two towns that have Chobani plants: Chenango County, NY, and Twin Falls, Idaho.
“We don’t look at it as we’re a yogurt company,” Revis said, “but a brand that stands for giving back and supporting communities and it just so happens that National Teacher Appreciation Month is coming up, and that’s a community we want to celebrate.”