Finding an organic purpose with Gary Hirshberg
Stonyfield Organic started with seven cows. Today, it’s one of the nation’s leading yogurt brands. Co-founder Gary Hirshberg shares how a steadfast commitment to values and social activism helped the brand—and its cows and farmers—thrive.
Gary Hirshberg, co-founder and Chief Organic Optimist at Stonyfield Organic, started his business with seven cows and funding from a group of Catholic nuns.
Today, Stonyfield is one of the nation’s leading yogurt brands, with a commitment to healthier people, healthier business, and healthier planet. If you haven’t caught on from Gary’s title, organic is central to Stonyfield’s history, purpose, and market leadership. It’s not a buzzword—Stonyfield product is currently produced by thousands of organic cows, 200,000+ acres of organic fields, and hundreds of family farmers.
Gary joined Purpose 360 to share his company’s history of social activism and how Stonyfield stuck to its values, mission, and culture (get it?!) through two sales and a rapidly-shifting consumer marketplace. Our favorite insights include:
- Be a supply chain champion: Many purpose-at-the-center companies integrate purpose in every aspect of operations. A fraction of those integrate purpose into their entire supply chain (and, not all companies have the capacity or control to do so). Stonyfield’s success is attributable in large part to the company’s extensive investment in supporting an organic supply chain—key to that is equipping small family farms with the resources they need to thrive.
- Look for unexpected, but authentic issues: Stonyfield’s support of organic farming and small farmers will never change. But today, the company supports a somewhat unexpected—but logical—social issue: the use of harmful chemicals on community playing fields. The StonyFIELDS #PlayFree Initiative aims to help communities across the U.S. convert playing fields to organic fields.
- Let your product do the talking: Literally. Stonyfield had limited-to-no advertising budget early on. Instead, Stonyfield used its packaging to tell the company’s story. Lids—the most visible part of the package—educated consumers not just about the company, but about social issues the company supported, from climate change to solar energy.
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