Now I know there are readers out there who remember the Wrigley Gum television commercials for Doublemint gum, the ones using twins and the jingle, “Double your pleasure, double your fun.” Those actually started running in 1960 — my, how time flies — although the idea of using twins goes back to 1939.
Yesterday, my associate editor Alyse Thompson and I had a chance to visit Mars Wrigley Confectionery’s Global Innovation Center in Chicago — and now global headquarters for the company — to shoot a quick holiday video using the beautifully decorated but still very serene Winter Garden as a backdrop. (Sorry, Alyse was the only twin in the video clip.)
We also spent some time with Kim Frankovich, v.p. – global sustainability, and chatted about the AdvanceMint program she’s been involved with for the past four years. Known as Shubh Mint in India — shubh means auspicious or glorious in Hindi — the program focuses on helping mint farmers in Uttar Pradesh, the largest producer of mint in the world.
Naturally, we all know Mars Wrigley has been involved in various sustainability programs, cocoa and palm oil to name a few. Nonetheless mint, which some of us have grown in our gardens, just doesn’t immediately come to mind when it comes to sustainability issues. And yet, it’s one of the critical ingredients in Mars Wrigley’s mint and gum products — 65 percent of them use mint. Moreover, it dovetails nicely with the company’s Sustainable In A Generation goals.
Given that 80 percent of the world’s mint supply comes from India (the United States and China are the other major growers), Frankovich found herself making more than a few trips to the land of diversity. Working in conjunction with Agribusiness Systems International (ASI), the Shubh Mint program sought to accomplish two primary goals: 1) reduce input costs involved with planting, growing and harvesting mint; and 2) increase yields.
It’s been a “four-year journey,” Frankovich says, determining what the needs of the farmers were as well as “what was happening on the ground.” As one would expect, it’s critical to build trust as well as offer practical and measureable solutions before farmers agree to commit to change, regardless whether it’s in India or in the United States.
Consequently, Frankovich and her team first compiled a compendium of good agriculture practices tied to growing mint, taking advantage of published tracts, particularly those from the Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) based in Lucknow, India.
“We took all that information and narrowed it down to 10-12 best practices,” she explains. “We then identified four to five sweet spots.”
Game plan in hand, the Mars team took their program to farmers, making 2,500 “engagements” to get their message across. The interaction and engagement led to fine-tuning the sustainability effort down to three points: good cultivars (new root stocks developed by CIMAP); planting techniques founded on good agricultural techniques; and water conservation.
This process, which has taken three-and-a-half years to implement, is now showing results. Of the 2,600 farmers enrolled in the program, yields have increased by 68 percent while costs have been reduced by 23 percent. Water usage has dropped by 27 percent. The goal is to have 20,000 farmers embrace the Shubh Mint approach by 2021, thus doubling incomes from mint and reducing water use by one third.
There’s also a community development aspect that’s an integral part of the program.
Shubh Mint has created 200 new women’s self-help groups as well as supported community development centers/libraries in villages that volunteered to contribute to the cause.
Mars Wrigley’s sustainability efforts aren’t just focused on India, Frankovich points out. There are also ongoing efforts in Canada and the United States involving cultivars, carbon emissions and land grants to fund soil mapping efforts involving drone and GPS technologies, among other tools.
During this process, Frankovich stressed that it’s important to remember sustainability programs are a “two-way engagement,” which requires bringing the right partners to the table.
“Whether its small stakeholders [like farmers in India who typically have one-acre plots] or professional farmers, we need all of them to thrive and succeed,” she says.
Mars Wrigley’s initial success with the Shubh Mint program was built on a patient, persistent and very professional approach to obtaining results. Unlike the many “sound bites” we come across today, this one has staying power.
I’m sure the advertising geniuses who featured the twins in that first television commercial didn’t realize that Doublemint would also come to stand for doubling incomes for mint farmers as well as doubling pleasure and fun. That message, however, makes it more enjoyable for today’s consumers.