Marketing for a Greener World

Mondelēz International marketing exec Chris Montenegro McGrath delves into sustainable growth strategies

Chris Montenegro McGrath, VP of Global Public Affairs and Sustainability and Well-Being, Mondelēz International. Photo by Sheila Barabad.

Chris Montenegro McGrath is the vice president of global public affairs and sustainability and well-being for snack company Mondelēz International, which owns some of the world’s most recognizable brands like Oreo cookies and Cadbury chocolate. McGrath’s role is critical in creating marketing strategies that empower the consumer and the company to grow healthfully. She delves into sustainable growth strategies with HE and discusses marketing in broad, global terms.

Your title is a mouthful! Can you break down your role and responsibilities for us?

I grew up in the marketing function with Kraft and now Mondelēz, leading brand P&Ls and then new product innovation teams for many years. Today, I co-lead the corporate and government affairs function of Mondelēz. I am responsible for our entire external stakeholders agenda—from governments to NGOs to social investors. I also lead our sustainability and well-being strategy. I’m particularly passionate about how these two areas help drive our business growth. It’s about how we can make a positive impact to some significant issues that our business is facing.

Can you expand on how sustainability and the external stakeholder agenda work together to drive growth?

Sustainability has been a main focus for Mondelēz since 2005. We concentrate on what will drive the growth of our business and where we can make a positive impact in the world. For example, we created a program called Cocoa Life. As one of the biggest purveyors of cocoa, we want to make sure the supply chain is strong and sustainable.  This program consists of thousands of small-holder farmers. They are dealing with a variety of issues. We look at how we can bring innovative new solutions and communicate what we’re doing to have a more positive impact on a broader scale. We’re investing  $400 million into this program that works with the cocoa farmers on the ground to help improve both their productivity and empower the communities to be more resilient. That’s how we use our scale to help drive more overall impact, even beyond our own

“The world is so small and connected today. We’re very aware of our ability to grow as a business and have a positive impact on the environment and society.”

We believe in the power of big and small, too. On the large scale, we encourage all of our more than 100,000 employees to volunteer in some kind of community service. We also have the Joy Ambassadors program, where we send 10 employees from around the world and various functions to cocoa farms in Ghana for two weeks. They go out and live and work with some of these Ghanaian farmers and work in the cocoa communities. We tailor the program from what we hear the cocoa communities need.

What is the health and wellness factor of your role?

We’re on a mission to empower consumers to snack mindfully. We work with nutrition and behavioral experts to understand what mindful snacking is and how consumers can live it. We see it as a big opportunity because we see healthy snacking as one of the fastest growing parts of our business.

How does Mondelēz’s overall marketing strategy differ from region to region?

We have global power brands, so campaigns should feel similar all over the world. In a global campaign like Wonderfilled for Oreo, the messaging, look, and feel is aligned globally, but it’s then tailored to fit local customs and behaviors. It’s more than just translation; it’s “glocalization.” There are some changes that make sense to consumers, whether it’s different snacking behaviors or global purchasing patterns. Having a little bit more granularity in understanding customer insights and motivation can tailor the execution and strategies for new product innovation, too.

How does all of this drive growth for the company?

I sit on different leadership teams, which has been terrific in bringing in the lenses of sustainability, wellness, and mindful snacking to the conversation. Having a seat at the table is one great way to make sure our growth aligns with an integrated approach. We also established global nutrition targets that we set for ourselves as a company between now and 2020. In terms of revenue growth, we want to see healthier options as well as focusing more of our portfolio on product options with 200 calories or less.

Is marketing for the packaged foods industry changing? If so, how do you adapt?

With social media, we’re seeing more transparency in the market today. It’s very important to our consumers and stakeholders. Mondelēz International is not going to pretend to have all the answers to complex problems like climate change. We partner with experts to find answers. Sometimes things don’t always work the first time, but it’s about continuing to iterate and coming up with new solutions and being transparent
about that.

There’s also a strong focus on social media and digital platforms. We look at where our customer base is, and we make sure to target them in the most appropriate way. Last year, we hosted our first Google Hangout on mindful snacking with Mondelēz International executives and nutrition experts. We posted clips on YouTube and Facebook and tweeted about it. We hope to continue to expand this into a series of conversations between our brands and our consumers. The world is so small and so connected today. We’re very aware of our ability to grow as a business and to also have a positive impact on the environment and society. It really goes hand in hand.