According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, we're about to hit the season (Thanksgiving to Christmas, more or less) where many Americans do the bulk of their giving. That could mean volunteering, donating used goods or, most commonly, sending money to a worthy cause.
But if you happen to be a shopper in New Jersey, giving back can also take the form of buying salsa. In this case, peach salsa.
Shoppers at Walmart and ShopRite stores in South Jersey might be familiar with a brand called Just Peachy Salsa on the shelves. And while it looks like any other major brand, it's actually a goodwill product with an unusual backstory. Not only do proceeds from the sale of the condiment go to benefit the Food Bank of South Jersey, but big brands like Campbell's and NBCUniversal are quietly behind its manufacture. What's more, the product itself helps cut down on landfill and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, even as its proceeds help the needy. That is quite a bit of goodwill packed into a jar of peaches.
"It definitely gives you a good feeling that you're purchasing something that's helping others," said the food bank's chief development officer Tom Sims. Plus, he added, "It works on so many different levels." What Sims means is that the product's benefits are social, economic and environmental.
Here's how that works:
Four years ago, the food bank noticed that New Jersey farmers were taking perfectly edible but mildly blemished peaches (the ones that weren't pretty enough for retail) and dumping them—which not only cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees but also added to the release of methane gas. (According to the EPA, landfills emit 18 percent of the methane found in the atmosphere.)
The food bank persuaded farmers to give those tons of peaches to them instead, but since there are only so many peaches you can give away, the organization needed to come up with a shelf-stable peach product to sell.
Enter Campbell's, the $8 billion packaged-foods behemoth headquartered a few miles away in Camden, N.J. These days, the company makes its famous condensed soups at larger plants outside the state, but it still operates a small production facility attached to its research-and-development kitchens—the perfect size for a small-production run of peach salsa.
"The food bank had an idea to create a self-stable salsa," recounted Campbell's public affairs vp Dave Stangis, and Campbell's facility was in a position to assist. "[We] donate production resources and expertise, and our suppliers donate packaging." Campbell's makes the peach salsa using its own jars and labels in its own plant—all for free. The company even designed the label and put its R&D team to work cooking up a proprietary flavor.
"Campbell's knows what salsa means," Sims said, "and this recipe is developed just for this product. Campbell's has other salsa brands, but they came up with this one for us. It's a perfect blend."
Since it first went on sale in 2013, Just Peachy Salsa has grown more popular every season. A $50,000 21st Century Solutions grant from NBCUniversal has helped the food bank expand its most recent product run, for which it now has larger jars and a redesigned label. Thus far, the salsa's gross revenues of $250,000 have allowed the Food Bank of South Jersey to deliver over half a million meals for needy families in the state—to say nothing of saving money for local farmers, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing consumers with a very good salsa.
"There's a place for it on the Thanksgiving table," Sims said. "It can also be given as a gift. We tell people to include it in their holiday plans."