Felix climate pop-up showed Swedish shoppers the true cost of their groceries
Prime Weber Shandwick won ‘Retail/In-Store Experiential Brand Activation of the Year’ at The Drum Awards for Experience with its work for Felix (part of Orkla Foods Sweden). This innovative pop-up shop put the supermarket’s environmental credentials front and center for customers. Here, the team behind this winning entry explains how it was brought to life.
Swedish food brand Felix wanted to communicate its sustainability credentials and commitment to fighting climate change by demonstrating how easy it is to make climate-friendly shopping choices when grocery products are clearly labelled with their respective carbon footprints.
In the middle of Stockholm’s retail district, we built a pop-up Felix supermarket – The Climate Store (Klimatbutiken) – the world’s first grocery shop where the listed ‘price’ of every item was its carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Customers could only pay with a CO2e currency we printed for the occasion, with every shopper given a ‘budget’ of 18.9 kg CO2e to spend – the maximum personal weekly allowance if we are to meet the goals of the 2030 Paris Agreement.
Customers loved the clear and practical messaging and a final stock count saw items like Felix’s traditional meatballs left on the shelves whilst the new plant-based alternatives had sold out. The concept ignited a conversation on social, extending the discussion well beyond Sweden. Coverage was picked up in international, national and environmental titles in 30+ countries, among them CNN and German news show, Tagesschau. In December 2020, leading consumer trends firm Trendwatching named Climate Store to its ‘21 for ‘21’ listing.
With over 95% unaided brand recall for its 150+ food products, from frozen meatballs to ketchup, Felix can be considered ‘the Heinz of Sweden.’
But recently, Felix had been left behind in environmental food retail. As a safe, ‘everyday’ brand, its products were not an obvious choice for climate-conscious shoppers. Yet the company had a great story – Felix has invested long-term in a range of climate-supporting measures, such as innovating carbon-friendly ready meals and adding ‘Low Climate Impact’ labels to products. But the message wasn’t getting through to its most important demographic, 30- to 40-year-olds with young children.
Our objective, therefore, was to find a way to encourage Swedish shoppers to see Felix as a cost-effective way to shop sustainably. It required a balanced approach, however: innovative enough to cut through in a saturated sustainability market, but practical enough to be a genuine help to busy families.
Ranking seventh in the world on environmental performance, and with nearly nine out of 10 of its citizens saying they support firmer action on climate change, Sweden has comparatively high levels of environmental consciousness.
However, there is evidence that message fatigue is growing. In particular, sustainability has become a heavily crowded space in Swedish brand marketing. Consumers report feeling increasingly tired of the relentless messaging from corporates celebrating their environmental virtues.
We needed to ensure we were not just promoting Felix’s climate-friendly credentials, nor lecturing people. We had to do something practical and positive that would actually help consumers make the changes they want to make.
We conducted research April-May 2020 to understand the everyday struggles of shopping sustainably; interviews with six families on shopping habits (photo diaries and virtual ‘home visits’), a quantitative survey of 1,500 Swedish consumers, and interviews with five of Sweden’s leading sustainability and consumer behavior experts.
The results told us Felix’s demographic really wanted to shop for climate-friendly food brands, but found the sustainability information too confusing and – perhaps as a result – believed sustainable grocery shopping to be too expensive.
Our strategy was clear: Give shoppers better information on the climate impact of Felix products and, in the process, demonstrate how easy it is to make climate-friendly choices when products are clearly labelled. We called it The Climate Store (Klimatbutiken) – the world’s first grocery shop in which the ‘price’ of food would be based on its carbon footprint.
Customers could visit this pop-up minimart, assessing the climate impact of different produce and ‘paying’ at the till using a carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) currency specially printed. Everything in the store would be priced only in CO2e and each customer would be given a shopping limit of 18.9 kg CO2e – the maximum personal weekly allowance if we are to meet the goals of the 2030 Paris Agreement. Everyone would walk away with an itemized receipt of their ‘purchases,’ with prices in CO2e, to reflect upon later.
From location-scouting to the design of branded materials, through to dressing the shop and running it, over four months our integrated team managed everything. Having found the perfect space – on one of Stockholm’s busiest shopping streets – we set about building the interior, sourcing and installing all furnishings and designing bespoke elements.
Stock was the vital consideration: For an eco-campaign, we couldn’t be left with food waste, but we also needed enough variety and volume for it to be a ‘real’ shopping experience, including a balance of climate-friendly vs. non-climate-friendly to give our shoppers dilemmas. Every fridge and shelf was measured to ensure a full store at all times but minimal wastage by the end, and we made arrangements with local food charities to take any surplus.
Our approach focused on clear information. For the walls of the store, for example, we created guidance posters on the climate trade-offs shoppers had to consider (e.g., one steak = one entire shopping bag of vegetables). New color-coded packaging for all products (brown/orange/green) indicated relative climate impacts, to help customers make better choices. And loaned iPads enabled shoppers to track how much they were ‘spending’.
Journalists were sent the weekly allowance of the currency in advance along with an overview of the activation.
In the run up to launch October 1, one significant hurdle emerged: Our two-day, first-of-its-kind activation was to be opened for business at a time when the country began experiencing a Covid-19 surge and implementing significant restrictions. The company’s health protocols meant that advance promotion, media invitations and educational visits had to be pared back and limited us to 44 in-store visitors per day, but this allowed us to support every customer with their own personal shopper – representatives drawn from our and Felix’s management team – to discuss the challenges of climate-conscious shopping.
In line with UN Sustainable Development Goal 13: Climate Action, with this campaign we sought to “improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change” by making climate information practical and memorable.
Coverage and social
Despite the restrictions on visitor numbers, this small, local idea reverberated around the world with coverage appearing in 30+ countries including, China, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Russia, the UK and US; it was picked up by the likes of CNN and German news show Tagesschau.
The Store ignited a conversation on social, with comments from shoppers, influencers and the media extending the chatter well beyond Sweden.
The way in which shoppers were presented with practical climate information was repeatedly commented on as a brilliantly simple idea that people felt ought to be the norm in food retail. Plus, we saw repeat visits – parents so impressed by the concept’s educative value that they came back a second time with their children.
As one shopper shared: “I didn’t expect this when walking in. The visuals with the three different bags explained everything so well. I learned so much more compared to, say, a lecture.”
The most telling real-world results came from the final stock count. For example, no Felix product is more beloved than its best-selling meatballs, yet with customers encouraged to make decisions on climate value, they remained on the shelves, whereas Felix’s new, plant-based meatball alternatives had sold out. Shoppers had learned that the classic dish they had eaten since childhood might not, after all, be the best option for their own children’s future.
• 17% growth in sales in climate label vegetarian products Q4 2020, YOY
• 11% growth in overall sales Q4 2020, YOY
To meet increased demand for its existing climate-friendly product lines and launch new climate-friendly everyday Swedish food favorites, the company is now in the process of expanding capacity at its production facilities.
Letting the idea live on
Another significant endorsement of the campaign came from Felix itself. Although the company originally viewed this as a one-off, awareness-raising initiative, the team was so pleased with the reality that they revisited their 2021 plan (featuring more traditional modes of marketing) and made the interactive customer experience a cornerstone of their forward strategy: a digital version of the Climate Store, fully supported by social, was launched late spring 2021.
And in December 2020, leading consumer trends firm, TrendWatching named Climate Store to its international list of ‘21 meaningful, trend-driven opportunities for 2021’.
It all suggests that our little creative idea, designed simply to begin changing the conversation around sustainable shopping in one store in Stockholm, may well have planted the seeds for a different kind of future for food retail.
This campaign was a winner at The Drum Awards for Experience. To find out more, including which competitions are currently open for entry, visit The Drum Awards website.
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