Live Lowdown with Anuradha Chugh, Managing Director of Ben & Jerry's Europe

11 Sep 2020

Live Lowdown with Anuradha Chugh, Managing Director of Ben & Jerry's Europe

Hannah Tovey

"I do say that the pandemic has really been an accelerator....It's been an accelerator for things that were happening, but maybe at a slower pace or should have been happening. It's no new news that we've been saying, let's really be ready and be fit for the channel of the future. Well, we had to be ready and be fit within two weeks!"

We had a chat with Anuradha Chugh about:

  • Three trends she is seeing come from covid 
  • How their business model allowed them stay successful during the pandemic and looking beyond 
  • How they have kept their staff motivated.
  • The beauty of hindsight and what she would have done differently
  • The biggest learning in this time to continue to succeed.



Hannah Tovey  0:01  
Hi, I'm Hannah Tovey. I'm Programme Director of Retail Week Live and today I'm joined by Anuradha Chugh who is Managing Director at Ben & Jerry's. Morning Anuradha, how are you today?

Anuradha Chugh  0:11  
I'm good. 

Hannah Tovey  0:13  
Good. Excellent. Thank you so much for joining us. So the first thing I want to ask you was how are you and how is lockdown living treating you?

Anuradha Chugh  0:24  
Yeah, I think the thing I normally say these days is that I'm safe and I'm sane so you know, those are the two words that are important. But honestly, I am very privileged. So you know, it's, I work from home from my home in Surrey which has a garden I can go out. Very different to many of my colleagues who are in London in small apartments, sometimes with the little kids. So I'm doing quite well.

Hannah Tovey  0:55  
Good, good. Glad to hear it. And obviously lockdown has had it's many, many challenges. What's been your biggest learning from the last few months? Last five months, isn't it? We've been locked down. That's insane.

Anuradha Chugh  1:12  
I think you're right. March 13 was when I said goodbye to our Ben and Jerry's barn. So, you're absolutely right. But honestly, my biggest learning is actually wonder and awe at our human capacity or ability to adapt. You know, maybe we needed a reminder about you know, how capable we actually are. But I would think that just just realising that sometimes. It's amazing if we've been able to achieve so much change, so much adaption, supply chain systems, everything. And that's, that's a good reminder.

Hannah Tovey  1:56  
Yeah, absolutely. That's a great reminder. It's very positive. In hindsight, would there be anything that you would have done differently during this time? I know hindsight, it's a wonderful thing, isn't it?

Anuradha Chugh  2:10  
No, I think we're very lucky, that you know we very early on, set four principles. And with hindsight they were right. I wouldn't think we would do them differently. But you know, our focuses we're people safety first. So that's, that's absolutely number one, and really be guided by our purpose and our culture. And definitely, in a sense, it was a no brainer that we would put people first. But then the third one is really applying prudence. So being very careful about and it's not just office stuff, right? It's about factories. It's about our scoop shops. So really applying prudence and say, let's be overcautious, so they quickly, I think our factories went to the highest level of, level five and level four. So that we could really make sure people were safe, and helped us to work on our fourth principle, which is protecting the business while applying the new ways of working. So, you know, and I think you're right, hindsight is always a funny thing. But I think these are the right things we did. They came completely quickly the first one week. And correctly so because you see, I don't know if you've seen Oliver's List, but there's so many companies that are being called out and shamed for not taking care of their people first. And you know, we've always known that at Ben & Jerry's. We've always known that millennials and Gen Z, really decide where to put their money based on the values that a company or a brand holds. So it was no surprise when this Ph.D. student came up with this whole list of what companies are doing right and companies are doing wrong and that completely went viral. You know, that's what happens. But that's not why we do it. It's really guided by who we are. And in that sense, it's the right thing to do.

Hannah Tovey  4:08  
Yeah, that's great. And, speaking of looking after staff and colleagues, obviously remote working, is the new normal. Are there any tips that you and your team have found really useful? Any sort of routines you've gotten into that you can share that have really helped you guys to get that work-life balance, which everyone is trying their best to get right now.

Anuradha Chugh  4:40  
Yeah, I think the biggest realisation is that, and you know, there's so much data and so much information out on on all of this right now. Is that this a marathon. So you so you really have to play it for the long term and you really have to learn after every few weeks. Because it changes, I think like everyone, you know, we went into lockdown, things were pretty okay. After the first two weeks when people realise that they are safe, the family safe. So from really kind of going from down, it went to a happy place where people got used to the new normal. But then after a few weeks again, it went down because they can't get that creativity buzz that you want from co-creating with others physically. So you literally have to be constantly gauging, especially when you have a young workforce. What you assume is their tension points might not be their tension points, it might be something else. So it's really having a very close pulse to the sentiments, both through informal means like coffee, mornings, chats, etc, but also through formal means like anonymous surveys. That's where you really, they'll say stuff that they otherwise don't want to say possibly. And there's no shame in in doing these anonymous surveys, because we have to acknowledge that some of the things people are going through mentally and physically, small and big, you know. They're sharing desks, they've got a laptop on the dresser, you tell them, please go and buy a better keyboard and buy a desktop and they say yes, but I don't have space to keep a bigger keyboard. And you don't know those things in advance.

Hannah Tovey  6:37  

Anuradha Chugh  6:38  
But it's really about monitoring your people and preparing them and yourself for the marathon. And then I think on the other side from the business side, I am glass half full. I do say that the pandemic has really been an accelerator. It's been an accelerator for things that were happening, but maybe at a slower pace or should have been happening. I mean, just a few examples. E- everything you know, it's no new news that we've been saying, e commerce guys, let's really be ready and be fit for the channel of the future. Well, we had to be ready and be fit, and consumers had to change for e-everything within two weeks, you know, whether you like it or not. So that was like a massive accelerator. Take what you wanted to do anyhow. And in a way again, you know, Ben & Jerry's is already with younger fans, we were already pretty much in the right delivery channels, etc. But this completely push even us to accelerate. But most of our fans are the consumers. To give you an example, in Sweden, maybe because they have such a proximity to stores. They weren't buying online. And we immediately saw that they switched completely. And they started to buy ice cream online. So all those barriers that it will melt, etc, etc, completely went out of the window. And, you know, you want your Ben & Jerry's pint and you want that comfort food while you're sitting at home and you will change to ecommerce. 

Hannah Tovey  8:21  
Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, that comfort food is something I am very much enjoying in lockdown.

Anuradha Chugh  8:29  
We're seeing that. We're seeing a lot of cocooning trends.

Hannah Tovey  8:34  
Definitely cocooning. Yeah. And, has this new normal shifted you and your team's focus. and what is that new focus now for the next year? Or are you even looking ahead in terms of 12 months or is it much more sort of shorter term than that?

Anuradha Chugh  8:58  
You know we've always know tha brands with value are there for the long term. And even more so now. So I think what we've seen again to the point of being the accelerator, while some of the other, and I'll stick to the area of ice cream, right. But while some of the other ice cream brands have done less well, a big trusted brand has done very well. And we see that so we're really kind of gaining from having been relevant with our fans earlier. And then becoming even more relevant when they really wanted. So trusted, you know, the importance of trust, trusted brands has become even more important during this phase. It kind of makes sense. You know, you go back to what you know, and love and what you want. 

I think the important point when we're looking into the future, is that recession is there. Yeah. And that's going to really impact the retail world quite a lot. When we think recession, many of us traditionally think about value as in big packs, and how do you kind of get to affordability. But recession proofing yourself is also about values. And it's about really leading with your values. And because that's what's going to be important. If you've got less pennies, you're going to spend your pennies on what really matters, and take those businesses and brands that have really delivered for you. And I think that's, that's the readiness that we are working with our teams. And how do we really make sure that we are recession ready? How do we make sure that we are even more relevant to those fans who are going to be in difficult situations? But I think there's one side which is about your consumers. 

And I think the other side is about what's happening to the supply chain. Food resilience. Food resilience is another one of those things that COVID has kind of shown, oh my god.  Globally, we're not in the right place. By chain resilience. It's really exposed the gaps that we have, you know, the dependence and the exploitation of migrant labour in the food industry. You know, these are big systemic things that again, COVID has shown us that, "hey, the world's not ready". Or there's something broken and this broken stuff is big. And that where businesses have to put their heads together. How do we create a sustainable food system? 

Hannah Tovey  11:48  
Yeah. Absolutely. You talked about earlier, consumers coming back to what they really love and cocooning. Are there any more consumer trends that you've seen come out of COVID that you can share with us? You just talked about now, businesses needed to be more sustainable. Is that sense of consumers wanting brands that have a purpose and values, is that something that you're really seeing come to the forefront now?

Anuradha Chugh  12:21  
Absolutely. I mean, absolutely. I think, yes, there's cocooning, but that comes with trust and then that comes with really being selective about what you trust, who you trust. And, you know, sustainability is table stakes. That's like the bare minimum, you better be right on plastic and sustainability. But even more, how are you treating your employees? How did you treat your employees during COVID? How are you working about your values when it comes to bigger societal issues as well. These are all becoming things that brands can't shirk away from. Absolutely got to put their head into. But that's all part of the cocooning and trusting trend. And it's not a claim, it's stuff that's come out even more than the forcing this is important, guys, you know. 

That's one but I think the other one is health and immunity. So you know that's the other big area that people are looking at because we don't know a cure to viruses. We don't know how the next phase will be. We don't know how it will transmute, etc. So let's look after our health and immunity. So I think that's another big big big change. And then I think I spoke about e-everything already. So that's the big fourth one that's obvious. But also the food system and the food reliance. Because if you don't have that, and you can't do sustainable, if you don't have that as your base, you can't be sustainable from the environment point of view, but also long term sustainable.

Hannah Tovey  13:53  
Yeah, absolutely.