Customers can even watch videos of Stonyfield's cows happily chewing their cud. Those who are local to the New Hampshire Headquarters can attend tastings and visit with the company's representatives at community events large and small. Stonyfield's success is based on the passionate loyalty of its customers. It is, quite simply, what keeps the company running.
"The holy grail of consumer products is loyalty. We get there with transparency and sustainability in the supply chain. When you have an authentic supply chain and a real connection with farmers, customers will reward that transparency with loyalty."
Hirshberg was even approached by a customer in the dairy aisle in a Florida grocery store. She didn't recognize him - she wanted to tell him not to buy that other yogurt brand. She encouraged him to choose Stonyfield since it's made with whole foods, organic fruit, and no strange shelf stabilizers. Sadly, he didn't hire her to head up his customer engagement team, but he did send her a much-deserved pack of coupons.
Supply chain, scale, and working with Walmart
It's quite a challenge to maintain that personal touch when your brand reaches national scale and the shelves of Walmart, especially since the big brand retailer is notorious for pressuring its suppliers to lower costs. Says Duncan Mac Naughton,
"The key for us is creating access to great products, while being an advocate for the customer on affordable pricing. Good food shouldn’t cost more. The challenge for us is that it can. We manage that with scale and partnerships. Stonyfield is a premium brand. We’ll price it aggressively but appropriately for the values and the product quality."
Walmart also looks at other opportunities to reduce costs that don't lower the quality of the ingredients. "We work together in a transparent manner with suppliers to take costs out with logistical efficiency and packaging savings."
Hirshberg recently transitioned out of the day-to-day management of Stonyfield to focus on other pursuits, but he remains the chairman of the board. It's a relief to see that one of those pursuits will be using his considerable experience to teach others how to successfully run and grow businesses that are sustainable to the core.