Clean hair or full stomach? In 2013, it might be hard to imagine that any US family has to make a choice between shampoo and food. But the needs are great say non-profit groups that are on the ground helping struggling families who can’t make ends meet.
SNAP (the US food stamp program) and other major Federal assistance programs don’t cover personal care items, leading millions of families to reach out to local social service organizations for help. In fact, a 2013 study by Feeding America, found that of those surveyed who were unable to afford basic household goods, 55% reported skipping shampooing and 33% reported bathing without soap as a means to save money and cope with difficult economic times. In addition, 40% of that study’s low income respondents reported skipping or delaying rent payment in the past year to afford non-food household essentials.
“The statistics were startling,” said James Daniels, CEO of High Ridge Brands, in recalling similar numbers he heard during a meeting with Pam Koner, executive director of Family-to-Family, a grassroots hunger and poverty relief organization.
Family-to-Family, based in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, came to High Ridge for donation of products.
“As we had the chance to meet Pam and hear what [Family-to-Family] was doing, I personally became very interested. It was a smart program,” said Daniels.
Having had experience in teaming with other nonprofits while working with brands like Trojan, Daniels saw synergy between the High Ridge family of products and Koner’s endeavors.
“It was one of those amazing, wonderful connections. We really got each other,” recalled Koner, who told HAPPI that she and others in hunger relief didn’t necessarily recognize the needs among families for basic personal care staples.
“It has been an education for all of us. We learned that this need, which is a quiet need, is huge,” she said.
That Spring meeting between Koner and Daniels led to a new initiative—the Family-to-Family Shower To The People Program, which is designed to get personal care products in the hands of families that need it most.
For starters, “one million showers-worth” of High Ridge products—like VO5, Zest White Rain and others—are being shipped to social service organizations in more than 20 states.
And consumers are being invited to help increase the donation—up to another two million showers worth of products—by redeeming specially-marked coupons for each participating brand.
Starting in January, specially-marked coupons for Zest, VO5, Rave, Coast and White Rain redeemed through March 15 will provide one additional shower’s worth of products for families in need, up to a total of three million showers for the entire program. Coupons will be available on each participating brand’s website and through an FSI that will appear in Sunday newspapers nationwide on Feb. 2.
The initiative will be heavily promoted through each brand’s social media channels, according to High Ridge, which was formed just two and half years ago by private equity firm Brynwood Partners.
FSIs generate broad-based awareness and trial of products—which, naturally is good for Rave, Coast and Alverto-VO5. But this FSI will also help broaden awareness of Family-to-Family on a national level.
“A large reach vehicle like an FSI is great opportunity for Family-to-Family,” said Daniels. “The goal is to have the consumer see that these are great products and great savings, and if I buy, it gives back too. It is a winning combination.”
Welch’s, Fed Ex and Peapod also support Family-to-Family, which got its start in 2002 after Koner, prompted by a New York Times article on poverty in Pembroke, IL, convinced friends and neighbors to join her by sending monthly boxes of food to families in the impoverish town.
Currently, Family-to-Family provides more than 12,000 meals per month to over 1,800 struggling moms, dads and kids in 12 states. And, today’s current economic situation is fueling the need for even more assistance.
“As we look at the economy, I don’t see a lot of optimism,” said Daniels. “What’s happening right now is steady grind-it-out growth. For the consumers we typically serve, the value consumer, it is still tough times. A significant amount of low income families are still struggling and large portions of the population aren’t secure…That’s why we feel it is very important that we are giving consumers excellent products at a fantastic price.”
Sales numbers aside, Daniels recognizes how personal care marketers can impact the greater good. Clean hair and skin helps with self-esteem—and that can mean even more to a family that is struggling.
“People can feel good about themselves and their family. And that’s critical to anyone working their way out economic difficulties,” he said.
Think, for example, about a child who might be bullied at school because his hair is dirty, or the mom who can’t afford to buy deodorant or toothpaste for her teenage daughter. These families often rely on smaller food pantries that may not have the supply, especially at the end of the month, according to Koner.
“By helping families have integrity and self esteem that so often gets battered by living in poverty, High Ridge is setting an example, a model for corporate responsibility,” said Koner.