What Pacha Soap Can Teach You About Building a Mission-Driven CPG Organization
Consumer packaged goods—or, if you’re in the industry, CPG—are designed to fit a basic need. Consumers rely on them to quench thirst, satisfy hunger, or to cool off or warm up. In today’s market, ordinary people have the luxury to choose from products that go beyond meeting basic needs. You can choose from hundreds of beverages at the grocery store or grab a healthy snack on a road trip. And beyond that, we are increasingly given the option to support mission-driven brands when we shop for basic necessities.
To gain insight into the world of mission-driven CPG organizations, AmpliFi sat down for a conversation with Pacha Soap founder Andrew Vrbas. We tackle topics like the actual definition of a mission-driven CPG organization, how to build success, and how to understand your customers.
Check out the conversation below. Then, keep reading for more of our thoughts on mission-driven companies in the CPG space.
What it means to be mission-driven
When we say “mission-driven,” we mean companies that function in multi-layered ways: the company makes products that meet a basic need, while also working to benefit a social, environmental or other cause, which may or may not be related to the product itself.
In the case of Pacha Soap, they support clean water initiatives and hygiene education across the world. They achieve this while selling fun, colorful hygiene products you’ve probably seen during a grocery run to Whole Foods. They meet a need while furthering a cause.
Where mission-driven companies can go astray
Here’s where things can get tricky as a mission-driven company. As with any business, you have to earn the right for consumers to buy your products.
The hard truth about mission-driven companies is that very few consumers make purchases informed by moral principles. Buying ethically sourced and sustainable products is becoming a more popular spending habit for people, but it’s not a privilege everyone can afford.
So where does that leave you as someone who wants to start a mission-driven company?
Gaining an understanding of your customers
At the end of the day, business is all about making it so everyone benefits. Your customer’s needs are met by buying your product, you’re able to drive revenue. It’s important to truly understand that everyone has different reasons for making a purchase—especially now that we have so many brands to choose from, mission-driven or not. Understand what incentivizes people to shop, and meet them where they are without becoming too wrapped up in the mission of your business.
Some of the best environmentalists find their success by focusing on economic drivers as a way to add back to projects instead of seeing the economic system as the only problem. That’s not to say our economic systems are perfect—they’re not. But in order to succeed in your business or mission (or both), you need to understand how to work within the system to benefit everyone across the board.
Viewing every business as mission-driven
Today, we tend to think of businesses as mission-driven or not. We have labels like “social” or “impact” businesses—but in reality, every business has a mission. Every business makes an impact on the world or at least strives to. There is value in making the distinction that your business is solely concerned with profit. But business is all about matching incentives—knowing what people need and giving them options for purchasing.
Business is essentially all about solving problems. But with that said, there are no perfect people and no perfect businesses. There are always better ways of operating within economic systems.
The big idea: Two things can be true at the same time.
The most successful mission-driven companies do not have dual ways of thinking. They fulfill basic needs AND are mission-driven. The best way to affect change is to understand your customers and meet them where they are. Focusing on the small segment that is conscious about their spending is operating on an understanding of the market that’s not really grounded in reality.
There are ways to both further a good mission and provide a quality product. In the case of Andrew, he set out to create Pacha Soap with the mission to create more access to clean water. At the beginning of his own journey, he was focused on the company’s mission, not necessarily the product also being simply a way to keep good hygiene for the average consumer. Instead of viewing the soap bars as an agent of change, he had to come to the realization that many of his customers weren’t shopping to create change: they simply liked the look and smell of the product.
What this means for you and your mission
If your aspirations resemble those of Pacha Soap and other mission-driven CPG organizations, consider Andrew and others as your role models. Create positive change by ensuring you offer a high-quality product. When customers are ready to move beyond shopping for basic needs, they’ll be more open to learning about your mission, and you’ll quickly grow a loyal customer base that is enthusiastic about both your product and values.
Our parting advice is that you just can’t force this journey. But you can be good stewards. You don’t need to evangelize people in order to further a mission—you can simply get them excited about your product, and eventually, your cause.