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75 Green Businesses » Stonyfield Farm

Posts Tagged ‘Stonyfield Farm’

Two Green Economies

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

I get confused sometimes when people talk about “the green economy”.  How large is the green economy?  How do you sell to the green economy?  The answers from different people don’t always agree with each other, and I think the reason might be that there is not really one green economy, but two green economies.  Or more.  

 

  

Some people will tell you that the way to sell to the green economy is to emphasize quality above all else, to produce a premium eco-friendly product.  A great product will distinguish itself and attract buyers concerned about the environment, even if it costs more.  And there are examples where this is true.  Stonyfield Farm has built a $300 million business by producing a consistent high-quality organic yogurt that attracted a loyal following, even if the yogurt costs somewhat more. 

 

  

Another message out there though is that price matters.  In fact, not just that cost matters, but that cost is the driving force in most purchasing decisions for the vast majority of people.  Being green alone, providing an environmental benefit, is not enough to make the sale for the majority of people.  Green Works products are selling to the mainstream market for cleaning products, not just because of the environmental benefit, but because they can compete on price with the less eco-friendly products sitting nearby on the same grocery store shelf. 

 

 

Who’s right?  The answer is that they both are, but they aren’t talking about the same markets, or the same “green economy”. 

  

 

The first green economy includes the people who place the environment at the topic of their priority list, and have the money to buy green products even if they cost somewhat more (within reason).  In Joel Makower’s book “Strategies for the Green Economy” there is an insightful afterward by Cara Pike breaking down consumers into useful psychographic groups.  The first green economy corresponds to groups like the “Greenest Americans” in Pike’s analysis, 9% of the market for whom “ecological concern influences their worldview more than any other social value”. 

  

 

The other green economy includes the people who are not opposed to buying green but don’t place it on the top of their list. They won’t usually buy something just because it’s green.  If a product works well and the cost is right, and green on top of this, then being green can seal the deal and make the sale.  This group is more like the “Compassionate Caretakers” in Pike’s analysis in the Makower book.  This market is closer to the mainstream.

  

 

So when you are positioning your product, thinking who the customer is and how to sell it to them, think about which of the green economies you will be a part of.  Your marketing strategy, your product design, and your pricing will follow from there. 

 

 

Glenn Croston is the author of “75 Green Businesses You Can Start to Make Money and Make a Difference“, the expert blogger on green business for Fast Company, and the founder of Starting Up Green (www.StartingUpGreen.com).

“Stirring it Up” by Green Entrepreneur Gary Hirshberg

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

For decades Gary Hirshberg has been a true leader of the green business world, producing top notch yogurt that is tasty, healthy for consumers, and good for the environment.  As the Ce-YO of the organic yogurt producer Stonyfield Farm, he has proven that making money and doing the right thing can and do go hand in hand.  For any of the doubters still remaining out there, questioning whether green business works, all they have to do is see what Gary and other’s have done.  The proof is in the yogurt.  The Stonyfield website tells the story of their sustainability efforts: (www.stonyfield.com)

Gary Hirshberg chronicles his journey and the lessons he learned in his book “Stirring It Up”:

http://www.amazon.com/Stirring-Up-Make-Money-World/dp/1401303447

This book is a great read on many levels.  First off, it’s just plain well written, engaging, and a good read.  Second, Gary does not just tell us what the problem us, but shows many examples, himself included, of how entrepreneurs can successfully build businesses that do the right thing for the planet. 

Finally, the lessons he describes are valuable for present and future eco-entrepreneurs. 

For example, Gary emphasizes quality as the key feature of their yogurt.  By never sacrificing quality, and being committed to the environment as well, they created a loyal base of customers who spread the word about their product and kept coming back for more.  He describes this as “the handshake”, reaching out to each consumer and forming a unique link that stays with them, connecting them to the brand.  Having a brand they can believe in helps, one that allows consumers to feel as though they are also part of the story, helping to make the change.  By focusing on their product, and how it is made, Stonyfield does not have to spend the massive sums on advertising that many food products do, decreasing their costs so they can continue to produce a great product rather than cutting corners to spend more on ads.

Which isn’t to say that Stonyfield doesn’t promote themselves - they just find clever and relatively low cost ways to do it, reaching out to their consumers through avenues other than expensive media ads.  Their lids always tell a story, and when money was precious they grabbed attention by bringing camel manure to disc jockeys or by pumping tires to help people save fuel. 

The efforts at Stonyfield, and at the other companies profiled, include waste reduction, using renewable energy, cutting carbon emissions, energy efficiency, using organic material, and many other ways to go green.  Their promotional efforts extend beyond the yogurt they sell to promoting a greener way of doing business and living.

The bottom line is that Gary and the other green entrepreneurs in Stirring It Up have built a variety of businesses in many fields while helping the planet.  And if they have done it, you can too.