Food waste is a global problem, and Sweden is no exception. Thirty-eight percent of the food in Swedish households is wasted, and contrary to what people think, households are responsible for more food waste than companies. A large contributor to this problem is that people often throw away products that have passed their best-before dates, without smelling or tasting first.

If people stopped relying on best-before dates, food waste would decrease significantly. What if we could find a way to remind people to smell and taste the food before throwing it away?

Coop, Sweden’s second largest grocery chain, known for its sustainable practices, wanted to raise awareness about food waste in an engaging way, and by doing so being perceived as the most environmentally-conscious Swedish brand within FMCG.

To raise awareness of this growing waste problem, we created Old Milk—a perfume that smells just like milk gone bad. It’s the first scent in the world that people can use as a reference to know when their milk is drinkable or not.

The perfume works as an unexpected way to remind people to use their sense of smell to determine when a product is ready for the trash. To increase the surprise factor, we packaged the new fragrance like a premium-branded perfume. Being funny rather than preachy, Coop managed to spark interest in food waste around the world, in a way that’s totally new in sustainability.

The first step was to create the perfume. The scent of Old Milk was created by a professional perfumer, who recreated the smell of old, undrinkable milk. The development took 10 months.

We launched the campaign mainly through earned media and PR activation, by sending out the perfume along with our key message to influencers, journalists and other relevant opinion leaders. Simultaneously, we launched an online film to further spark the debate on food waste on social media.

Our messages about sustainability were further amplified by smelly print ads, billboards and interactive street events.

In no time, Old Milk became global news, with our sustainability message travelling across borders.

The attention for the initiative led people from all over the world to our campaign site, where they could order their own free sample of Old Milk. More than 8,000 samples of Old Milk perfume were shipped in week one.

The Impact

  • 250 million earned media impressions (compared to objective 5 million impressions)
  • 213 media articles in 25 countries
  • 8,000+ scent samples requested via campaign microsite in week one
  • 50,000+ visitors to the campaign microsite in week one
  • 96% of coverage mentioned we should start using our senses before throwing away food, in connection to Coop – proof that the campaign message was impossible to miss or misunderstand.
  • Milk sales up by 4.5%…but as long as it wasn’t wasted, that’s OK by us!
  • Samples requested from Germany, France, The Netherlands, USA, India, Australia and China, as well as Sweden.
  • Coop brand perception as a modern company that takes responsibility for the environment was up 5% in Q3 compared to Q2 (with no other sustainability campaigns running). This outperforms any previous purpose campaign by Coop.
  • Coop named “Sweden’s most sustainable brand and Sweden's greenest brand.: 7th Dec 2018