As families around the world began to stay home and stay in, an online trend emerged. Alongside daily searches for the latest news on Covid-19, consumers began looking online for food inspiration. Top of the list were comfort food bakes, easy supper ideas and recipes that helped them create a family meal, even if there were items missing from their weekly shopping list.

These were partly driven by necessity. Kantar Worldpanel estimates 503 million more in-home meals will be eaten per week during lockdown – a rise of 38%. But they were also driven by a desire to bring occasion and joy to routine parts of our day.

“Our strategy in Foods & Refreshment is called ‘Taste Good, Feel Good, Force for Good’ and it has never been more relevant than today,” says Hanneke Faber, President Global Foods & Refreshment. They often signify moments of connection we once took for granted, a tea break catch-up with a co-worker, a meal out with friends or family, an ice cream in the park on a sunny day.

“People want to make the eating experience something special,” adds Unilever’s Global Nutrition Director, Dr Angelika De Bree. “During the day our dining tables function as workstations and crafts or study spaces for kids. So everyone is looking for ways to transition to ‘downtime’. Providing inspiration to create a nutritious meal with your child, including the occasional indulgent dessert, can help tremendously.”

Offering consumers meal solutions, providing opportunities to re-connect and celebrate, and supporting foodservice providers have seen our foods and refreshment brands and Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) reach out into online spaces in new and innovative ways. Here are ten of them

Knorr: Easy inspiring recipes to meet @home cooking needs

Knorr’s mission to help people eat in a way that’s better for them and the planet is more relevant to consumers than ever before.

As countries moved into lockdown, the brand worked to create Knorr@Home to help households address a broad spectrum of Covid-related in-home cooking needs.

Alongside healthy, nutritious recipes that support immunity, the Knorr team offered store-cupboard recipes to meet tighter budgets and easy tips for creating restaurant-like meals at home.

To add fun to mealtimes, the campaign also partnered with local chef networks, influencers and foodservice partners in Mexico, France, Nigeria, Italy, Spain and Portugal to offer foodie inspiration through live streamed cook-along tutorials featuring Knorr’s Future 50 Foods and other exciting recipes.

As well as meeting household needs, Knorr is giving back to society, donating more than $1 million (€905,000) of products to aid the vital work of the Feeding America charity in the US and 1.7 million portions of dry soups to the Ministry of Health in Turkey.

Chef adding final touches to plate of food

Knorr@home has inspired customers with healthy recipes to support immunity and carried out chef-led cook-alongs on social to show easy ways to re-create restaurant-like meals at home

Hellmann’s: Stay-In(spired) from lunchtime to leftovers

Until very recently 54% of lunches were eaten out of home, but now it’s another meal occasion to be catered for on the daily menus of families. Hellmann’s Stay-In(spired) campaign set about providing easy and enjoyable quick prep solutions as well as catering for other emerging mealtime needs.

Recipes using cupboard staples, leftovers, lunchtime ideas and fun things to cook with kids were identified as areas where Hellmann’s could add a dollop of inspiration. Fun recipes using Hellmann’s mayonnaise instead of eggs in cake or pancake mixes, leftovers turned into lunch and end-of-jar spoonfuls used as salad dressings and marinades were just some of the resourceful ideas on offer.

Getting delicious food to where it’s needed most has also seen Hellmann’s USA launch a food relief fund to provide $1 million (€912,000) to feed frontline workers and those in need. Through a partnership with Grubhub, the fund’s benefit is twofold: it is set to provide 30,000 meals to healthcare workers at three New York City hospitals and to support local restaurants who will provide the catering.

Ben & Jerry’s: Supporting small businesses, spreading joy

In the US, Ben & Jerry’s has committed $1.8 million (€1,600,000) to support small business franchises nationally and impacted Vermont communities locally, and to make ice cream donations to frontline workers.

Support for hard-hit food operators has also seen the brand reach out to support Germany’s #PayNowEatLater initiative encouraging consumers to purchase a voucher for their favourite restaurant, bar or coffee shop and redeem it once lockdown is over.

In the UK, the brand is launching a programme with Deliveroo to provide 500,000 free meals to workers in the NHS, while 80 hospitals in the Netherlands have also enjoyed donations of free ice cream.

Horlicks: Immunity support for India’s healthcare workers

Zinc deficiency in the Indian population varies from 40% to 60% in different age groups, with inadequate dietary zinc being the primary cause. Horlicks is a rich source of zinc and contains other nutrients such as vitamin C and vitamin D which are the key nutrients known to support immunity.

Packs of Horlicks are currently being donated to healthcare workers across India. The first have already reached 39 hospitals and will soon arrive at all major Covid-19 hospitals in 12 cities.

Magnum: Celebrating artists, empowering women cocoa farmers

Magnum is currently hosting a virtual art exhibition on its Instagram channel and website entitled Pleasure Imagined, with works portraying joy-filled city streets post lockdown.

As well as highlighting a collective of emerging artists, such as French-Ivorian Aurélia Durand, the exhibition marks the start of a two-year programme with NGO partner 100WEEKS to help women cocoa farmers from West Africa’s Ivory Coast who, like many other communities, have been impacted by the global pandemic.

Magnum is donating €250,000 to provide direct financial support to the women cocoa farmers. Virtual visitors can make donations too and download an original digital artwork as a visual reminder of their contribution.

Illustration of people socializing outdoors

Magnum’s Pleasure Imagined exhibition celebrates emerging artists online and sees the brand entering a two-year partnership with 100WEEKS to support women cocoa farmers

PG Tips: Keeping the older generation connected in isolation

In the UK, people over 70 years of age are being actively encouraged to self-isolate to protect themselves from Covid-19. As part of their wider brand purpose championing togetherness, the brand recognised that this age group would very likely be one of the most vulnerable to loneliness. To help support them, PG Tips formed a partnership with the charity Re-engage to fund the recruitment of 2,000 new volunteers to become tele-friends to seniors and connect virtually for a cuppa and a chat.

Pukka: Refreshing the body, mind and soul

Powerful organic plants such as ginger, turmeric, elderberry, echinacea and medicinal mushrooms are a key part of Pukka Herbs’ immunity tea and supplements range.

As well as donating more than 150,000 cups of tea to the NHS so far, Pukka has also been bringing its herbal wellbeing support and advice to global audiences online.

In France, Pukka partnered with yoga teacher Jessie Chase who performed four live Ayurvedic yoga sessions on the brand’s Instagram feed. Live Q&A sessions saw Herbal Director Euan MacLennan answering questions on wellbeing and immunity-boosting ingredients, while on World Meditation Day Pukka’s Co-Founder Sebastian Pole will offer a live meditation on Instagram.

Wall’s/Langnese: Happy moments for everyday heroes

We know that ice cream can't save the world. But we know that it has this power to create little moments of happiness and to bring a smile to your face – even in difficult situations. This was the inspiration for the Langnese team’s #BetterTogether campaign which offered consumers in Germany the chance to nominate teams of frontline workers to receive free ice creams.

Every day for five weeks at least ten nominated teams received free ice creams. By the end of the month, Langnese had provided 307,000 small moments of happiness to hard-working teachers, healthcare teams, hospital staff and many more.

Lipton: Staying connected, sharing hope

Lipton’s purpose, awakening the world to quality connections and help fight hidden loneliness, felt more vital than ever in the wake of Covid-19.

Across the globe, over 16 million cups of Lipton tea were donated to support frontline healthcare workers, seniors and those in need.

In the Netherlands, Lipton partnered with Koetjes & Kalfjes, a non-profit student initiative that connects the elderly with students through phone chats every two to three days.

In the US, Lipton is supporting healthcare workers with a roaming tea cart offering free refreshment and in Turkey 10 million cups of tea were distributed in hospitals to support frontline healthcare workers.

Red Label: Campaigning to reduce Covid-19 stigma

Launching an ad campaign is part of a brand’s marketing armour but Brooke Bond Red Label’s new Taste of Togetherness campaign aims to address the stigma and hostility that many of India’s survivors of Covid-19 face as they return to their homes and communities. “We can be socially connected even while we are physically distant” is the message that Brooke Bond Red Label would like to convey through this new film,” explains Shiva Krishnamurthy, Hindustan Unilever’s Vice-President for Tea and Foods. “To stay alone, is not the same as being left alone,” he says.

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